Celebrating Indigenous Heritage

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 10:56 a.m. June 21, 2020
Updated: 3:45 p.m. June 21, 2020

To mark National Indigenous Peoples Day, members of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit held a sunrise ceremony on June 21 at Nathan Phillips Square.

A group of people, some in TPS uniform in front of a large medicine wheel
On National Indigenous Peoples Day, TPS Members gathered at the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel at City Hall. The Indigenous medicine wheel represents the alignment and continuous interaction of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realities.

“Today is a day that we come together to celebrate and to be proud of who we are as Indigenous, First Nations, Metis and Inuit,” said Aboriginal Liaison Officer Const. Monica Rutledge. 

To demonstrate the importance of family, she brought her three kids – Madalyn, Ashley and Ethan Dimatteo – to the event.

“For me, this is a day when we all come together,” Madalyn said. “It is a day when families come together to share their differences. We come, smudge and think happy thoughts. This is a time for all to identify as First Nations and a time to be proud of who we are, where we came from and to practice our customs and beliefs. It is also a time to be proud to celebrate this one day, but I know that this one day is every day. Every day is a day to be proud to be an Anishinaabe.”

Older sister Ashley has attended the early morning ceremony for the last three years.

“I am happy when the ceremony is done, happy with what I have learned and just been here with my family,” she said.

Superintendent Rob Johnson and Insp. Lauren Pogue attended the ceremony.

“This month and specifically this day affords us the opportunity to celebrate First Nations, Inuit and Metis People in Canada,” said the 14 Division Unit Commander who is the Chair of the Service’s Aboriginal Consultative Committee. “It is a time to reflect on their rich and unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of the nation’s Aboriginal people. It is also a time to recognize and acknowledge the valuable contributions of Indigenous peoples to the healthy development of our communities, territory and country.

“For me, this day also helps to deepen my understanding and inform me on the unique adversities that Indigenous peoples have faced in the past and are facing still today.”

National Indigenous Peoples Day, noted Pogue, is an opportunity to celebrate culture, heritage and Indigenous contributions to Canada.

“We are sadly disappointed that we can’t be with our community today for our usual celebrations,” she said. “But we are a glad that a few of us are able to assemble here. I am mindful of the unique adversities Indigenous peoples have faced and I am grateful for the resiliency and strength of those who have kept our rich and diverse cultures of my community alive.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting families and friends from meeting and socializing, TPS Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit Administrative Clerk Samantha Jourdain said this year’s celebration has special meaning.

“I have taken it upon myself this year to really reflect on my relationship with my community and to think about all my family and friends,” she said. “I am keeping you guys in mind because it’s hard to see you at this time. I hope that everyone is safe and doing well.”

Canadians celebrate National Indigenous History Month in June to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. It is also an opportunity to recognize the strength of present-day Indigenous communities.

TPS crest watermark