P.E.I. Legislature calls for Confederation Bridge to be renamed Epekwitk Crossing

The P.E.I. legislature has voted unanimously to urge the federal government to change the name of the Confederation Bridge to Epekwitk Crossing. 

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King put forward the motion on Friday, with support from the leaders of the Official Opposition Green Party and the Liberal Party. 

Epekwitk is the original name given by the Mi’kmaq for the land now known as Prince Edward Island.  

In his remarks about the motion, formally known as Motion 116, King thanked P.E.I. senators Brian Francis and Percy Downe for their work on the motion, as well as the opposition parties for their support.

“Prince Edward Island is recognized and celebrated as the birthplace of the Canadian Confederation. Yet few acknowledge that this project came at a great cost to Indigenous People,” Francis said in a media release. “From 1867 onwards, we became the target of violent process of dispossession, displacement, exploitation and elimination, which continues to impact our lives today.

“The renaming of the bridge to ‘Epekwitk Crossing’ would serve to honour the strength and resilience of the Mi’kmaq.”

The motion said it is of the “utmost importance” to recognize Indigenous languages. It coincides with the first year of the International Decade of Indigenous Language, which draws attention to their loss due to colonialism and other factors.

“The renaming of the bridge can play an important role in acknowledging the true history of our province and show that we are working together to advance lasting reconciliation between the Mi’kmaq and all Islanders and Canadians,” Downe said in the release.

In talks about next steps

In the 1990s, a committee recommended the bridge be named Abegweit Crossing, but the federal government chose Confederation Bridge instead. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

When the bridge was built in the 1990s, a committee and the provincial government of the day recommended it be named Abegweit Crossing (Abegweit is the anglicized version of Epekwitk) based on public submissions. The other choices were Confederation Bridge and Northumberland Strait Bridge.

King says he has been in discussions with federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc about next steps.

“Renaming of Confederation Bridge to Epektwik Crossing is one way for Prince Edward Island and Canada to show a commitment to upholding the rights of Indigenous People, which are protected under the Constitution,” the motion says.

King said the name Abegweit is “entrenched in all of our lives without maybe even us knowing it.”

He made reference to the old Abegweit ferry, the old Charlottetown Abegweit Cub and the Charlottetown Abbies hockey team as examples.

“To think about how we can take that connection all of those years past into the future and to put that name back on to the connection we have to the mainland where it’s so richly deserved to be, I think it’s … a very important step for using the process that we’ve embarked on toward reconciliation, toward forgiveness and better understanding.”

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