It is the responsibility of all Canadians, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to preserve indigenous cultures for the future, the Governor General of Canada said yesterday.

Speaking at a dedication ceremony at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument yesterday, Michaëlle Jean said it is “our collective right and responsibility” to preserve indigenous culture and tradition “to protect their past, present and future manifestations with zeal.

“We have to do this all together,” she said. “As I said many times before, indigenous cultures are the ... most precious part of our collective heritage. It is incumbent on all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to preserve this ... for many generations to come.

“When aboriginal cultures disappear, non-aboriginal cultures will also be deprived of the unique opportunity to learn about these cultures and appreciate their spirit and beauty,” she said.

Yesterday, officials unveiled the last 26 of 73 language plaques — which read Equality, Dignity, Rights in Canada’s aboriginal languages — at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument to mark National Aboriginal Day.

“A very small group of us joined together on Dec. 10, 1983, International Human Rights Day, to begin the process of creating a permanent meeting place marking the historic and continuing struggles in Canada and everywhere for fundamental human rights,” said Hania Fedorowicz, co-founder of the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights.

“The key function of the monument is educational — to inform, but also inspire,” she said. “We believe that until all rights are respected, none are secure.”

Whether they live in cities, urban settings, on reserves, or on settlement lands, First Nations, Inuit and Metis should stand united, said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, who read one of the plaques yesterday. “Let’s make good on the vision of the ancestors.”

“I feel this is a very significant day to honour aboriginal cultures,” said Mary Simon, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

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