Another holiday could soon be added to your calendar. It wouldn’t be a normal holiday that you’d celebrate; instead, it’s one that would serve as a reminder of an important, but tragic part of Canada’s history.
The federal government is currently consulting with Indigenous groups to establish a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a new statutory holiday day honouring survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities and ensure that public commemoration of their history and legacy remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
The Globe and Mail first reported the government is considering two potential dates for the holiday: either National Indigenous Peoples day on June 21, or Sept. 30, which is recognized as Orange Shirt Day, an annual event designed to educate people and raise awareness for the residential school system and its impact on people.
If it becomes a federal statutory holiday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation would mean a day off for federal employees. If the provinces want to honour the day the same way, offering a paid day off for employees, they and the territories would need to change their labour laws through amendments.
The Government of Canada is committed to working in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples to establish the statutory holiday, said Eric Girard, a spokesperson for the Department of Canadian Heritage, in an e-mail.
“Our goal is to select a day that ensures the observance is meaningful and is respectful of the recommendations found in the TRC Call to Action 80,” he said, adding “Accordingly, this day will be developed in consultation with the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people to ensure it is meaningful and truthful.”
As the discussions are ongoing, Girard said an official announcement will be made “in due course.”
The idea for the new stat day was one of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a pledge to ensure all the recommendations that fall under federal jurisdiction are met.
In a statement, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, said the creation of the national day to recognize “the tragic and painful legacy of residential schools” is a sign of respect and empathy for the “far too many children taken from their homes and families and to honour survivors.”
He said a day dedicated to remembering and honouring the students of residential schools will help to increase public understanding and that it’s important that Indigenous groups including the AFN are involved in choosing an appropriate date.
“The residential schools’ era is indeed a dark chapter and we must never forget,” he said.
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