‘We shouldn’t have to put pressure on people’: Most provinces have not made September 30 an official holiday

As Canada prepares to mark the second National Truth and Reconciliation Day on Friday, most provinces have not followed the federal government’s move to make it an official holiday for their workers.

New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have declared September 30 as a legal holiday.

The other provinces and territories are choosing to celebrate the day in various ways, while some continue to consult with indigenous groups and businesses on whether to make it a statistic.

Some cities, schools, and businesses also choose different ways to recognize the day.

New Brunswick was the last to declare September 30 as a provincial holiday.

“While this is a day to commemorate the tragic history of residential schools and honor those who did not return home, as well as their survivors and families, I encourage everyone to reflect and remember that reconciliation is not just a day of the year,” New Brunswick Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn said in a statement last week.

The day is set to be treated like any other provincial holiday. All essential services, including health care, will continue to be provided. The holiday will be optional for private sector companies, the province said.

Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn, a group representing Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick, said the day is set aside for people to remember and honor the victims and survivors of residential schools, including children from First Nations who attended day schools.

“It is no secret that our relationship with the (Blaine) Higgs government has been strained. Acknowledging this holiday does not reconcile problems or differences with the Higgs government, but it is a step in the right direction,” the organization said in a statement. .

“By granting this holiday, the Government of New Brunswick is giving New Brunswickers an opportunity to reflect on how we can learn from each other and work together as treaty partners.”

The day, originally known as Orange Shirt Day, was established in honor of the experience of Phyllis Webstad, whose gift of clothing from her grandmother was withdrawn on Webstad’s first day in residential school.

The federal government made the day a legal holiday for its federally regulated workers and workplaces last year.

For many residential school survivors, including Eugene Arcand, the day will always be known as Orange Shirt Day and grassroots efforts to acknowledge the pain and trauma indigenous children were subjected to in the residential schools.

Arcand, who is from the Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, said he never thought he would see a day dedicated to honoring survivors.

The discovery last year of what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves at a former school in Kamloops, BC forced the country to listen to what survivors had been saying for years.

Since the discovery, numerous First Nations across Canada have begun their own in-depth searches for school sites, Pope Francis delivered a long-awaited and historic apology on Canadian soil for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in running many of the schools. and a flag was raised on Parliament Hill in honor of those affected by the schools.

Arcand said these events will provide a better quality of life for future generations of children.

But, he added, it is up to non-indigenous peoples to educate themselves.

“We shouldn’t have to pressure people. It’s important that people determine for themselves how they want to commit,” he said in a recent interview in Winnipeg.

“I’m not going to beat my head against the wall for the rest of my life trying to get people to participate.”

The Saskatchewan government said it has no plans to make the day a legal holiday for the province.

Matthew Glover, director of media relations, said the government encourages residents to take a moment to reflect and discuss the importance of meaningful reconciliation.

Flags will be lowered to half-staff at all Saskatchewan government buildings.

The Manitoba government recently announced it would observe the day for a second year, as discussions continue to make it an official legal holiday. Schools and non-essential government services and offices will be closed.

The province said it is continuing consultations with indigenous and labor groups.

Jennifer Wood hopes Manitoba will soon enact legislation making the day a legal holiday.

Wood, who lives in Winnipeg, is a survivor of the Neyaashiinigmiing Ojibwe territory in Ontario.

“It will really show that the sincerity of everything that’s happened is taken seriously. It’s 2022. We can’t keep sweeping anything under the rug. We have to acknowledge what’s happening in Canada and find ways to coexist,” he said. she said.

The day should be about educating the general public about the legacy of residential schools, he added.

“It is our time to tell our narrative of the truth of the residential school system.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 27, 2022.

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