Canadians are one step closer to getting a new statutory holiday recognizing Indigenous people.
Two years ago Saskatchewan MP Georgina Jolibois introduced a private member’s bill to make National Day for Truth and Reconciliation an official holiday. Bill C-369 passed through its final reading in the House of Commons last Wednesday.
It will now go before the Senate before it becomes law.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is proposed for Sept. 30 — also known as Orange Shirt Day which commemorates generations of children who attended residential schools.
“Truth and reconciliation is about healing,” said Jolibois, who represents the riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River. “I saw it as an opportunity to start promoting that.”
The proposed date was initially June 21 — National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Jolibois said that after consultation with many Indigenous groups and individuals from across Canada, the date was set for Sept. 30 instead.
“Because of the importance behind residential schools, it just felt it is important to acknowledge Orange Shirt Day,” said Jolibois.
If it becomes an official federal holiday, it would only apply to workers in federally regulated industries such as banks, federal public service, Crown corporations, among others. It will be up to individual provinces and territories to determine if they’ll adopt the statutory holiday in their jurisdictions.
Mom hopes holiday will ’empower teachers’
The proposed holiday is “a good thing,” according to Janet Brewster of Iqaluit, the mother of Miles Brewster who refused to stand during the national anthem starting on Orange Shirt Day last year.
He was making a statement about the lack of education on residential schools in his classroom.
“Hopefully it will empower teachers to teach students about why that day is happening,” said Brewster.
Brewster noted many residential school survivors are still alive in Canada.
“A day to commemorate their experience is welcomed and really important, especially if it comes with education.”
Jolibois said she’s planning on meeting individually with senators to discuss the importance behind the holiday.
She said she hopes the Senate will pass the bill before the end of June, so Canadians can celebrate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this September.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Celebrations in Canada’s Nunavut for territorial holiday, CBC News
Finland: Finnish gov pulls bill to ratify convention on Indigenous peoples’ rights, Yle News
Norway: Inuit, Sami leading the way in Indigenous self-determination, study says, CBC News
Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden
United States: Indigenous Peoples Day celebrated in Alaska, Alaska Public Media