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Provinces, territories face calls to make Day for Truth and Reconciliation a holiday

First Nations Leadership Council deeply concerned B.C. had not made Sept. 30 a statutory holiday.
People take part in ceremonies for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

As Canada marks the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, provinces and territories face a push to recognize it as a statutory holiday.

New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have declared Sept. 30 a statutory holiday along with the federal government.

Murray Sinclair, the former head of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, pointed out at a national event in Ottawa that many governments quickly moved to recognize the death of the queen, and he urged the same courtesy for residential school survivors.

“This is not a radical concept, to pause and to reflect. You do so for other days and occurrences throughout your life quite routinely,” he said, highlighting Remembrance Day on Nov. 11.

In B.C., the First Nations Leadership Council said it was deeply concerned that the province had not designated Sept. 30 a statutory holiday.

Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations said nearly three years after the provincial government adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the failure to designate Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday “is a grave impediment” to the reconciliation process.

“One day out of the year dedicated to honouring survivors and sitting with their stories is not too much to ask. If the province of British Columbia is genuinely committed to reconciliation, they must prioritize public commemoration of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a vital part of our society’s reconciliation process,” Teegee said in a statement.

B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said in a statement that the province is talking with Indigenous people about what the day will look like in the future.

“We are focused on working with Indigenous leadership and communities to mark September 30th in the manner that is consistent with how they would like to see they day marked in years to come,” the ministry said.

Sinclair said the day was envisioned to be “a day of intention, reflection and discussion.”

“For Canadians to take a day out of their lives to lend their ears and their hearts to survivors, listen to them and to resolve to do better in the next 364 days that follow until the next national day,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a crowd in Niagara Falls, Ont., on Friday that truth and reconciliation aren’t just things of the past.

“It is a day to remember, to grieve and take another step along healing. But it is also a day for non-Indigenous people to recognize that you should not have to carry this burden alone,” he told the crowd.

“How many times do Indigenous Peoples have to tell their stories of trauma, of loss, of pain, of grief, until we absorb those stories and make them our own? Because they, too, are the story of Canada, and therefore, they, too, are the story of each of us.”

In Yukon, NDP Leader Kate White said the party will be tabling a private member’s bill to make the day a statutory holiday in the territory.

Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said Sept. 30 should be a statutory holiday, but Premier François Legault has said Quebecer needs more “productivity,” not another day off.

—Ashley Joannou, The Canadian Press