Canadian workers, rejoice! A new holiday is coming.
The federal government is preparing to announce a new statutory holiday to mark our country’s cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples. The move is part of a greater nationwide reconciliation effort, which can also be measured on the municipal level by initiatives like the removal of a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the steps of Victoria’s city hall.
The government is currently talking with Indigenous groups to finalize a date and make the official announcement.
According to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, the holiday will recognize “the tragic and painful legacy of residential schools to show respect and empathy to the far too many children taken from their homes and families and to honour survivors and their families.”
Two dates are in the running for the holiday: June 21 or September 30. June 21 is known as National Indigenous Peoples, while September 30 is considered Orange Shirt Day, referring to the orange shirt residential school student Phyllis Webstad had to surrender on her first day of the 1973-1974 school year (Canada’s last residential school closed in 1996). September 30 seems to be the frontrunner as some officials have expressed concern that June 21 is too close to Quebec’s St. Jean Baptiste Day (June 24) and Canada Day.
Currently, Canada has only five statutory holidays: Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, and Good Friday. Others, like Victoria Day, Remembrance Day, and Thanksgiving, are generally days off for everyone but are not officially recognized by every province. The new holiday is likely to be known as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Most importantly, the holiday should incorporate an element of education and awareness instead of being just another day off. How this will be achieved without being able to round up the youth an teach ’em something – as with Remembrance Day, for example – remains to be seen.