WINNIPEG – Most of Canada will celebrate a second holiday this month.
On September 30, federal offices, banks and post offices will be closed to mark the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Brenda Gunn, director of academic and research at the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation, “The idea is to really set a day apart that we respect all the kids who survive in residential schools, as well as respect and those who don’t return.” recognize.” told Granthshala National News.
The new federal statutory holiday coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which was started in 2013 as a way to honor Indigenous children and educate Canadians about the impact the residential school system has on Indigenous communities.
The creation of such a federal holiday was one of 94 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015.
Many provinces and territories have followed the federal government’s lead in marking the day as a designated holiday and day off for students.
Private companies and organizations can decide whether they want to honor optional or unofficial holidays, and provinces can designate holidays as well.
However, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario have opted not to recognize September 30 as a statutory holiday. The decision some say is harsh, but not unexpected.
“It goes with that ‘get over it’ attitude that many Canadians have, but we must never forget, or we repeat our mistakes.” Robert Kakakwe, a residential school survivor, told Granthshala News. “It should not be a time of celebration, but a time of education.”
Kakakawe spent six years at the Maryval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, where more than 700 unmarked graves were discovered in June.
Beyond the statutory holiday, work continues to recognize the damage done to indigenous peoples through colonization. Dozens of First Nations have begun searching for graves at former residential school sites, and more people across Canada are educating themselves to know what reconciliation means.
“For our groups, reconciliation means, ‘How can I take action in my personal life and effect change within my community?”, explained Lori Abrahams, director of indigenous cultural programs at 1JustCity.
At the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where 215 suspected graves were found in May, members of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation will play a song of honor on 30 September. The number of graves that “shocked the world,” said the First Nation.