THE National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be enshrined in B.C. law to honour the strength and resilience of residential school survivors and remember the children who never came home, the province announced on Tuesday.
This new provincial statutory day of commemoration responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action No. 80, which called on the federal government to establish a holiday to honour survivors, their families and communities.
If passed, British Columbia will join Canada, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon as jurisdictions that have designated September 30 as a statutory holiday.
“One day there will be no survivors left in Canada. What is forgotten is often repeated,” said Phyllis Webstad, Orange Shirt Day Society. “With the federal government passing legislation to make Orange Shirt Day, September 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and now the B.C. provincial government announcing this legislation today, it will help to ensure that what happened to us will never happen again and will never be forgotten.”
If passed, more British Columbians will be able to get involved in advancing reconciliation by participating in local commemoration or education events, having important conversations with their families, their friends and their communities, and finding meaningful ways to learn more about shared history.
“Many British Columbians have been marking Orange Shirt Day with humility, respect and reflection in their own ways for years,” said Premier David Eby. “Today, we are taking the important step to enshrine this day in law to acknowledge the wrongdoings of the past, and to take meaningful action toward reconciliation.”
Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, said: “This is an important step in our commitment to lasting reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in B.C. Having a provincial statutory holiday means more workers across the province will now be able to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, joining those in the public sector and in federally regulated jobs who already had this opportunity.”
The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation sought feedback from Indigenous Peoples on how best to observe this day in B.C. The Ministry of Labour also consulted with employers and workers.
“For decades, Indigenous leaders have called upon governments to publicly recognize the harms caused by residential schools, Indian Day Schools and Indian hospitals, as well as the Sixties Scoop,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “This day is about taking time to reflect on the experience of residential school survivors and their families, while learning about and honouring the strength, resilience, and contributions of Indigenous communities in our province.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBIC), said: “UBCIC welcomes and heartily applauds this critically meaningful step by the Province of B.C. to join the federal government in observing September 30 as a provincial statutory holiday for Truth and Reconciliation. UBCIC stands with the survivors, intergenerational survivors, and B.C. First Nations who have advocated for the adoption of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action No. 80 in B.C. For this day to truly be meaningful, it requires healing and capacity for change; we still need to see broader acknowledgment of the harms of the residential school system along with significant investments into public and private education, former residential school site investigations, and into commemoration, remembrance events and memorials led by First Nations to bring healing to our people and change for our future generations.”
Regional Chief Terry Teegee, B.C. Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), said: “The B.C. Assembly of First Nations welcomes the news that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be made a statutory holiday in B.C. This is a day for all British Columbians, Indigenous people and our non-Indigenous neighbours to reflect and breathe life into what reconciliation means, and take steps to build a better future together. It recognizes the struggles that we First Nations peoples have had to face, and clarifies the role that settlers can play in reconciling our relationship. As BCAFN Knowledge Keeper, Dr. Robert Joseph has said: ‘Reconciliation is for all Canadians!'”
Robert Phillips, First Nations Summit Political Executive, said: “We commend B.C. for declaring September 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR), a provincial statutory holiday. NDTR provides Canadians an important opportunity to learn about, and reflect on, the terrible legacy of residential schools in Canada and to recognize the devastating impacts that colonialism has had, and continues to have, on Indigenous communities. It provides an opportunity for Canadians to stand with us in partnership to break down the systemic colonialism and racism that still exists today. B.C.’s declaration is an important indicator of the government’s commitment to work in partnership towards reconciliation.”