Canada’s Getting a New Statutory Holiday


Published August 15, 2018 at 7:07 pm


This new stat holiday might call for a day off, but it’s not exactly cause for celebration.

The intention for it is to recognize Canada’s Indigenous peoples pertaining to a dark chapter in their history.

The Globe and Mail recently reported that the federal government is in talks with Indigenous groups to declare a day to mark Canada’s “painful residential-school legacy.”

The day is expected to be known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The call to create such a day is one of the 94 recommendations outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to enact each one of the TRC’s recommendations during the last federal election, although that was later clarified to extend only to the 76 that fell within federal jurisdiction.

Two possible dates are currently on the table – June 21 and September 30.

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, and September 30 is Orange Shirt Day, so named for the bright orange shirt given to six-year-old Phyllis Webstad by her grandmother in 1973, which was then taken by administrators when she attended the St. Joseph Mission School in Williams Lake, B.C.

The date was chosen because it’s around the time Indigenous children were taken from their homes and sent to residential schools.

If enacted, the proposed stat holiday would only apply to employees in federally regulated workplaces. It would be up to each province to extend the holiday to other workers.

While having another stat holiday is obviously great for all of us, for this particular proposed holiday, it’s important to understand the significance behind it, even though some of our other stat holidays have meaning behind them too.

Ontario’s Civic Holiday, also known as Simcoe Day, for instance, is named in honour of the former Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (now Ontario) John Graves Simcoe. Likewise, Labour Day traces its origins back to the 1870s in honour of unionized workers.

The legacy of how Canada has treated its Indigenous peoples is sensitive and difficult to handle, with many people advocating for flat out revisionist history. One example is removing the name and statues of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, because he was an architect of the residential schools system.

Recently, the city of Victoria, British Columbia removed the Sir John A. statue from the steps of their city hall as part of reconciliation efforts with Indigenous communities, which has somewhat polarized the local community at large.

As we move forward with this era of Indigenous reconciliation, even though it sounds good on a personal level to perhaps get another day off work, for this one you might want to think deeper about why you’re getting that day off.

There are currently five national stat holidays: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day.

What do you think of a this new stat holiday?

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