British Columbia’s First Nations say they’re deeply concerned that B.C. hasn’t made Sept. 30 a statutory provincial holiday.
On Friday, the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) issued a statement regarding National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Specifically, it said that B.C. “has so far failed to designate September 30th a statutory holiday marking the profound horrors of residential schools, and the enduring needs for healing and honour of survivors, commemoration and widespread public education.”
Truth and reconciliation an ‘ongoing process,’ Indigenous voices say
The statement continued, saying, “the ongoing recoveries of missing and unidentified graves at former residential school sites have brought to public attention the immense trauma, violence, and abuse perpetrated against Indigenous children, as well as deep-rooted systemic racism across Canadian institutions and public sectors.”
National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a federal statutory holiday — first declared in 2021, and also known as Orange Shirt Day — with B.C.’s government saying it only applies to federally regulated workplaces.
According to the federal government, “the day honours the children who never returned home and survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
However, in B.C., Sept. 30 is mixed, with some people getting the day off while others don’t.
The government says public-sector employers should follow the same process as last year, though ultimately, “it will be at the discretion of other workplaces how to recognize the day. Some collective agreements, including provincially regulated employees, may already recognize the federal holiday as a paid day.”
The province also says it’s engaging various groups on how Sept. 30 should be observed each year in B.C., adding the earliest it could be named a holiday would be 2023.
Potentially marking it a holiday one year from now isn’t good enough, says the FNLC.
“B.C.’s immediate response to the passing of the Queen was a prompt provincial memorial holiday, despite her being the head of the colonial institution that spearheaded and perpetuated the continued oppression, subjugation, forced assimilation and genocide of Indigenous people in these lands,” said Stewart Philip, Grand Chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
“The fact that B.C. has not afforded Indigenous people the same dignity and time for reflection and healing on September 30th is unconscionable.
“One day a year for truth and reconciliation is a bare minimum for the thousands of lives that were lost or have been impacted by residential and day schools, and the continued delay and denial for survivors’ healing demonstrates the lasting inequity and blatant racism in this province.”
“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an important opportunity for all Canadians to remember and recognize this horrific time in our history,” added Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit.
“The B.C. government should elevate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation from observance to a statutory holiday as an important commitment to continuing to walk down a path toward reconciliation.”
B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee said it’s been nearly three years since the province adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a shared framework for reconciliation.
“However, the province’s continued failure to designate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday is a grave impediment to this progress,” said Teegee.
“September 30th is a day to honour residential school survivors, their families, and their communities. As First Nations, we have been grieving and processing the history and ongoing legacy of Canada’s horrific residential school system for many generations.
“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.”
On Friday, at noon, B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation issued a statement, saying it’s focused on working with Indigenous leadership and communities regarding National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“We have heard clearly and consistently that September 30th is a day to honour the resilience, strength and dignity of residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors, and to remember the children that never came home,” said the ministry. “This year, we are marking the day the same way we did last year.
“We are engaging with Indigenous leadership and Indigenous communities on what this day will look like in future years. Additionally, a public engagement survey just closed that sought feedback from workers and employers on how they would like to see the day marked.”
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.