Ontario will not make National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a provincial holiday

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A memorial for the 215 children found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School is pictured at Queen's Park, in Toronto, on May 31, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
A memorial for the 215 children found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School is pictured at Queen's Park, in Toronto, on May 31, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

The Ontario government will not be making National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a provincial holiday, a government spokesperson confirmed, prompting criticism from some of the province's opposition parties.

Legislation passed by the federal government in June recognized Sept. 30 as a federal statutory holiday, making it a paid day off for federal workers and employees in federally regulated workplaces.

Curtis Lindsay, press secretary for Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford, confirmed in an email to CBC Toronto Thursday morning that the day will not be a holiday for the province.

"Ontario is working in collaboration with Indigenous partners, survivors and affected families to ensure the respectful commemoration of this day within the province, similar to Remembrance Day," Lindsay said.

"While the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is not a provincial public holiday this year, employers and employees may agree to treat this day as such, and some may be required to do so if it has been negotiated into collective agreements or employment contracts," he said.

The holiday was one of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — meant to honour Canada's residential school survivors, their families and communities and to publicly commemorate the history and ongoing legacy of the schools.

Ontario NDP calls move 'shameful'

On Thursday, Official Opposition New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath issued a statement along with MPP Sol Mamakwa, criticizing the Ford government's decision.

"It's shameful that the Doug Ford government is refusing the solemn duty to remember, to learn, and to work for change," the statement said in part.

"For all Ontarians, making Sept. 30 a stat holiday is a critical move forward in the difficult work that needs to be done to revive reconciliation."

The statement added that the NDP would designate the day a statutory holiday if elected into provincial office.

Provincial Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner also released a statement urging the Ford government to "to respect the voices of Indigenous leaders and elders who are calling for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to be recognized as a provincial statutory holiday in Ontario."

"This date should be marked as a day of commemoration, learning and reflection in Ontario. Reflection upon the genocidal legacy that is an ugly and very real part of Ontario and Canada's history," Schreiner said.

Ontario's three chief justices also issued a statement Thursday saying the Court of Appeal of Ontario, Superior Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Justice will all be closed on Sept. 30, except for specific matters that must be heard.

Weekend and holiday bail courts will operate at the OCJ, while the OSCJ will hear urgent matters.

"This day calls upon all of us to reflect on the importance of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada," the justices said.

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