Having a provincial statutory holiday to remember Canada's colonial history and reflect on the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is long overdue, says Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson.
Starting this year, Sept. 30 will mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
In June, legislation was passed to make Sept. 30, which is already recognized as Orange Shirt Day, a federal statutory holiday. It was created in response to one of the 94 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Federal agencies and most Crown corporations will be closed for it.
While Ontario has announced the day won’t be a provincial holiday, some municipalities are marking it.
Bisson said the day would give people an opportunity to raise awareness, reflect on the “good and bad” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and allow people to think about how to move forward to build a better future.
The MPP said he doesn’t understand why Premier Doug Ford didn’t make Sept. 30 a statutory holiday in the province.
“There is no good reason for them to say no. I think it sends exactly the wrong message that Mr. Ford and the Conservatives need to send to the rest of our communities, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal,” Bisson said. “Because there are a lot of people in our communities who support this concept, who want to do better when it comes to First Nations. I think Mr. Ford on this one is offside.”
At a press conference Tuesday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath called on Ford and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford to mark Sept. 30 and make it a statutory holiday in the province to honour those affected by residential schools and acknowledge the ongoing trauma.
Horwath was joined by Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa and Toronto Centre MPP Suze Morrison.
“So that we can honour the lives lost, acknowledge and identify the responsibility that Canadians had, the government of the day had in terms of using the tools of genocide against Indigenous peoples. And make sure we never forget,” Horwath said at the press conference. “We can’t just walk away from this. We must always remember, and this day will help us do that.”
The Ontario NDP caucus made Sept. 30 a paid day off for all its staff and would make the day a province-wide stat holiday if elected in the June 2022 provincial election, according to the party’s press release.
A 24-hour residential school crisis line offering support to former students and their families is available at 1-866-925-4419.
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com