OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says hoisting the Canadian flag back up on Parliament Hill on the first national day commemorating the legacy of residential schools should be seen as a sign of commitment to build a better country.
O'Toole says Canadians should be proud to put the flags back up that have been flying at half-mast since last May at the Peace Tower and other federal buildings following First Nations' discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools.
During Thursday's leaders' debate O'Toole said as prime minister he would want to see that happen on Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Parliament hurried the passing of the bill that created the statutory holiday back in June after the discovery of what was believed to be the graves of 215 Indigenous children forced to attend a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
At the time, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said the point of the national holiday was to create a chance for Canadians to learn about what happened in the residential school system and reflect on the experiences of survivors.
O'Toole says he's proud of Canada in spite of the "scars" from its past and sees Sept. 30 as a day for the country to recommit itself to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
"We will then raise our flag as a sign of that commitment of building a strong and better Canada in the future," he said at a campaign stop in Mississauga, Ont.
"If you don't love and recommit to your country, are you really going to dig deep to make progress?"
During Thursday's debate, O'Toole was asked about whether he consulted with any First Nations or other Indigenous leaders on raising the flag on Sept. 30. He said he often consults with Indigenous leaders, but didn't specify if any of those conversations were about the flags.
Manitoba's NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew, who was an honorary witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which which heard testimonies from residential school survivors, tweeted Thursday the Canadian flag should fly at half-mast Sept. 30..
"The day is about the Survivors and their descendants… And those who never came home," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2021.
The Canadian Press