This summer, the Trudeau government said it would create a new statutory holiday to mark the dark legacy of Canada’s residential-school system. (Library and Archives Canada) NDP MP Georgina Jolibois stood up for the first time in a formal House of Commons debate today to defend her private member’s bill for an Indigenous statutory holiday.
“I am not asking the government to give Indigenous people time to accept our apology. I’m asking if the government of Canada will give some time off to make sure Indigenous peoples can celebrate what makes them truly unique,” Jolibois told the House.
The passage of Bill C-369 would create a statutory holiday on June 21 to mark National Indigenous People’s Day. Earlier this summer, the Trudeau government told the CBC it would create a new stat holiday to mark the dark legacy of Canada’s residential-school system.
Trudeau’s comment followed Jolibois’ first request, on June 20 of this year, for the stat holiday.
“Will the Liberals support my bill and make National Indigenous People’s Day a statutory holiday?” a transcript from that day in the House of Commons shows.
Trudeau did not answer, saying instead the government was “looking very closely” at requests by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to “figure out the best way to move forward on commemorating reconciliation.”
Jolibois said the bill was inspired by the 80th recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which said the holiday would “honour survivors, their families, and communities” and ensure that commemoration of residential school history “remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
Jolibois told the House it’s “vital” to remember those lost to the residential school system in Canada.
“I believe people in Canada are capable of mourning residential schools while also think about the future,” she continued. “That’s what we do every year on Remembrance Day.”
Conservative MP Kevin Waugh said he heard concerns from Indigenous leaders that a statutory holiday might not be the best way for the country to mark the legacy of residential schools.
“(The bill) needs to ensure (that) it will not (just) be a day off work,” he said.
Members debated which date to choose: the summer solstice of June 21, or Sept 30.
The former is already observed as National Indigenous People’s Day in the Northwest Territories, where’s it’s a territorial statutory holiday.
The September date is already Orange Shirt Day, which commemorates the victims and survivors of residential schools.
The office of Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodríguez could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
The debate on Bill C-369 will continue Wednesday, when the House is expected to vote on whether to move it to Heritage Committee for further review.
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