NDP MP Georgina Jolibois wants to a statutory holiday celebrating reconciliation to be extended to the provinces. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press The NDP MP who first proposed a federal stat holiday to honour reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples wants it expanded to the provinces.
That’s what Georgina Jolibois told a committee of her peers Thursday. Right now, her private member’s bill proposes a statutory holiday to mark reconciliation for federally governed employees, including public servants and employees of banks and some transportation companies. But once Canada takes the lead federally, she wants the provinces to follow.
“This is what I envision: Once the federal piece is taken care of, we start educating the provinces to follow suit,” she said.
So far, the Canada Labour Code provides nine paid general or statutory holidays every year, including New Year’s Day, Christmas Day and Labour Day. On these days, employees receive holiday pay from the federal government. Anyone who works on one of these days gets 1.5 times his or her regular hourly rate.
The provinces have the final say on which stat holidays are extended to non-federal workers. Remembrance Day, for example, is a designated statutory holiday for federal workers — but in four provinces, non-federal workers still have to go to work on Nov. 11. Provinces can also create their own holidays.
Some changes have already been made to Jolibois’ proposed legislation. The Liberal government confirmed its support for a statutory holiday dedicated to remembering the legacy of the residential-school system, which is one of the “calls to action” in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
“The date of that holiday, and how it’s named and framed and all that, will be done in the spirit of reconciliation, in full collaboration and consultation with Indigenous peoples,” Trudeau told reporters in August.
A network of boarding schools was funded by the Canadian government’s department of Indian Affairs and administered by Christian churches. The school system was created for the purpose of removing children from the influence of their own culture and assimilating them into the dominant Canadian one. Over the course of the system’s over-100-year existence, about 150,000 Indigenous children were placed in residential schools across Canada. Many died from illness, suicide or assault. The last school closed in 1996.
Jolibois said she’d actually prefer a day dedicated to the future of Indigenous peoples by celebrating their culture, practices and language.
“It will provide an opportunity for Canadians, who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance, to see life from (Indigenous people’s) perspectives,” she said.
Jolibois has a date in mind: June 21, already National Indigenous People’s Day. Across the country, the day is already marked by concerts, cultural performances and parades, because the summer solstice has special meaning for some Indigenous peoples who are tied to the land. National Aboriginal Day is already observed as a statutory holiday in Nunavut.
MPs from all sides, including Conservative MP Martin Shields and Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, support June 21 as the official date for the holiday.
Another date being considered is Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30, which also promotes awareness of the lasting impact of the residential-school system.
Nova Scotia Regional Chief Morley Googoo was in the room, representing the Assembly of First Nations, a national group that lobbies the government on behalf of over 600 First Nations chiefs. Googoo said he supports a holiday on June 21.
However, some groups want the bill to be re-evaluated. The Canadian Federation of Businesses (CFIB) says another statutory holiday could cost the country up to $3.6 billion in lost productivity.
“We recommend that the government consider measures to offset the increased costs that a new statutory holiday would impose […]
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