The federal government is planning to announce a new statutory holiday to mark Canada’s "tragic and painful" residential school legacy.
CTV News has confirmed that the government is consulting with Indigenous groups ahead of moving forward with declaring an annual day to acknowledge what has been declared a time of cultural genocide in Canada.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde told CTV News in a statement that he supports the creation of the day being a statutory holiday to recognize what he called "the tragic and painful legacy of residential schools to show respect and empathy to the far too many children taken from their homes and families and to honour survivors and their families."
Bellegarde said the day would help increase public understanding about this part of Canada’s history, and stated that it’s important that Indigenous groups are involved in choosing the appropriate date.
"In order to chart a way forward, we have to really know what happened in the past," Bellegarde said on CTV News Channel. "Everybody should know this. And so by having a stat holiday it’s all part of that education and awareness process."
As first reported by The Globe and Mail, the government is eyeing two possible dates for the holiday: either National Indigenous Peoples day on June 21, or Sept. 30, which is recognized as Orange Shirt Day.
In 2017, NDP MP Georgina Jolibois tabled a private member’s bill to make June 21 a statutory holiday, but the legislation is still at second reading after one day of debate in March. Sept. 30 commemorates the experience of students at residential schools, referring specifically to the experience of one former student Phyllis Webstad, whose shiny orange shirt—given to her by her grandmother—was taken away from her on her first day at residential school.
The idea to create a statutory holiday was one of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to enact all of the recommendations that fall under federal jurisdiction. Currently this promise is considered "underway with challenges" according to the federal mandate letter tracker, meaning the government is having a hard time fulfilling the commitment.