A new federal statutory holiday was announced for September 30—The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is the fulfillment of one of the 94 recommendations in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.
The Alberta Government has chosen not to make this National Day of Truth and Reconciliation Day a statutory holiday, but businesses, school boards and municipalities have the authority to follow the federal government’s lead should they choose.
My hope is that these local authorities are making the decisions about a paid statutory holiday for the right reason.
This editorial was provoked after reading the writeup from the Bashaw town council meeting. Seems their CAO, Theresa Fuller, proposed that the staff work September 30 and be given October 1, in lieu, to facilitate a long weekend. The council received the report for information, but hopefully by the time this editorial is published, Fuller will have read the council report from Clive and how their CAO, Carla Kenney, correctly framed the discussion. It’s not about a long weekend!
It’s similar to Remembrance Day, a day of reflection and commemoration. It’s not simply a May, August or September long-weekend. It’s a day set aside to help the public better understand the damaging and intergenerational effects of the residential school system on our indigenous peoples.
It is essential that all Canadians, especially those of us with Euro-Judeo-Christian ancestry, become more intimately aware of the cultural genocide and long-term ramifications of residential schools.
For those in the education system, they’ve been setting aside September 30 as Orange Shirt Day since 2013. The history of Orange Shirt Day began in 1973 when a 6-year-old girl, Phyllis Webstad, like all the other children entering a residential school, had her clothes taken away, including her new orange shirt.
Orange has come to represent loss. The loss of not being allowed to speak their native language. The loss to practice their spiritual beliefs. The loss of wearing their own cultural outfits. The loss of wearing their hair as their ancestors. The loss to live with their families and extended families during the school year.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is about putting ourselves in the shoes of that little 6-year-old girl. It’s about mourning the recently discovered bodies in unmarked graves at residential school sites.It’s about helping those of us who didn’t get treated this way to face the truth and do our part to seek justice and reconciliation with our indigenous peoples. It’s about loving our fellow indigenous man, woman, or child, many of whom came out of residential schools themselves or were raised by residential school survivors.
We must accept dysfunctional families, homelessness, mental health issues and substance abuse are most often a direct result of residential schools and other discriminatory practices that we have imposed for over a century on our indigenous peoples.
What it isn’t about is another long weekend!