Senator urges all Canadians to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Bill that designates new holiday receives royal assent

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson, speaking during a Senate debate Thursday, compared Canada’s new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to Remembrance Day because they both emerged from Canadians’ desire to reflect on problems that have plagued society. (Screenshot courtesy of Senate ParlVU)

By Corey Larocque

Canada’s new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation should be compared to Remembrance Day because they were both born during periods of raised “collective consciousness” of Canadians, says Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson.

“This national day that is being set aside to honour the Indigenous lives lost at residential schools cannot be one celebrated by ‘some’ Canadians. Like on Remembrance Day, we must ensure that all Canadians take the time to pause and reflect, as this bill envisions,” Patterson said Thursday in a speech in the Senate before a vote that created the new holiday.

Senators passed Bill C-5, a bill that designates Sept. 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Creating the holiday was one of the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report.

After the Senate vote, the bill was given Royal Assent Thursday night, making it a law.

Patterson pointed out that Remembrance Day began as an occasion to celebrate the 1918 armistice agreement that ended the First World War.

“Remembrance Day was established at a time when the collective consciousness was acutely attuned to the atrocities of war,” he said.

Last week’s discovery of a mass-burial site at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., has focused attention across the country on the abuses that took place at residential schools, which operated until as recently as 1996.

“I believe it took the tragic discovery in Kamloops to really awaken many Canadians to the realities of our country’s dark legacy,” Patterson said.

But like Remembrance Day, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will only apply to federal government workers at a cost of what Patterson estimated to be nearly $390 million a year. It will be up to each territorial and provincial government to decide if it would be a public holiday for other workers.

The federal government picked Sept. 30 because it already coincides with Orange Shirt Day, federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said, answering questions from senators in Parliament’s upper chamber Thursday.

Orange Shirt Day is an annual unofficial commemoration of survivors and victims of residential schools. It has grown in popularity since 2013 after former student Phyllis Webstad publicly told her story about arriving at a residential school, wearing an orange shirt given to her by her grandmother, only to have it taken away from her.

Guilbeault said the new holiday should be observed for the first time this September.

“We must act quickly so that this date becomes part of our reality this year,” Guilbeault said.

Conservative Senator Don Plett accused the Liberal government of “virtue signalling” by enacting a new holiday instead of acting on other calls to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It’s easier for the government to give bureaucrats a day off, Plett said “than to work on the more pressing but difficult issues that are facing Indigenous communities every day of the week.”

Plett said the day should be a memorial day, “not a day to stay home, put our feet up and watch TV.”

Guilbeault said the new holiday will be a “solemn day” to reflect and remember, calling education a “pillar of reconciliation.”

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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by Incredible on

    The Federal Government should be ashamed of itself. Recommendations made in 2015 are only being addressed because of the discovery of the innocent children that were robbed of their human beings. There is no amount of money that could be provided to gain forgiveness to the federal government, catholic church and other churches involve in these interment camps. One thing that stands out is a picture posted of the memorial in front of the Inukshuk in Rankin Inlet. A symbol of hope that would guide people back home. It was shameful to see the RCMP in full red surge standing in front of the Inukshuk. The very people who handed over these children to the very people that destroyed them and robbed them from life. Shame. These children and all children need to be brought back to their homes.

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  2. Posted by Upon Reflection on

    I am not sure how one can say that the RCMP members who stood in front of the Inuksuk were “The very people who handed over these children to the very people that destroyed them”? They really are not the same people.

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    • Posted by To Upon Reflection on

      Good answer. Nor was it the same Pope.
      Reality is they were all employed by the federal government. RCMP, and the churches involved.

      • Posted by Upon Reflection on

        The institutions involved owe it to the victims to acknowledge the harms done under their authority (at the very least). The current pope had nothing to do with it, but the church did. As the figurehead of the institution the pope should acknowledge that harm and apologize. If the RCMP had a role the same is true… yet, to single out the members in Rankin Inlet, for example, seems unfair. Granted, perhaps this was triggering for some…

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