Students attend the Alberni Indian Residential School, which operated on the Tseshaht reserve until 1973. (United Church of Canada archives)
The federal Liberal Government has announced that it is working on the establishment of a national holiday that will honour and commemorate Aboriginal residential school students, their families and communities affected.
“We failed to uphold the honor of the Crown and more than that, we did our best to try and erase Indigenous cultures with such projects as residential schools,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a televised announcement in August.
The establishment of a statutory holiday is one of the 94 Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released in 2015. The calls to action were made in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and to advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.
Prime Minister Trudeau noted that more than 70 of the Calls to Action directly address the Canadian federal government. He said his government has committed to accept those calls to action, one of which was the establishment of a statutory holiday.
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process,” reads the call to action
“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,” said Trudeau.
The Liberal government is working with First Nations on selecting a date and will make further announcements when the work is done.
Currently there are 11 federal statutory holidays: News Years Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday, Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day, Christmas and Boxing Day.
Coming up next month: Nuu-chah-nulth Residential School survivors share their thoughts on the new statutory holiday.