On Feb. 7, the provincial government announced legislation to make Truth and Reconciliation Day a statutory holiday, starting on Sept. 30, 2023.
The day was formally recognized as a federal statutory holiday in June of 2021, as a direct response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action, 80. Though, this only allotted the statutory holiday to federally regulated workplaces.
Currently the federal government, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon are the jurisdictions that have declared Sept. 30 a statutory holiday.
The provincial legislation was in response to consultation with Indigenous groups throughout the province.
For Robert Dennis, chief counsellor for Huu-ay-aht, this legislation would “recognize the past wrongs” that have happened to First Nations people in Canada and work towards correcting those wrongs.
“This would be an opportunity for… Canadian society to work together to create a just society, [and] not a different level of treatment for different people,” said Dennis. “Things have to change, [they] can't remain the way they are, and a day like this would help us to make that change.”
Closing the economic gap for Indigenous people, a reduction in incarcerated Aboriginal individuals in the prison system, increasing graduates in the education system, and creating a level playing field in job opportunities are among some further changes that need to happen, said Dennis.
“Especially if people can change…their cultural attitudes [or] their cultural biases, they would realize that a segment of their society was definitely treated differently,” said Dennis. “This would just help them in educating them and realizing what needs to be changed, and then, more importantly, how it can be changed.”