Feds mull over new stat holiday to mark legacy of Indian residential schools

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One of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee was to declare a national statutory holiday to mark the painful legacy of Canada’s Indian residential schools.

According to a media report, the only hitch is choosing a date for the annual event.

Indigenous groups are being consulted on the issue.

Getting the date right is tricky, for example June 21, is too close to St. Jean Baptiste Day, a Quebec holiday that is celebrated on June 24, and also too close to Canada Day. It would be awkward to have National Indigenous Peoples Day around the time.

Another suggestion was to create it on Orange Shirt Day, Sept. 30, a date which marks the time around when children were separated from their families to attend the residential schools. That is a significant day for Indigenous people.

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When it becomes a federal statutory holiday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, it could mean another day off work for federal employees. Provinces and territories would then have to amend their own labour codes which they would, given the optics if they chose not to go along.

The TRC found that the schools, which operated for more than 100 years, were a system of cultural genocide.

Currently there are just five national statutory holidays: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day. The remaining holidays are marked with a patchwork of days off across Canada, with each province and territory setting its own schedule.

It is interesting to note that just this year Remembrance Day was made a legal holiday throughout Canada by an Act of Parliament. It has been a paid day off in all provinces and territories except Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, and it will remain a regular working day in those jurisdictions unless they decide to observe it.

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But for 40 years the Royal Canadian Legion has opposed making it a holiday and the reason is that they have feared that most people would in a very short time forget about the significance of the day and just treat it like the way they treat Labour Day and any other day off from work. Of course, it would not make a difference to those out of work or who choose not to work. -CINEWS

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