Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraged provinces and territories to step up reconciliation efforts with Indigenous peoples, but stopped short of saying they should make National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, commonly known as Orange Shirt Day, an official holiday.
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson recently announced that her Progressive Conservative government will not make the day a provincial holiday this year, citing the need for ongoing consultation.
The federal government made the day a statutory holiday for its workers and federally regulated workplaces in 2021.
The decision to do so was in response to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.
The prime minister said the federal government had moved towards “doing and honoring” the call.
“This is a day that Indigenous people want to commemorate truth and reconciliation, and all the challenges and difficulties that come with it,” Trudeau said Wednesday at an event in Winnipeg to promote his government’s new budget.
“(The federal government) certainly hopes that the provinces will recognize their responsibilities on the road to reconciliation and take the actions outlined in the call to action, but this is clearly a decision for the provinces to make.”
Orange Shirt Day is September 30th. It commemorates the experience of Phyllis Webstab, whose gift of clothing from her grandmother was taken away on her first day of boarding school at Webstad.
The Manitoba provincial government has closed non-essential offices and services on Sept. 30 for the past two years, giving most employees a day off. Schools from Kindergarten to Year 12 are also closed. Stefanson said it will continue to do so this year.
In deciding not to make the day an official holiday this year, the prime minister also cited the vulnerability of businesses still recovering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group tasked with advocating for Indigenous people in Manitoba expressed disappointment with the province’s decision.
The Manitoba Conference of Chiefs said in a statement Wednesday that the province missed a critical opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to healing and recognizing Indigenous peoples.
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said the Manitoba government has not consulted with her on the issue for the past six months.
Some businesses and organizations choose to mark the day.
“I want to take this opportunity to honor all businesses, private sector agencies and organizations that have chosen to commemorate National Truth and Reconciliation Day by closing their businesses and give their employees the opportunity to reflect on the importance of this day and how it impacts Indigenous peoples,” said Merri gram said.
Some provinces and territories followed suit with the federal government.
Trudeau praised the efforts that have been made or are underway, and called on lagging provinces and territories to take reconciliation efforts more seriously.
“There are provinces that haven’t moved as quickly, forcefully or vigorously on the road to reconciliation as the federal government or other provinces, and I would certainly like to see more provinces, all provinces, doing more to reconcile Indigenous people,” he said. He said.
The prime minister planned to celebrate Passover later in the day with members of the Jewish community and meet trade workers and apprentices.
federal politics justin trudeau orange shirt day truth and reconciliation