Ontario needs to step up and declare September 30 a statutory holiday

 

Time and time again leaders fail to step up and take advantage of opportunities to let our Indigenous brothers and sisters know we’re serious about taking steps towards reconciliation.

Earlier this summer I wrote about the missed opportunity by Hamilton City Council to remove a Sir John A. MacDonald statue. Now I’m even more disappointed that Doug Ford and the Ontario Government did not choose to recognize September 30 as a statutory holiday, after Justin Trudeau and the federal government declared it as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The discovery of the remains of thousands of Indigenous children on the grounds of former residential schools in Canada was heartbreaking. The Every Child Matters movement received a lot of support and encouragement. It’s was encouraging to see the Government of Canada finally step up in July to declare the national holiday. Even more so to see Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and PEI follow the federal lead by recognizing it as a statutory holiday.

It’s beyond me that Doug Ford didn’t take this opportunity to declare the stat holiday. Ontario had a least 18 residential schools. The Government of Ontario has an opportunity in a significant way to follow the 80th call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to establish a day to honour residential school survivors, their families, communities, and the children who were lost.

A spokesperson for the Government of Ontario said Ontario will be treating the day much like Remembrance Day, which is also not a public holiday but which people typically pause to observe with a moment of silence while at work or school.

That’s not good enough.

I don’t want to take away from the significance of Remembrance Day. Because of our governments’ direct actions against Indigenous people for centuries and our refusal to acknowledge the damage for so long, we have so much to try to account for. Reconciliation is supposed to be about healing. The Indigenous community has made it clear what they’d like, as did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Ontario needs to do more than just observe the day. It needs to be raised to the level of a statutory holiday to acknowledge the importance of our commitment to reconciliation.

Given that September 30 is only a few days away it’s not going to happen for 2021. However, there’s no need to accept that Ontario will not declare September 30 a statutory holiday for next year.

I urge you to write to your MPP. Tell them that Every Child Matters, because of that you want the Ontario Government to have the importance of reconciliation reflected by declaring September 30 a statutory holiday, part of our National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

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