WINNIPEG — Much of Canada will observe a second holiday this month.
On Sept. 30, federal offices, banks and post offices will be closed to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“The idea is really to set aside a day that we honour all the children who survived residential schools, as well as honour and recognize those who did not return,” Brenda Gunn, academic and research director at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, told CTV National News.
The new federal statutory holiday coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which was started in 2013 as a way to honour Indigenous children and educate Canadians about the impact the residential school system had on Indigenous communities.
Creating such a federal holiday was one of the 94 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission back in 2015.
Many provinces and territories have followed the federal government’s lead in marking in the day as a designated holiday and day off for students.
Provinces can also designate holidays, but in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, schools and provincial offices will remain open on Sept. 30. It’s a decision some say is callous, but not unexpected.
“It kind of goes along with that ‘get over it’ attitude that many Canadians have, but we must never forget, or we end up repeating our mistakes.” Robert Kakakaway, a residential school survivor, told CTV News. “It should not be a time of celebration, but a time of education.”
Kakakaway spent six years at Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, where more than 700 unmarked graves were discovered in June.
Beyond the statutory holiday, work to recognize the damage done to Indigenous peoples through colonization continues. Dozens of First Nations have started searching for graves at former residential school sites, and across Canada more people are educating themselves to learn what reconciliation means.
At the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where a suspected 215 graves were found in May, members of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation will play an honour song on Sept. 30. It will be played at 2:15 P.T., coinciding with the number of graves that “shocked the world,” the First Nation said.