The District of Saanich is calling on the Canadian government to establish Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Saanich council voted unanimously to have Mayor Fred Haynes write to the Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, to endorse Bill C-5 – introduced by Steven Guilbeault, the Canadian heritage minister –that would establish Sept. 30 as a national statutory holiday.
The holiday would “ensure public recognition of the disturbing history and legacy of residential schools” and honour survivors, Haynes said in a report to council.
Sept. 30 is recognized nationally at Orange Shirt Day – named for the orange shirt that B.C. residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad received from her grandmother on her first day of school and had taken from her upon arrival. This fall, council declared Sept. 30 as Orange Shirt Day in the municipality following a presentation from local Orange Shirt Day organizers Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray.
Not long after, Charlie, a local residential school survivor, approached council to request that a letter of support.
A National Day for Truth and Reconciliation would “acknowledge residential school survivors and recognize the harms that 150,000 children experienced in 139 residential schools across Canada,” Haynes wrote in a draft letter to Miller.
Haynes told Black Press Media that the draft also includes a statement from Charlie it was important for Saanich to stand with residential school survivors rather than speak on their behalf.
“This bill will help increase the rights of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, including rights to self, determination, lands and languages,” Charlie wrote. “By having this bill passed, it will create an opportunity for all Canadians to celebrate equality.”
Haynes feels the national recognition would be a clear statement that the Canada is “serious about recognizing the harms experienced by Indigenous peoples” at residential schools.
The letter will be shared with other local governments in the province and the B.C. Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.