In February of this year,the Heritage Committee of the House of Commons passed a bill that would establish a new statutory holiday in Canada.
"National Truth and Reconciliation Day," would, according to the text of Bill C-369, "seek to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools, and other atrocities committed against First Nation, Inuit and Metis people, remains a vital component of the reconciliation process."
Now, the bill is slowly making its way through parliament. It is likely to become law, but obstacles remain. Here's everything we know so far.
It passed in the House of Commons
Bill C-369 passed its third reading in the House and went to the Senate on March 20th, 2019. 87 MPs, mostly Conservative, voted against it.
NDP MP Georgina Jolibois, who introduced the bill, stated that the holiday will "give space and time for the government to reflect on its failures and remind itself why it so important to work for and with indigenous people every other day of the year."
"Progress will take time, but through my bill, we are taking the time to make progress and are moving forward."
It passed a crucial step in the Senate, but may stall
The bill passed its first reading in the Senate on April 2nd. It will need to survive several more readings before it is submitted for royal assent and becomes law.
The holiday will fall on September 30th
While Jolibois had initially proposed a holiday on National Indigenous Peoples' Day on June 21st, lawmakers amended the bill to establish the holiday on September 30th.
The new date already marks Orange Shirt Day, a day to commemorate victims and survivors of Residential Schools in Canada. According to OrangeShirtDay.org, "the date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year."
Watch the video below for more information.
It took over a year for the bill to pass in the House. While senators seem to be acting more quickly than their colleagues, there is still no telling when C-369 will become law. Canadians may have to wait until 2020.
Provinces won't have to recognize it
According to the government of Canada, federal statutory holidays affect federally-regulated employees only. The CBC clarifies that, should this bill become law, individuals provinces will have the power to decide whether or not to observe the new holiday.
There are concerns it will be an empty gesture
Jolibois has "expressed [concern] about how the government will be honouring this holiday. Yes, a holiday will be created, but it is only meaningful if the resources are provided for Canadians to truly understand what that holiday means [...] We are still waiting for answers to all of these questions."
Conservative MPs expressed similar worries in 2018. “Quite frankly, sometimes people prefer to go shopping as opposed to really reflecting on the spirit of the day,” said deputy Cathy McLeod.
Indeed, while a National Truth and Reconciliation Day will be an occasion for an annual recognition of the atrocities committed against indigenous people, true reconciliation will require that all Canadians continuously engage with the legacy of these atrocities.
You can read the text of Bill C-369 here.