Prince Edward Island will recognize September 30 as National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
This fall, Premier Dennis King’s government will be introducing an amendment to the Employment Standards Act to officially recognize the date as a provincial statutory holiday.
It said that beginning this year, government offices and schools will be closed for the day. But for the moment, it is leaving it up to private businesses and organizations as to whether they’ll commemorate the holiday.
“What better place than the birthplace of Canada to lead by example as we go along the shared journey of true healing and reconciliation,” P.E.I. Sen. Brian Francis said.
Francis sponsored the bill which led to the day becoming a federal statutory holiday earlier this year.
“I’m just so thankful that the premier and his cabinet and the government of Prince Edward Island are going to recognize this important holiday,” Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard said.
King has written to Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and Liberal Leader Sonny Gallant asking them to co-sponsor the amendment.
Day of mourning
Also celebrated as Orange Shirt Day, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is observed by people throughout Canada in remembrance of residential schools and how their legacy has affected Indigenous communities.
Francis, who is a former chief of the Abegweit First Nation in Scotchfort, says the decision to commemorate the day is an acknowledgement of the wrongs the Mi’kmaq people have suffered due to the residential schools system.
“This a day of reverence, respect for those survivors who are here with us, those who are not here with us,” he said. “We hope that there’ll be events leading up that will really show the true history and educate everyone on what the residential school was like.”
The Epekwitk Assembly of Councils welcomed the decision, saying it signals understanding and respect for what’s a day of mourning to many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“[It’s] not a day of celebration, but a day to allow all Islanders to pause in respect of Epekwitnewaq Mi’kmaq and all Indigenous people of this country who continue to suffer the lasting impacts of the residential schools policy,” Bernard previously said in a written statement.
“We must make time to look, to listen and learn the hard truths that have been hidden for too long, and reflect on what that means for us today.”
Chief Junior Gould of Abegweit First Nation said “the province has made the right decision to declare this day a statutory holiday, which gives Islanders an opportunity to contemplate the purpose of this day.
“It is my hope that people will take more than just the day on September 30th to think deeply and critically about
the history of residential schools in our country and the ongoing devastating impacts.”