Years after the idea was first put forward in a private member’s bill, a national holiday recognizing the place of Indigenous people in Canadian history has been put into legislation.
Bill C-5 was passed in Parliament earlier this month.
The bill designates Sept. 30 as national day for truth and reconciliation.
It was fast tracked after the recent discovery of 215 unmarked graves of children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Georgina Jolibois put the initial idea forward for such a holiday when she was the NDP MP for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River in 2017 but it died on the order paper in the Senate when the 2019 federal election was called.
She said one of her primary goals when she was elected to Parliament in 2015 was getting formal recognition of Indigenous peoples’ place in history into legislation.
“I thought it was really, really significant to make sure that we as Indigenous people must be held in high regard and have the support in Canadian history,” she said. “And so therefore, I worked on rewriting Canadian history by working on creating a national holiday in Canada.”
Jolibois added although she is certainly pleased a national holiday for Indigenous people has been put into legislation, it shouldn’t have taken a tragedy as what happened in Kamloops to finally make it a reality.
“It shouldn’t have to be until something really bad is discovered in Canada. It just seems as Indigenous people, we still have to continue to fight for our languages, for our children, for our families, for our communities, for our land, for everything.”
The initial private member’s bill slated June 21, which is National Indigenous Peoples Day, as the federal holiday.
However, this was later changed to make Sept. 30, also known as Orange Shirt Day, the designated holiday.
The day will now be a statutory holiday for federal government employees and federally regulated workplaces.
Jolibois was elected as the mayor of the northern community of La Loche in 2020.
(PHOTO: La Loche Mayor Georgina Jolibois. File photo.)