Indigenous stat holiday bill destined to die in Senate
A new bill designating September 30 as a statutory holiday known as “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation” is expected to die in Senate as Parliament is set to adjourn before it can pass.
Now, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’ office says instead of having the stat holiday, the government will fund “local Indigenous events” that day, but gave no indication this is a proposal they’ll push to revive in the future.
In a statement to CTVNews.ca, the minister’s office blamed the Conservatives for the bill not getting passed before the Senate adjourned on Friday.
Currently September 30 is known as “Orange Shirt Day,” which focuses on the experiences of students and survivors of residential schools.
The proposal for a new Indigenous-focused stat holiday was first made in NDP MP Georgina Jolibois’ 2017 Bill C-369, which was substantially amended over this Parliament by the Liberal majority to change the date, title and scope of the holiday.
Initially, Jolibois had wanted June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day to become the statutory holiday. The government pushed the bill forward this fall after some debate about whether the day should be more celebratory or sombre.
The government first announced in August 2018 that they were planning to introduce a new statutory holiday to mark Canada's "tragic and painful" residential school legacy. It was at this time the government first floated the September date as an alternative, but said they wanted to consult Indigenous people.
Last year Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault said the government wanted the new annual federal holiday to be about honouring survivors, families, and Indigenous communities.
Earlier this week, Conservative senators seemed to put the nail in the coffin of any outstanding private members’ business in the Senate, believed to be an effort to thwart another Indigenous-focused bill from becoming law; Bill C -262, “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act,” which is sponsored by NDP MP Romeo Saganash.
Jolibois said she was “very disappointed” that the senators “used significant stalling tactics to delay or stop progress on a number of bills,” in a statement emailed to CTV News.ca.
“Every single person in Canada has an obligation to work towards reconciliation and decolonizing Canada, and we’re reminded of that today on National Indigenous Peoples Day,” she said.
Jolibois added that the Conservative senators “do not understand that lesson” and their “legacy will be defined by their misunderstanding and abuse of power.”
Last week, former interim leader of the federal Conservative party Rona Ambrose first made the accusation that the private members’ bills were being blocked by her former caucus colleagues, including her own proposal about judges receiving sexual assault law training.
Both Indigenous focused bills will die unless there is a late breaking development in the Senate, such as the government recalling Parliament to deal with ratifying the new NAFTA deal.
Any bill that hasn’t passed by the time the election is called —whether a private members’ bill or government legislation—would have to be reintroduced in the next Parliament by whoever forms government.