In Congress, a bill was passed to establish a national day of truth and reconciliation. On Friday, MPs voted unanimously to terminate debate on Bill C-5, allowing it to pass quickly and be sent to the Senate. The bill would establish a new statutory holiday to honor Indigenous victims and survivors of residential schools.
The statement comes just one day after 215 children’s bodies were discovered in unmarked graves on the grounds of a decommissioned residential school in Kamloops by a First Nation in British Columbia. The bill is identical to one proposed by the New Democratic Party in 2017, which was defeated in the Senate two years later.
The federally regulated employees’ statutory vacation is set for September 30. Indigenous children were subjected to extensive physical and sexual abuse at the boarding schools, which were formed in the 1880s by Christian churches and the federal government with the purpose of converting and integrating them. As a result of these, thousands of people died.
Punnichy, Saskatchewan’s final one, closed in 1996. Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, the bill’s proponent, drew a link between the bill’s passage and the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation’s finding of unmarked graves. “Today would be a good day to pass Bill C-5,” Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said earlier on Friday, thanking MPs and called on federal authorities to do so.
Green Party MP Jenica Atwin teared up during the third-reading debate on Friday as she drew a clear line between the legacy of colonization and the numerous concerns confronting Indigenous people today. Bill C-5, she believes, will help to raise awareness about “previous tragedies.”
According to Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, the legislation is a step in redressing past wrongs associated with the residential school system, which he called a “national tragedy borne by colonialism and hastened by institutional racism.”