Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Chief Mark Hill says he’s disappointed in the Ontario government choosing not to make the first Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30 a statutory holiday.
In an open letter issued Thursday afternoon to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Chief Hill said the day should be a statutory holiday for all Ontarians to show a commitment toward truth and reconciliation.
“Six Nations of the Grand River is most disappointed that the Government of Ontario has decided not to observe National Truth and Reconciliation Day by marking Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday,” he said. “While you and many other provincial officials have expressed your commitment to strengthening relationships with First Nations communities, this upcoming (federal) holiday is an important symbol indicating a commitment to practical action.”
This past spring, the federal government passed legislation to make Sept. 30 an official federal holiday, including time off for federal employees, and named it Truth and Reconciliation Day to honour the relationship between settlers and Indigenous people.
The holiday was created after the horrific discovery of previously hidden children’s remains buried on numerous former residential school grounds across the country this past summer.
“This year has been difficult on everyone, but particularly so for the Indigenous communities whose old wounds were reopened upon the discovery of their lost children’s remains,” Hill said in the letter. “Canada’s history has been marred by the dark legacy of governmental theft of children. Forcefully removing children from their parents and communities to assimilate them to the government’s culture and values was, and remains, an abominable crime. It is not enough that leaders give a few remarks on occasion, only to let pass more formal opportunities to officially acknowledge where we’ve come from and where we need to go.”
The holiday acknowledges the history of the residential school system and honours survivors and victims of the church and government-led institutions, which Hill called a “positive response on the part of federal authorities to Call to Action number 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
The national TRC took place from 2008 to 2015, which delved into the horrifying abuse that occurred at residential schools and the lasting legacy they left on Indigenous people and communities. From the commission, 94 Calls to Action were issued in a report aimed at addressing the harms and impacts of residential schools with concrete steps to improve settler-Indigenous relations.
“Now it is time for Ontario to join British Columbia and the Northwest Territories and to lead other provinces, in full, official commemoration of this day,” said Chief Hill.