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New Statutory Holiday honours residential school survivors

The Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre believes a new statutory holiday can help educate people on the hardships of residential schools. The Federal Government announced a holiday to mark the legacy of residential school systems.

CBC reported that on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new statutory holiday as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission Call to Action 80 asked for a National Day to honour survivors of residential schools.

Two days are currently being discussed for the new stat day, June 21st which is National Aboriginal Day and September 30th which is “Orange Shirt Day”. Executive Director for the Lloydminster Friendship Centre Bonnie Start believes “Orange Shirt Day” would be her choice as a statutory holiday because it signifies the damage that people went through at residential schools.

” I think it brings more attention and awareness to the general public. Specifically, what went on in the residential schools and the impact it had on the children at that time and the intergender trauma its created in our communities.”

“Orange Shirt” is named after six-year-old Phyllis Webstead’s shirt that was given to her by her grandmother in 1973. The shirt was taken from her by teachers at St.Joseph Mission School, B.C. The date was selected because around this time is when Indigenous children were taken from their homes and sent to residential schools.

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Start says you have to imagine the situation from a personal perspective to understand the magnitude of the situation.

“How would you feel if your children were ripped out of your arms and you would never see them again? You have no knowledge of where they went and you had no opportunity to see them. As a parent how would you feel? Could you imagine how your children would feel? How would you react to that? How would you deal with that?”

The reconciliation between Canada and Aboriginal people is progressing, Spart says the Treaty 6 committee in the city consisting of businesses, organizations and school districts shows the growth is happening in The Border City.

“We have been meeting for about a year and a half now. I’ve seen the evolution of that committee and the relationship that has grown from that.”

It’s not yet known when the new federal statutory holiday will be implemented, but conversations with Indigenous peoples are said to be underway.

“There are hundreds of things that can be done. Establishing a statutory holiday across Canada sets that one day, communities have to take that opportunity to not take it as just another day off work.”

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