An NDP bill to make National Truth and Reconciliation Day (Sept. 30) a statutory holiday in the Yukon was adopted in the legislature with unanimous consent Wednesday.
“On September 30th this year, at the Choutla Residential school site on Carcross-Tagish First Nation territory, I reflected on my own
position in the legacy of residential schools: as a Vuntut Gwitchin citizen, and the daughter of a residential school survivor, I feel the
weight of this legacy in all of the work that I do and in my daily life as I raise my own children and connect with many youths across the
territory,” said Annie Blake, the NDP MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin and the bill’s sponsor.
“This bill will make September 30th a statutory holiday in the Yukon, so that everybody can reflect on our shared history of colonisation
and commemorate the legacy of residential schools,” the NDP said.
Less than a week after this year’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Day, the Yukon government announced it would table
amendments to the Employment Standards Act in the spring of 2023 that would make the day a statutory holiday.
“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a significant opportunity to reflect on the tragic history of residential schools in our
country and the need for ongoing work to advance reconciliation in Canada,” Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said Oct. 6.
As the law stands now, those working in federally regulated industries and Yukon government employees are entitled to the day off from
work, while employees in the private sector are not.
As the preamble of the NDP’s bill states, every community in the Yukon has been directly impacted by the legacy of residential schools.
“We as Indigenous people are still bearing the consequences of residential schools,” said Blake.
“Today, every community in the Yukon has and continues to be directly impacted by this system.
“I’ve heard stories of entire villages that fell silent, once the residential school system took children. There were no children to run, laugh and play. There were no children to learn knowledge passed down from our elders.”
Thie bill also formally recognizes genocide upon Indigenous people, a first time in the Yukon’s history.
“The federal government legislated this genocide through all of the systems they created and forced onto us,” said Blake.
“My own community, the Dagoo Gwitch’in, have ceased to exist as a recognized group of people because of this genocide, yet many of
us are still here,” she added.
“Mahsi Cho to all members of the legislative assembly as they voted unanimously to support this bill.”
The Yukon Party official Opposition said Wednesday it supports all 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“However, the addition of another statutory holiday comes at a financial cost for the private sector,” the party said.
“To mitigate additional costs to businesses due to the addition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the Yukon Party supports
the removal of a current statutory holiday to be identified during government consultation.
“In speaking to the bill in debate, the NDP indicated they would support a call for the government to consult with the private sector and
Yukoners to see if they would like to see another stat holiday removed, and, if so, which one.”