London’s Indigenous community liaison adviser has added her voice to criticism Ontario isn’t giving employees the day off to observe Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“It was very disappointing because you see all over the allyship from everybody, from our non-Indigenous allies and everyone who sees how important it is,” Alizabeth George-Antone said about the province’s decision not to make Sept. 30 a provincial holiday.
While the federal government legislated the day as a statutory holiday, provinces and businesses aren’t required to recognize it as such.
Ontario says it will observe the day without making it a provincial holiday.
Holiday meant to honour survivors, families
George-Antone, who supports the City of London’s plan to mark the date as a holiday and close municipal facilities, believes this is how government can show respect.
London city hall will be lit up with orange lights with an “Every Child Matters” flag raised. Other downtown buildings, including the Tourism London location, will also be illuminated.
The holiday is one of the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which asked for a federal statutory holiday to “honour survivors, their families and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
For George-Antone, it’s a personal issue.
She has family who went to residential schools, including her father, aunts, uncles and grandparents. She said she had always been aware of the atrocities faced by Indigenous people, but felt they were “shoved under the rug” or seen as unimportant.
Adrian Chrisjohn, chief of Oneida Nation of the Thames, sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford on Sept. 13 to ask Ontario to reconsider its decision not to consider the day as a statutory holiday. Three days later, he received a response via email.
“There was a response from the premier’s office saying that there’s a potential meeting with Minister Greg Rickford coming soon,” Chrisjohn said Wednesday.
“To date, there’s been no meeting and no conversation has happened. So very little response.”
Ont. to reflect on residential schools’ ‘tragic history’
Rickford is the Ontario minister of Indigenous affairs. When CBC asked his office about next steps, specific questions went unanswered.
In a statement, a spokesperson said, “The Ontario public service will be observing September 30, 2021, as a day of commemoration to reflect on the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools.”
George-Antone still sees this as an educational opportunity.
“I think that hopefully this is something that the provincial government can work on, and maybe we can help get it recognized for future years.”