New Westminster will commemorate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 but it remains to be seen whether that’s the day it’s held on in future years.
City council has approved the one-time declaration of Sept. 30, 2021 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in New Westminster. In addition, council directed staff to report back with a recommendation about when the City of New Westminster will recognize the day in 2022 and beyond to ensure it aligns with the B.C. government’s plans.
In June, the federal government adopted Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. In August, the provincial government announced B.C. would mark Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation for this year only, and would consult about when to recognize the day in the future.
“Given the provincial government’s stance of recommending observance for 2021 pending their consultation process, staff propose that council approve a one-time declaration to approve Sept. 30, 2021 as a statutory holiday in recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and then consider the corporation’s future position at a later date to ensure alignment with the provincial government,” said an Aug. 30 staff report to council. “This direction is consistent with the anticipated recommendations that the majority of Metro Vancouver municipalities will be making to their respective councils in the coming weeks.”
On Aug. 3, the province released a statement on the federal Truth and Reconciliation Day. The minister of indigenous relations reconciliation and the minister of finance stated that Indigenous peoples are bringing to light the true history of this country and the atrocities of the residential school system.
"We share the grief, the pain and the outrage, and understand that we have a painful but necessary road ahead of us to walk together, to right wrongs and to support Indigenous communities who are carrying this ongoing burden with strength, resilience and leadership,” said the statement. “The need has never been greater to listen and to learn about B.C.'s colonial history and to seek truth, justice and reconciliation. As government, we have an important role in this process, and we know that non-Indigenous British Columbians throughout the province want to play an active part in this critical work.”
The province noted the federal government had announced Sept. 30 as a new annual statutory day to commemorate the history and ongoing trauma caused by residential schools and to honour those who were lost and the survivors, families and communities who continue to grieve. It noted that in recent years Sept. 30 has been known as Orange Shirt Day.
“It is a day when we honour the children who suffered in the residential school system, and many residential school survivors and supporters have advocated for this to become a national day of commemoration, to respond to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action,” said the statement. “Over the coming months, the province will work with Indigenous leaders, organizations and communities on the best and most respectful ways to mark Truth and Reconciliation Day here in B.C., followed by engagement with business and labour stakeholders for their perspectives on how the national day is commemorated in future years.”