by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Following the federal government’s recent legislation to instate September 30 as a federal statutory holiday, Council has recognized the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in North Grenville.
Establishing of the special day was proposed in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action. It is intended as a way to “honour Survivors of residential schools, 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.”
Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, Hillary Geneau, notes that September 30 is already recognized by many members of the community as “Orange Shirt Day.” By officially declaring the holiday, the Municipality is committed to developing a plan to honour and recognize the day. Municipal staff is “working with various community and Indigenous partners in preparing a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, including guidance on marking September 30.”
In addition to this, flags at the Municipal Centre have been flying at half-mast to honour the victims of residential schools. At the meeting of August 11, Council also agreed to raise The Every Child Matters flag at the Municipal Centre.
Hilary Geneau stated that these are “first steps” toward Truth and Reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada put forward nine calls to action that could apply to municipalities. Hilary indicated that there is a forthcoming report to Council on each of these calls. One involves creating a land acknowledgement, which the Municipality has been working on.
One of the significant calls to action is: “We call upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as the framework for reconciliation.” UNDRIP establishes a baseline for Indigenous Rights.
The degree to which Council responds to each call to action could have tremendous import for the future of North Grenville.
Should Council adopt and implement UNDRIP, it would be accountable for protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples to determine their own priorities in the development of their traditional lands. In June, Councillor John Barclay stated that issues of “indigenous rights are really beyond the purview of this Council.” If recognizing September 30 is really just a first step in the long journey toward Truth and Reconciliation, this could change.