By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba could have a new statutory holiday to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by September, Premier Heather Stefanson says.
“Certainly, I would like to move on it and I just want to make sure we go through a respectful consultation process,” Stefanson said in an interview this week.
“I don’t want to see it as (just) a holiday. This is about a remembrance of truth and reconciliation.”
The day — also known as Orange Shirt Day — was established in honour of the experience of Phyllis Webstad, whose gift of clothing from her grandmother was taken away on Webstad’s first day at a residential school.
The federal government recently made the day, which falls on Sept. 30, a statutory holiday for its workers and federally regulated workplaces.
Manitoba already marks the day by closing schools and many non-essential government offices. Stefanson said last December the province would consult Indigenous groups, the business community and others about making the day a statutory holiday for workers regulated provincially.
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce said it is on board with the idea after talking to its members
“Seven in 10 of our members indicated yes,” chamber president Loren Remillard said.
“Half of the businesses, regardless of what the province does, would close or restrict their hours.”
Remillard echoed Stefanson’s aim of working to ensure the day is more than a paid day off for workers and would instead involve ceremonies or education. The chamber closed its doors to the public last Sept. 30 and required staff to take online training about reconciliation.
“We closed for a purpose,” he said.
The idea of a provincial holiday was pushed by the Opposition New Democrats last year, while Stefanson said she would take time to consult people.
“Manitobans want a government that makes reconciliation a priority, not one who does it when its convenient to them,” NDP Indigenous affairs critic Ian Bushie said in a written statement Friday.
Getting the holiday in place for this Sept. 30 would require a bill to be rushed through the legislature, which is not scheduled to sit again until Sept. 28. Stefanson said quick passage can be achieved with all political parties on board.
“I think if there’s a will, there’s a way.”