June 15th, 2024

Stat holiday a good first step, but more needs to be done

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on August 18, 2018.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this week that the government is creating a new statutory holiday to honour the victims of residential schools, which snatched aboriginal children from their parents as recently as 1996.

While this is no doubt a positive development, both for Indigenous people who are gaining increasing recognition of their plight and Canadian workers, who deserve more paid holidays, it is a completely symbolic gesture that doesn’t go nearly far enough in addressing material realities.

The creation of a new statutory holiday in memory of the residential school system, which Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission acknowledged as “cultural genocide,” was one of the commission’s 94 calls to action, which Trudeau promised he would implement in full.

According to the CBC’s “Beyond 94” project, which tracks the government’s progress on the calls to action, a mere 10 of the 94 policies have been implemented.

But let’s take a closer look at some of the completions.

One of them is for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network to support reconciliation. APTN is a private non-profit broadcaster, so the government doesn’t deserve credit for their work.

Another is for the government to establish an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which they did, but those who have been following it know it hasn’t gone well, with its glossing over policing errors that have contributed to the epidemic.

Of the 84 that haven’t been put into practice, 18 are underway, 31 have projects proposed and 35 haven’t even begun, according to the CBC, so a plurality of the calls to action will likely not get done any time soon.

“Beyond 94” was most recently updated at the end of June, so a new statutory holiday will mean that 32 of the policies have projects proposed.

Criticism of this largely symbolic gesture came from the usual suspects, such as Beauce MP Maxime Bernier, who decried the “cult of victimhood and obsession with past wrongs.” He called the plan for the statutory holiday a “sick characteristic of extreme PC (political correctness) and multiculturalism.”

Given Bernier’s recent spate of tweets, it appears he’s deliberately targeting the far right, who feel Canada should never apologize for anything.

On the anniversary of the Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazi rally that resulted in the murder of an anti-fascist protester, Bernier tweeted about the supposed horrors of multiculturalism, suggesting we shouldn’t allow any immigrants into the country who reject our values, echoing the talking points of failed Tory leadership candidate Kellie Leitch.

Bernier was also in that race, placing a close second to now-leader Andrew Scheer, performing far better than the also-ran candidate he’s now imitating.

What’s happened since is that many Conservatives — not just Bernier, but also Michelle Rempel — have discovered wedges issue with Trudeau’s approach to multiculturalism and immigration.

Because so much of Trudeau’s approach consists of fuzzy rhetoric, the Tories have seized on this weakness.

If Trudeau wants to win again in 2019, he’ll have to combat the Conservatives’ divisiveness with concrete action to make Canada a more livable place for marginalized people.

A new statutory holiday is a good first step, but much more concrete action needs to be done in a relatively short time span.

(Jeremy Appel is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)

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