If not for a dissolved Parliament and an upcoming federal election, Monday might have been a national statutory holiday designed to give Canadians time to reflect on the atrocities done to Indigenous Peoples in residential schools.
Instead, thousands across the country will wear orange clothing to work and school to honour survivors and commemorate their experiences.
The unofficial day has been observed since 2013 and is called Orange Shirt Day in memory of a piece of a clothing then-six-year-old Phyllis Webstad had taken from her on her first day at a residential school in 1973.
In 2017, Georgina Jolibois, an NDP MP from Saskatchewan, sought to make Orange Shirt Day an official holiday focused on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and introduced a private member’s bill.
According to the bill, the proposed holiday sought to “honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools, and other atrocities committed against First Nation, Inuit and Metis people, remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
In the proposed bill, Jolibois sought to make the existing National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 a statutory holiday.
WATCH: Residential school survivors honoured in Standoff during Orange Shirt Day
However, after consultation, it was decided that a day of celebration and a day of reconciliation should be separate.
Both the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, representing 60,000 Inuit people across Canada, expressed support for two separate holidays.
“Combining a day of celebration with a day of reconciliation, in our view, is inappropriate and disrespectful,” Virginia Lomax, a lawyer for NWAC, said in January.
Jolibois’ bill was reworked, and the proposed stat holiday was renamed National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
In February, the House of Commons heritage committee approved a measure to make the last day of September — the day already used for Orange Shirt Day — National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
“We picked Sept. 30 because September was the time when children were taken away from their homes,” Webstad told the committee in February.
WATCH (August 2018): New Canadian statutory holiday to be created for reconciliation
According to the government of Canada’s website, the bill passed third reading in the House of Commons in March and was sent to the Senate, where it went through first reading on April 2.
However, the bill was stalled awaiting second reading when Parliament was dissolved for Canada’s federal election on Sept. 11.
Global News has reached out to Jolibois for comment.
— With files from the Canadian Press