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House passes bill to create national holiday for truth and reconciliation

Click to play video: 'Discovery of human remains at Kamloops Residential School grounds' Discovery of human remains at Kamloops Residential School grounds
WATCH ABOVE: Discovery of human remains at Kamloops Residential School grounds – May 28, 2021

Federal lawmakers have passed legislation to create a national day for truth and reconciliation.

MPs unanimously agreed to wrap debate on Bill C-5 on Friday, fast-tracking its passage and sending it on to the Senate.

Read more: ‘Tip of the iceberg.’ Experts say more burial sites, like at B.C. residential school, could be found

The legislation would establish a new statutory holiday to commemorate the victims and survivors of Indigenous residential schools.

The move comes a day after a First Nation in British Columbia confirmed discovery of the remains of 215 children buried in unmarked graves on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.

The bill follows a similar one introduced by the NDP in 2017 that foundered in the Senate two years later.

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Click to play video: 'Indigenous and political leaders react to residential school discovery' Indigenous and political leaders react to residential school discovery
Indigenous and political leaders react to residential school discovery – May 28, 2021

The statutory holiday, which would apply to federally regulated workers, is set for Sept. 30.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who sponsored the bill, drew a connection between its passage and the unmarked graves uncovered by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation.

“Buried without a name, far from home. Families that could never heal. Stories that could never be told. Grieving that could never truly begin. Commemorating the tragedy of residential schools must go beyond words. I thank my colleagues for taking action and passing Bill C-5,” he said in a Twitter post.

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Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said earlier on Friday that “today would be a perfect day to pass Bill C-5,” calling on federal leaders to do so and thanking MPs afterward.

Read more: Grief, sorrow after discovery of 215 bodies, unmarked graves at former B.C. residential school site

Green MP Jenica Atwin teared up during third-reading debate Friday as she traced a direct line between the legacy of colonialism and the myriad challenges facing Indigenous people today.

Bill C-5 will help bring awareness to “the horrors of the past,” she said.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has said the legislation marks a step toward righting past wrongs associated with the residential school system, which he deemed a “national tragedy borne by colonialism and propelled by systematic racism.”

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