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Manitoba premier says Orange Shirt Day will not be a stat holiday this year

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The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, known as Orange Shirt Day, will not be a statutory holiday this year in Manitoba.

Last summer, the province said there was not enough time to put it in place for Sept. 30, as consultations had to be done.

Following a morning address to the province’s construction sector Tuesday, Stefanson was asked if the day would become a stat this year. Stefanson said nothing will change this year.

“It will be the same as last year in terms of the way it has been dealt with,” she said.

Right now Sept. 30 is a statutory holiday for federal workers and workplaces. Students and some provincial workers also have the day off in Manitoba.

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said Tuesday he is open to it becoming a stat in this province.

“We as a community, as a city, are focused on acts of reconciliation because we need to continue to walk that journey together,” said Gillingham.

The premier said there is no consensus within the Indigenous community on what should be done.

“I would like to let them do what they want with the day,” said Stefanson.

However, Indigenous leaders said they are unanimous in their belief that it should be a stat for everyone.

"Everybody has consensus on the fact that there needs to be recognition of what occurred, to honour those children," said Grand Chief Gerry Daniels with the Southern Chiefs' Organization.

In a statement to CTV News Winnipeg, Katherine Strongwind, the director of 60s Scoop Legacy of Canada, said it is disappointing that the government "refuses" to make Sept. 30 a holiday.

"Despite our recommendation to form (a) Survivors' Advisory Committee, they have failed to engage with grassroots leadership to work together in developing legislation to make Orange Shirt Day a stat in Manitoba," said Strongwind.

She called the decision a "step back for reconciliation."

"It won't stop us from observing and honouring Survivors, and we invite the public to stand with us that day and send a message to the government that they need to reverse course and make this a stat for everyone in Manitoba."

The premier had to defend her decision at the Legislature Tuesday during question period, where she faced criticism from Manitoba's opposition parties.

Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont said the government has 'politicized' the debate around Orange Shirt Day.

"This is not something we should be arguing about," he said. "Unfortunately, the PCs are not offering any kind of good reason for not just making this a statutory holiday."

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Sept. 30 is meant to provide a learning opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the impact of residential schools and what reconciliation means.

"In order for every Canadian in Manitoba to be able to participate, the provincial government has to make this a stat holiday," Kinew said. "Another year of delay just doesn't make sense."

The premier suggested adding another stat could be a hardship for businesses, that have faced several years operating in a pandemic.

“There is some concern over businesses and the cost to them particularly right now,” she said.

Brianna Solberg with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, said 20 per cent of Manitoba small business owners are considering filing for bankruptcy.

"Because things are so dire and many are not back to making their normal revenues for this time of year," Solberg said.

The federation said its members should be able to decide with their employees how to honour the day and not be mandated by a stat.

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