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Oct 4, 2023

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – September 29, 2023



I’ve long recognized that for thousands of my professional colleagues there is no such thing as a statutory holiday. Other than perhaps on Christmas and/or New Year’s Day, a large number of tourism and hospitality businesses continue to operate during stats while most other sectors and public workers take a break.

Regardless of who is or isn’t working over any given long weekend, I’ve also come to realize that many folks haven’t a clue as to why we celebrate or acknowledge certain stat holidays like Victoria Day, Labour Day, Good Friday, and even Remembrance Day and Christmas Day.

Yet in spite of 10 annual stat holidays already in British Columbia, government has legislated one more that a lot of us are still somewhat unfamiliar with. Every September 30th, a day of National Truth and Reconciliation (NTRD) has been set aside to commemorate the history and legacy of the residential school system. According to the province, it’s a day to honour the resilience, dignity and strength of survivors and remember the children who never came home. It’s also an opportunity to engage and educate people about BC’s colonial history and how it has and continues to impact Indigenous communities.

When the idea of another stat was first proposed, I heard from some business owners concerned about staffing challenges, increased costs and other issues to bring to the attention of the province. And while a few wondered how another statutory holiday would help the cause, most conceded the need to establish NTRD as an important step toward reconciliation.

Admittedly, I fall in the camp of still wanting to learn more about NTRD, so I asked TIABC Director Mike Retasket, former Chief of the Bonaparte First Nation, for his perspective on what this day means to Indigenous people and what it should signify to everyone else.


What does National Truth & Reconciliation Day mean to you?


Orange Shirt Day or National Day For Truth and Reconciliation makes me realize there is so much work to do. So many things have happened to the Indian people there needs to be accountability. Who is it that needs to do the reconciling here? Reconciliation will require land, water, medicine, ceremony, language, culture, heritage, values and restitution. There are outstanding issues that will need to be addressed before truth and reconciliation hits the ground. It is this groundwork that requires commitments from government that can be measured so we ensure moving forward together.


Why is NTRD so important and why should the average person care?


It gives opportunities for Indigenous people to tell their story and why we are here. Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world through continuous theft of our resources. The opportunity to educate Canadians to change their perception about us is key. Historically, we were displaced from the land, then we were dispossessed from the land and that made Indian people dependant on the federal government. We are still in that situation today. Sharing truths like this educates all who are interested in learning more about us.


What do you hope National Truth & Reconciliation Day accomplishes in BC? What do you see as the desired goal or outcome?


I’m glad you asked specifically about BC because it separates us from the rest of Canada. In 1763, King George III made a proclamation that all crown land should be held in trust for the Indian people. However, he failed to recognize any lands beyond Manitoba. And while some treaties are in place in BC, the majority of First Nations exist without them. Because of the statement by King George III, the honour of the crown is at stake. In 1910, people were settling here from Europe and elsewhere and many Indigenous people were being displaced. My grandfather went to Ottawa and spoke to Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier and told him that Indian people own the land not the new settlers. Much has changed since then and our voices have not been heard. Therefore this day is an opportunity to articulate what is right without guilt, blame or shame.


What steps can we take together with Indigenous people to recognize NTRD?


Government, the courts, Indigenous peoples and all residents need to be moving in the same direction. Instead of pillaging the earth, we need to respect it and go back to our roots of loving and respecting the land, the sky, the sun, and every living creature.

Wise words from a wise man. I’m thankful to Mike for helping me better understand Indigenous ways, culture and goals. Notwithstanding that this year I’ll be travelling on business while most folks enjoy the day off, I aim to take some time to reflect on the meaning behind NTRD and not dismiss it as merely another long weekend to be enjoyed for years to come.

Walt Judas

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