On Wednesday, Sept. 1, the District of Kitimat raised an orange flag at the Kitimat Fire Hall ahead of Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.
“As directed through District of Kitimat Council resolution, the flag will remain up for the entire month of September. The flag will be lowered following the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation,” said council in a statement.
Crystal Smith, chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, was present for the flag raising along with Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth. Former Haisla chief councillor Dolores Tollard also attended the ceremony and drummed a song as the flag was raised by firefighters from the Kitimat Fire and Rescue Service.
“We look at this action as symbolic of our commitment to continue to recognize the challenges that First Nations have been forced to endure on their own lands, and as reaffirmation of our commitment to continue down a path of reconciliation with the Haisla Nation and its members,” said Germuth.
The mayor also said Kitimat is proud of its relationship with the Haisla Nation and looks forward to sustaining it.
In 2022, the mayor said that the District of Kitimat will include a Haisla Nation flag along with the existing provincial and Kitimat flags along Haisla Blvd.
This year on June 3, the federal government officially announced Sept. 30 as a new annual statutory day (National Day of Truth and Reconciliation) after Bill C–5 was passed by both houses of Parliament.
The move by the federal government came after a series of discoveries of buried remains of children and others in unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Canada.
The idea to have such a day was first originally proposed as one of the 94 recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report released in 2015.
Also present for the ceremony in Kitimat was Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross, Skeena — Bulkley Valley’s incumbent NDP candidate Taylor Bachrach and Conservative candidate Claire Rattée.
Bachrach took to his social media page and said he was honoured to be present on Haisla territory to bear witness to the event.
“All across the northwest we’ve seen moving acts of solidarity in the wake of the discovery of unmarked graves at residential school sites. Today in Kitimat, the district raised an orange flag on the flag pole at the fire hall as a symbol of this solidarity … Symbolic gestures represent a promise, and fulfilling that promise remains among our most important work, ” wrote Bachrach on Facebook.
Federal Conservative candidate for Skeena — Bulkley Valley Claire Rattée also posted about the event on Facebook. She said it was honour to be at the ceremony, and criticized the federal Liberal Party’s record on Indigenous issues.
“Cherry picking recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission like the Liberals are doing is not how we can move forward as a nation,” she said in the post.
“As government we need to do the hard work of tackling issues that will improve the lives of Indigenous people across Canada and that is something that I am committed to.”
On Aug. 3, B.C. announced its intention to commemorate Sept. 30. However, the province has not yet declared it as a statutory holiday.
In a joint statement, the provincial reconciliation minister Murray Rankin and finance minister Selina Robinson said that a national holiday will be observed on Sept. 30 by federal employees and workers in federally regulated workplaces.
“We have advised provincial public-sector employers to honour this day and in recognition of the obligations in the vast majority of collective agreements,” said the province in an Aug. 3 statement
The province also said that while many public services will remain open they may be operating at reduced levels. However, most schools, post-secondary institutions, some health sector workplaces, and Crown corporations will be closed.