Federal employees will be given a paid holiday to consider the legacy of residential schools and reconciliation with Indigenous people.

First reported by Blacklock’s Reporter, on Thursday Bill C-5 received Royal Assent and officially passed into law. The bill designated September 30 as a federal holiday called the “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.”

The holiday only applies to federal employees and workers in federally regulated workplaces such as banks and railways. According to the Department of Labour, the holiday will cost approximately $223 million a year in lost productivity.

Bill C-5 was proposed by Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. Parliament decided to fast-track the bill after the apparent discovery of 215 human remains buried at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC.

“Addressing the consequences of colonial violence needs to go beyond words. Bill C-5 is an important step in the path towards reconciliation, which won’t be achieved in the blink of an eye,” Guilbeault said.

While Guilbeault claims a paid holiday for federal bureaucrats will help achieve reconciliation, opposition members have questioned why the government won’t promote legislation that actually improves Indigenous communities.

“What we have is continued virtue signalling seemingly as a substitute for any substantive delivery,” said Conservative Senate leader Donald Plett.

“It’s easier to give bureaucrats the day off here than it is to work on the more pressing but difficult issues that are facing Indigenous communities every day of the week.”

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson noted that with the pay given to federal employees not to work for a day would go far in addressing some of the systemic issues Indigenous communities deal with all year.

“What could long-term, dedicated and stable funding mean for food security, for closing the infrastructure gap which is huge, for finally ending boiled water advisories, for dealing with acute housing shortfalls in Indigenous communities?” said Patterson.