Bill to make Orange Shirt Day a stat holiday in Manitoba fails in legislature

Less than 24 hours before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a push by the Manitoba NDP to make the day a statutory holiday failed in the legislature.

NDP MLA Ian Bushie introduced Bill 200, which would make the day, also known as Orange Shirt Day, a holiday across Manitoba. Bushie said the bill has overwhelming support from families, labour, and the business sector.

However, the bill was voted down, and the NDP were quick to criticize the Progressive Conservatives and Premier Heather Stefanson for not voting for it.

“I wonder why the premier wears an orange shirt,” said NDP leader Wab Kinew on the floor of the legislature. “Specifically, I want to know why the premier wore an orange shirt, when she voted against making Orange Shirt Day a statutory holiday earlier today?”

Last month, the PCs said they do plan to make Sept. 30 a statutory holiday, but it wouldn’t happen this year. The party said the legislation is being worked on, and more time is needed to finalize things.

Reg Helwer, Minister of Labour, Consumer Protection and Government Services, said Orange Shirt Day is already being recognized by the province.

“To pass this legislation would mean that we are doing less in Manitoba to recognize Sept. 30, not more,” he said.

Helwer said consultation is already underway between the province, Indigenous groups, business groups and others about what a holiday would look like.

“If this bill passed today, it would mean all of those consultations were not necessary, and I think it would be difficult to have future consultations if I didn’t take those into account in any legislation I may bring forward.”

Helwer added passing the legislation without thorough consultation would perpetuate the colonialism the day is intended to address.

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