How a National Indigenous Statutory Day Came to Be

2018-09-30 Share story


With the federal government’s recent announcement to create a new stat holiday to honour Residential School Survivors, this #OrangeShirtDay we wanted to offer additional context for those who may have only recently heard about this for the first time. Contrary to what you may believe, there has been discussion around an Indigenous-focused day dating back to the 1940s.

While there are a few days being considered for the official statutory holiday, we at Animikii have been advocating that National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21st, become an official stat and this article is, in part, meant to summarize our advocacy efforts.

When we first approached this topic in May 2016 with Why Isn’t National Aboriginal Day a Stat Holiday, we were hoping to inspire our readers to take action and advocate alongside us to make - what was then called - National Aboriginal Day a stat holiday. We also called on employers to take initiative and begin offering their employees National Indigenous Peoples Day off so they could go and celebrate Indigenous Peoples and culture with their friends and family.

Shortly after we created the National Aboriginal Day petition - supported by MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette - where we asked readers “Do you have 2 minutes for Reconciliation?”. It turns out, they did. Over 800 people from across Canada signed the petition in just a couple days and it was presented to the House of Commons in May 2017. Not even a month later, MP Georgina Jolibois tabled a private members bill to make June 21st a stat holiday.

Now, two years later, we are finally seeing what we were campaigning for making headlines. Regardless of whether the stat holiday is on Indigenous Peoples Day, Orange Shirt Day, or any other day, we believed then (and still believe today) that Indigenous Peoples in this country are well overdue for a day dedicated entirely to remembrance as well as honouring and engaging with the original Peoples of Turtle Island. Animikii has been giving its employees June 21 off since 2016 and we are ecstatic that now the rest of the country may be following suit.


  • 1945 — June 21st is declared “Indian Day” by Jules Sioui and Chiefs from across Turtle Island.
  • 1982 — National Indian Brotherhood (now known as the Assembly of First Nations) declares that June 21st should be celebrated as National Aboriginal Solidarity Day.
  • 1986 — June 21 was proclaimed National Aboriginal Day by the current Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc.
  • 1995 — the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommend National First Peoples Day be designated. Later that year, The Sacred Assembly (a national conference of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples) calls for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous Peoples.
  • 1998 — National Day of Healing and Reconciliation initiative by co-founders, including Maggie Hodgson. Day set for May 26th each year.
  • 2001 — Members of the 14th Legislative Assembly passed the National Aboriginal Day Act which led to the Northwest Territories as the first to recognize June 21 as a statutory holiday.
  • 2013 — Federal Government discontinues funding for National Day of Healing and Reconciliation
  • December 15, 2015 - the TRC publishes Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
  • May 6, 2016 — Animikii creates a video on why National Indigenous Peoples Day should become a stat holiday. 
  • October 13, 2016 — An e-petition is submitted to the Clerk of Petitions, with the first five signatures coming from Animikii team members.
  • October 17, 2016 — MP Robert-Falcon Ouelette champions the petition, promising to present it to the House of Commons.
  • October 31, 2016 — The petition receives the minimum amount of signatures with support from every province and territory and will now be presented in the House of Commons.
  • May 8, 2017 — Yukon makes National Indigenous Peoples Day a statutory holiday.
  • May 18, 2017 — MP Robert-Falcon Ouelette presents the petition to the House of Commons.
  • June 15, 2017 — MP Georgina Jolibois tables a private member’s bill to make this June 21 a national statutory holiday.
  • June 21, 2017 — PM Trudeau announces a name change to “National Indigenous Peoples Day”
  • June 21, 2017 — AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde’s statement and support for National Indigenous Peoples Day to be a stat holiday.
  • July 2, 2017 — House of Commons deadline to respond to petition.
  • October 24, 2017 - First reading of Bill C-361 in the House of Commons
  • March 20, 2018 - MP Georgina Jolibois presents Bill C-369 to be read a second time
  • August 16, 2018 - Prime Minister Trudeau announces their plan to implement a stat holiday to mark Canada’s Residential School Legacy


After two years, we are finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have always stood by our belief that there should be a day designated honour Indigenous Peoples and we are proud of the part we’ve played in making it a reality.

Stay tuned by bookmarking our blog and subscribing to our News River and stay up-to-date on any developments in this story, along with Indigenous news from across Canada.

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Article published September 30, 2018.

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