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Quebec Premier François Legault speaks at the opening of the Fédération Québécois des Municipalités annual congress in Quebec City on Sept. 30, 2021.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec Premier François Legault says the province cannot afford to make the national day honouring victims and survivors of residential schools a statutory holiday.

Legault told reporters today the province needs more “productivity,” in response to questions about why Quebec has not officially recognized Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Events are being held across the country – including in Quebec – for the first day in honour of lost children and survivors of the country’s residential schools, the last of which closed in the mid-1990s.

Provinces such as British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have followed the federal government’s lead and made the day a statutory holiday, while others, including Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick, have not.

Later in the day, Legault told reporters it would be too expensive to give Quebecers another paid day off work.

He says Quebecers have a duty to remember how residential schools damaged Indigenous communities, but he says there are less costly ways to commemorate the past.

“To have another statutory holiday – regardless of the subject – is very expensive,” Legault said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to have a cost this high to do this commemoration.”

He said all provinces face competitiveness and productivity challenges. “In Quebec, if we look at the number of hours worked per year, there is work to do,” he said.

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