The Government of Alberta is encouraging Albertans to honour National Day for Truth and Reconciliation next month but the day will not be a mandatory statutory holiday in the province.
Sept. 30 was designated as a federal statutory holiday by the federal government earlier this summer, to provide an opportunity for public servants to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.
The Alberta government in an email statement said it is leaving the decision for a paid day off in the hands of individual groups and businesses.
“The Government of Alberta encourages all Albertans to reflect on the legacy of residential schools,” said Adrienne South, press secretary for the Office of Indigenous Relations.
“For provincially regulated industries, the question on a work holiday is a decision for individual employers, unless an employee’s employment contract or collective bargaining agreement specifically grants federally-regulated holidays.”
The province explained that they remain committed to establishing a permanent memorial on the Alberta legislature grounds for the victims of the residential school system.
South also noted the government plans on implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s provincial calls to action, including helping Indigenous Albertans reclaim their traditional Indigenous names.
On Sept. 30, the Alberta government building will also have its flags lowered to half-mast and will also host a commemoration ceremony.
That’s simply not good enough, according to Regional Chief Marlene Poitras with the Assembly of First Nations Alberta Association.
“There have been too many stories in recent days of this provincial government ignoring First Nations peoples and communities in the province as of late, enough is enough. Why won’t the government step up and acknowledge this day, which directly responds to the (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) calls to action to bring more awareness to the struggles Canada’s First Peoples have gone through in dealing with colonization,” Poitras said in a news release Friday.
“This refusal to formally acknowledge the federal holiday within Alberta flies in the face of reconciliation with First Nations and shows a disdain and lack of care or respect for Alberta’s Indigenous population.”
The paid, designated federal holiday was one of the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation report in 2015.
The recommendation in the report noted the day would “honour survivors, their families and communities and ensure that public commemoration of the history of the legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconcillation process.”
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said in a news release last week that it would file formal grievances against employers, including Alberta Health Services for refusing to acknowledge the holiday.
“You come to expect this from employers, especially ones like AHS, who like to blame so many of their systemic problems on staff taking days off,” says AUPE vice-president and chair of the union’s Human Rights Committee, Bobby-Joe Borodey.
“But to stick their noses up at the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a new level of heartless disrespect.
“How dare they refuse to acknowledge a day to reflect on such a serious issue.”