The number of employers across Saskatchewan who are offering a paid day off on Sept. 30 is increasing as Canada is set to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
However, some employees in the province will not have the benefit of a statutory holiday next week.
“I think it’s more than tone-deaf. I think it speaks volumes about the racism that is so entrenched in this province,” said Saskatchewan NDP MLA Betty Nippi-Albright.
The provincial opposition is calling on the government to make the day a statutory holiday as well.
Provincial employees who aren’t regulated by the federal government will not have a paid day off.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations hopes the premier and government support the initiative.
“We all hear the terms of reconciliation and so on. Well here’s another opportunity to do so. Let’s do this together. Let’s heal together,” Chief Bobby Cameron said.
Global News requested an interview with the Minister responsible for First Nations, Metis and Northern Affairs, but were provided a written statement instead.
“Saskatchewan will lower flags on all provincial government buildings and establishments to half-mast. We continue to proclaim Sept. 30 as Orange Shirt Day and encourage Saskatchewan residents to commemorate and reflect upon the historical and ongoing trauma caused by the residential school system,” the statement read.
The Saskatoon Tribal Council said the day should be used to teach people about Canada’s past and what took place at residential schools.
“Just wearing an orange shirt doesn’t mean you understand what went on. So there’s an education process here about what the history is and that’s the most important thing,” Tribal Chief Mark Arcand said.
Some employers in the province have taken steps to give workers the day off.
On Sept. 24, the Saskatchewan Health Authority announced select employees would have a paid holiday on Sept. 30.
The Saskatoon Police Service and the cities of Saskatoon and Regina are also among those giving employees the day off with pay.
Meanwhile, Nippi-Albright, who is also the opposition’s Truth and Reconciliation critic, said she feels like the government is ignoring the request.
“Basically it’s telling us as residential school survivors and citizens of this province that we don’t matter,” she said.
Governments in B.C., Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories will be marking the day as a provincial stat.