Businesses, governments decide how to spend National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

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Indigenous leaders call on gov't for Sept. 30 stat – Sep 24, 2021

As the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation approaches, Alana Hogstead has decided as a small-business owner to close up her shop in honour of the day.

Hogstead co-owns Martha’s Music in Camrose, Alta., with her husband. The store will be closed on Thursday.

“We’re just a small business and a small voice in the grand scheme of things, but we’re going to make our opinion known,” Hogstead said in a phone interview.

“We think there needs to be more reconciliation and honesty.”

Hogstead is not alone in her decision. Businesses, cities and schools across Canada are preparing to follow the federal government’s decision to observe the day, in some cases stepping up because provinces won’t.

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The House of Commons unanimously supported legislation in June to make Sept. 30, also known as Orange Shirt Day, a federally recognized holiday to mark the history of and intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools. The statutory holiday applies to all federal employees and workers in federally regulated workplaces.

The day is a direct response to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

Only a handful of provincial and territorial governments are having public servants and schools observe the day.

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The Alberta government said it would not make Sept. 30 a statutory holiday for its employees. That drew harsh criticism from union groups.

Hogstead doesn’t agree with the decision and hopes “down the road (the province) will see the light.”

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In Edmonton, city employees and the Edmonton Police Service will be observing the day.

City manager Andre Corbould said planning came together quickly. The city consulted with employees, unions and Indigenous groups and elders, he said. “We listened, learned and led.”

The city will mark the day with community events and workplace activities.

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Corbould said the city arranged to have employees who are interested attend an Indigenous Peoples exhibit at Fort Edmonton Park.

Due to the pandemic, employees had to sign up and, within 48 hours, spots were fully booked, he said.

“I do not see this as a holiday. I see it as a paid day of leave with focus on truth and reconciliation. We’ve asked employees to think about that.”

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Future plans will have to wait until after the municipal election next month, said Courbould, but he expects a request to observe the day every year will be made to the new city council.

The City of Calgary has also advised its employees to observe the day and is encouraging staff to learn more about Canada’s assimilation policies including residential schools and the resulting intergenerational trauma to Indigenous Peoples, city manager David Duckworth said in a statement.

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Saskatchewan has said it is not making the day a statutory holiday, but Prince Albert city council recently approved Sept. 30 as a paid day for civic employees.

The Prince Albert Urban Indigenous Coalition plans to hold a one-hour education session on residential schools. The pre-recorded session will be available through the coalition’s website.

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Some schools in Saskatchewan will also be closed to students on Sept. 30.

The Saskatoon Public Schools division said in a statement they have made the day a planning day for teachers at its schools.

The school division will be recognizing Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 29 and is planning learning opportunities and activities during the week leading up to the Nation Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

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