The Horizon School Division has signed a resolution in support of making National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday throughout Saskatchewan.
The day takes place on Sept. 30, honouring the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. The day was first called for in 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2016, before finally being declared a federal statutory holiday in 2021.
In order for it to be considered a statutory holiday for Saskatchewan school divisions it must be declared by the provincial government – which so far they haven’t done.
Kevin Garinger, Horizon’s director of education, said it’s likely that whatever happens on the provincial level, Horizon students and staff can expect to see there will be no school on Sept. 30.
“The Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA), which is the membership group the board belongs to, is going to be looking into whether or not they want to advocate that to happen. It’s not done school division by school division but by the provincial government,” Garinger said.
“We can always make sure it is a day that is dealt with that way just by addressing our calendar that way. So I think regardless, if that’s the will of Horizon, then we can make sure it’s at least a day off for staff and students in that way.”
Discussions about the day and the SSBA resolution were held in Horizon on board level during their Nov. 10 meeting, which saw the board vote in support of the resolution. One trustee initially protested, on the grounds of using it as an educational day on the history, but shortly thereafter withdrew their concern and gave their full support when another trustee, Jenna Hale, pointed out that it could be treated like Remembrance Day, with education held on the school day before the holiday.
“It’s part of the Calls to Action that it is observed as a statutory day, so in listening to what has been asked for I think it’s really important,” Hale said during the meeting. “Much like we take Remembrance Day off and observe it the day before, I don’t believe there’s any opportunity lost there but I think it’s important to the calls that were stated.”
In the post-meeting interview, Garinger said the board would be ensuring educational work would be done prior to the day without question, as well as consistent truth and reconciliation content throughout the year.
“Every day we need to work hard around reconciliation and education around truth,” Garinger said. “That goes back to even our collective agreement or our link agreements that we have with teachers that have that clause in it that says we need to provide a day for teachers to be able to learn more about truth and reconciliation.”
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal