The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a full holiday in some provinces — but not in N.L.

Stacey Howse, the executive director of First Light, says the Newfoundland and Labrador government should make the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a provincial holiday. (Peter Cowan/CBC - image credit)
Stacey Howse, the executive director of First Light, says the Newfoundland and Labrador government should make the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a provincial holiday. (Peter Cowan/CBC - image credit)

While the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a full holiday in many provinces, in Newfoundland and Labrador only government workers get the day off.

As the province prepares to mark the third Day for Truth and Reconciliation — and with Premier Andrew Furey in southern Labrador to apologize to NunatuKavut members who attended a residential school there — only some workers will get it as a holiday.

It's a federal holiday, meaning federally regulated employees get the day off, and the provincial government has given its own workers the day off, but it hasn't declared a shop-closing holiday, like it does with Remembrance Day.

A year ago the provincial government said it was still consulting with Indigenous and business groups about whether to make it a "public day of reflection."

But it's now unclear whether that's still under consideration.

"Engagement with Indigenous governments, organizations and leaders continues on a wide range of issues related to truth and reconciliation, including how to publicly recognize and honour the survivors, families, and communities impacted by residential schools," said the provincial government in a statement.

WATCH | The CBC's Amanda Gear explains the day's significance: 

When CBC News asked if a full holiday is still under consideration, a spokesperson responded the government had nothing further to add.

"I think that it definitely should be a full public holiday," said Stacey Howse, the head of First Light, a group that provides programs and services for the Indigenous community in Newfoundland and Labrador.

First light sells orange shirts to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as orange shirt day, which marks the impact of residential schools
First light sells orange shirts to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as orange shirt day, which marks the impact of residential schools

First Light sells orange shirts to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, which marks the impact of residential schools. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

"Holiday" isn't the best term, she said, because, like Remembrance Day, it's more a day for reflection.

"It's important for people to understand the history of residential schools, the abuse, the disparities that exist to this day between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and to learn about the truth before we work towards truth and reconciliation."

Establishing a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a federal statutory holiday was No. 80 on the list of recommendations in the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which was released in 2015.

It's not clear what progress has been made after two years of consultations in Newfoundland and Labrador, or whether making it "public day of reflection" is still being considered by the government.

Workers in federally regulated businesses, like transportation and telecommunications, get the day off, because the federal government has made it a holiday, but other provinces have taken different approaches.

British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have given everyone the day off. Other provinces, including New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta, have opted not to force businesses to close.