The Town of Quispamsis will not join the increasing number of municipalities making the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday for municipal workers later this month.
During a council meeting on Tuesday night, Quispamsis councillors voted unanimously to support the town administration's recommendation to keep town hall open on Sept. 30 "as if it were a regular business day," but have staff and council members attend a "recognition" ceremony at Meenan's Cove at 3 p.m.
This bucks the trend of what other municipalities are doing in New Brunswick.
On Tuesday, Moncton council voted unanimously to make the day a paid holiday, while the City of Saint John announced Wednesday it would also recognize the day as a statutory holiday.
While the Town of Rothesay hasn't yet voted on whether Sept. 30 will be a statutory holiday for its workforce, the Town of Sussex will be closed to mark the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. Meanwhile, St. George, Blacks Harbour and St. Stephen will also close their doors, a decision based on their collective agreements.
In an interview, Quispamsis Mayor Libby O'Hara said municipalities typically follow the Government of New Brunswick's lead on declaring a statutory holiday.
Last week, Premier Blaine Higgs said the province would observe Sept. 30 as a holiday, which was legislated for federal workers by Ottawa in the spring, but it will not be a provincial statutory holiday, meaning schools and other provincial workplaces will also remain open.
Because of this, O'Hara said Quispamsis council decided against declaring Sept. 30 a municipal holiday.
"We feel we have lots to recognize and that is what our job is going to be on Sept. 30," O'Hara said. "(We're) going to have our staff and community gather at the municipal beach house ... and rather than just have a day off, we are going to have a time of recognition. We are going to gather in friendship and community and make sure that our words are heard."
During the ceremony, there will be a reading from the writing of Graydon Nicholas, the first Indigenous person to serve as Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick. Serving from 2009 to 2014, Nicholas was also the first Indigenous person appointed as a provincial court judge in 1991, and the first in Atlantic Canada to obtain a law degree.
"We wanted to make it special," said O'Hara, adding municipal staff and council members will wear orange shirts. "We wanted to make sure our employees, instead of being thrust into a day off, that it became a time of recognition."
Legislated by the federal government after the discovery of more than 1,308 graves near the sites of former residential schools in western Canada, National Truth and Reconciliation Day came from a call to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. It called for a statutory holiday so that the public commemoration of the history and the legacy of residential schools remains key in the reconciliation process. It also aims to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis survivors, as well as their families and communities.
Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal