Eganville – The new National Truth and Reconciliation Holiday on September 30 will be observed by Bonnechere Valley Township with staff having the day off and municipal offices closed.
“If we choose not to, we will be one of a very few in Renfrew County,” CAO Annette Gilchrist told a committee meeting of council last Tuesday.
The new holiday, brought in by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is being celebrated for the first time this year on September 30. The holiday was one of 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and it is meant to honour Canada’s residential school survivors, their families and communities. Although it is a statutory holiday only some people will have the holiday. Since it is a federal statutory holiday, it is a designated paid holiday for federally regulated employees. Not all statutory holidays are paid days off for all employees in the country, but private companies and organizations can decide if they want to honour them.
“It is like Remembrance Day,” Ms. Gilchrist explained.
The difference from Remembrance Day is under the collective agreement for unionized staff and the Human Resources Policy for non-unionized staff, BV states any new statutory holidays which are declared will be a day off for staff, she explained. The policy applies to full-time and part-time staff.
“If we did not have that wording in our policy or our agreement we could treat it like Remembrance Day,” she said.
On Remembrance Day the office is not closed for the entire day.
Councillor Merv Buckwald pointed out most organizations or businesses are not compelled to provide the holiday.
Mayor Jennifer Murphy said while Remembrance Day used to be a statutory holiday where all businesses are closed, that is no longer the case.
Ms. Gilchrist said if council wanted to change the policy approved by a previous council giving any new statutory holidays as a holiday, they could have a discussion about that. She added most municipalities in the county have similar agreements like BV providing for the additional holiday if a new statutory holiday is declared. One exception is Arnprior which is currently in the process of negotiations.
“How is this holiday going to be in the rest of the world?” asked Councillor Tim Schison.
“It’s the same as Remembrance Day,” Ms. Gilchrist said, noting places like Canada Post will be closed.
Even though the County will also be closed for the new holiday, staff at long-term care homes and paramedics will not have the day off, she said.
Because of the existing collective agreement and the human resources policy, the holiday will be given to BV staff unless council directs otherwise, she said.
“We don’t need to do anything unless we change it (the policy),” she said.
However, the collective agreement with the union cannot be broken so union staff would still have the day off, she said.
The issue needed to be brought before council since this is a new statutory holiday.
“This does not happen very often,” she said. “I think Family Day was the last one.”
Ontario is not making the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a provincial holiday. The provincial government noted while it is not a provincial public holiday, employers may treat it as such if they choose to.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader