The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) has called on the province to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which is not a provincial statutory holiday despite being federally recognized.
The day serves to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. The Canadian government noted that public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
While the federal government passed legislation in June recognizing it as a federal statutory holiday, coinciding with Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30, the Saskatchewan government announced it would not make the statutory holiday apply to provincial employees, and has not made any decisions regarding a commitment to do so in the future.
Tracey Sauer, SGEU’s president, called the province’s decision “extremely disappointing,” especially in the light of the recent recognition of the mass unmarked graves of Indigenous children.
“Such a holiday would provide time for all of us to honour the survivors and those who didn’t make it home by participating in community events and educating ourselves about the sad history of Canada’s residential school system and the current issues faced by Indigenous communities,” Sauer said.
Despite the province’s decision, multiple Saskatchewan municipalities have chosen to recognize the day including the City of Humboldt and Melfort, while other municipalities like Nipawin have the day covered for employees on the basis of being a federal statutory holiday.
“I’m pleased that several workplaces represented by SGEU already have language in their collective agreements with a provision that allows for an additional designated holiday if it is proclaimed by an act of parliament,” Sauer said. “However, we believe the provincial government should act as soon as possible to ensure all Saskatchewan residents are given this same opportunity on Sept. 30.”
SGEU stated that they will raise the issue at all contract negotiations if the government fails to declare the day a statutory holiday before then. The contract for provincial government employees expires in September 2020.
The Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action No. 80 called upon the federal government to collaborate with the Indigenous community to establish a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to honour survivors, their families, and communities; and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal