Whitewater Region – Municipal business will come to a standstill in Whitewater Region Township on Thursday, September 30 as the township observes National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a new federal holiday.
But at least one member of council is not in favour of it being a holiday for staff.
Discussion about whether municipal staff will be working or not was held during the September 15 council meeting.
Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay said this holiday is in response to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
“It also ensures the ongoing commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools as part of the reconciliation process,” he said.
While the township is not federally regulated, the human resource policy states that any day proclaimed by the federal or provincial governments is recognized as an additional holiday, Mr. Tremblay explained.
He noted while there are bookings at the Astrolabe Arena in Cobden that day, staff who work on September 30 will receive statutory holiday pay.
However, Councillor Dave Mackay was not in favour of it being a staff holiday.
“We can acknowledge it, lower the flags, or do some kind of symbolic thing,” he said. “I’m not getting a holiday.”
Coun. Mackay said some people get Remembrance Day off and don’t treat it like it should be and he doesn’t believe this day off will be any different.
Council members had a hard time understanding why this was a holiday, since Ontario is not acknowledging it as such.
Mr. Tremblay said it’s much like Remembrance Day.
“It’s not required in the Employment Standards Act to have the day off, but we observe it,” he said.
Mayor Mike Moore said possibly since this national day was just proclaimed, it will take a year to determine who gets the day off and who doesn’t.
Councillor Daryl McLaughlin said Remembrance Day is not a holiday, but the township observes it; Family Day is a provincial holiday, so the federal employees still work; the provincial government is not recognizing this day as a holiday.
“I’m lost,” he said. “I’m not sure which one to follow. Maybe we just don’t bother following and do them all.
“I’m just totally…I can’t get this figured in my head.”
Mr. Tremblay reiterated it’s a holiday for municipal staff, even though it’s federally mandated, because of the language in the human resources policy that states the municipality shall observe any days set aside as a holiday by the federal or provincial governments.
While McNab/Braeside Township and Pembroke councils have announced municipal offices will be closed, he was not sure if other municipalities in the county will be closed.
“This is an information report,” Mr. Tremblay said. “If you don’t want to recognize it, go and change your policy.”
Coun. McLaughlin thanked Mr. Tremblay for the clarification, saying, “I’ve got my brain around this.”
As well, council passed a motion brought to the table by Reeve Cathy Regier to encourage residents to wear orange that day and that the township fly the orange flag at the municipal office and Mineview garage.
Flying the Orange Flag
The first question to arise in this discussion was from Coun. McLaughlin.
“My only comment is why are we only doing it at two sites rather than all our sites,” he asked. “If we’re going to do something, let’s do it and do it well.”
Mr. Tremblay said the township received only two flags.
He also noted while the township doesn’t usually fly flags at the municipal office because the flag pole is actually at the cenotaph, it was felt this was a proper place to fly the flag. As for why the township garage, Mr. Tremblay said the municipal policy for special flags is they will be flown within the municipality at the garage.
Coun. McLaughlin also questioned why the colour orange.
“I do not know who would have picked orange,” he said. “Orange, to me, relates back to the 17th of July and the Orangeman’s Walk.”
“Not even close,” quipped Mayor Moore.
A former custodian at Beachburg Public School, he explained that it’s also a colour for anti-bullying and students wear an orange t-shirt on a day in September.
Councillor Dave Mackay asked if people wear orange, are they not indicating support for the NDP (New Democratic Party).”
Again, Mayor Moore quipped, “It’s after the election.”
Coun. Nicholson said possibly more flags could be ordered since there is no shortage of flag poles in the township.
“We have a number of residents in our community. How many of them drive by the Mineview garage or township office to recognize what we are doing?” he asked.
Possibly it could be raised at the new parkette in Westmeath as well as in Beachburg and Haley Station, possibly the fire stations, he suggested.
Mr. Tremblay agreed there are all kinds of flag poles in the township, but many need repairs.
“I believe in Foresters Falls there are six flag poles within 20 metres of each other,” he said, noting there is one at the museum and another at the library.
Coun. Nicholson also questioned whether council will be present during the orange flag raising since it is an important event.
Mr. Tremblay said staff will choose a date and time and send an invitation to all council members.
Mayor Moore said that wouldn’t be necessary, suggesting the flag raising occur on Wednesday, September 29 since the office is closed on Thursday.
He advised Mr. Tremblay to plan on the day before, pick a time and let council know.
Reeve Regier said the county has flown the Every Child Matters flag for a month at the county office on International Drive in Pembroke.
“Maybe it’s something we could entertain for the entire month following the county’s example,” she suggested.
Mayor Moore said he was hopeful someone would bring the issue back to the council table in the spring.
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader