Saskatchewan's 3 largest cities recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Municipal governments in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert will recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday.

“It’s a holiday with a purpose and the purpose is reconciliation and learning our past and what we have to do to move forward,” said Prince Albert’s mayor Greg Dionne.

City employees in all three cities will have a designated paid holiday on that day.

Dionne said it’s important that people mark the day and take advantage of learning opportunities locally and online.

In June the federal government passed legislation to recognize Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as a federal statutory holiday. The day will be a paid day off for federal workers and employees in federally regulated workplaces.

British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories have chosen to make National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday. In Saskatchewan, the holiday is optional, similar to Remembrance Day which is not a paid civic holiday in the province.

President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Lori Johb has written to the province to recognize the holiday.

“It’s important that working people and all people in Saskatchewan have the time they need to understand the importance of September 30th,” said Johb.

“So that we learn and take the time to understand what happened and we make amends.”

Unionized employees with SGI will get the day as a statutory holiday.

An organizer of Orange Short Day at the Prince Albert Indian and Metis Friendship Centre, Linda OSoup supports the city’s decision to designate the day off to employees.

She anticipates there will be more participation this year due to the new civic holiday and the discovery of unmarked graves at some residential schools.

“I think that people are going to work to educated themselves more and they're going to work more towards understanding what reconciliation is for everyone,” said OSoup.

“We should be seeing a difference since the importance of the day which was maybe just kind of pushed over in the past.”

42 percent of Prince Albert’s population is Indigenous according to the 2016 census statistics, said Dionne and this is another way to encourage healing and harmony. It is also part of the city’s commitment to honour the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations.

The collective agreement for City of Prince Albert employees also automatically deemed the new civic day a holiday for city employees.

Linda O’Soup From the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre in Prince Albert supports the city’s decision to designate the day off to employees. She said it will allow more people to attend events and learn more about the history of residential schools.

The Prince Albert Indigenous Coalition will be hosting a one-hour education session on residential schools Sept. 30.

In June, the Government of Canada declared September 30 a federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. A news release announcing the move said the government is “committed to reconciliation and ensuring that the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten.”

The day provides an opportunity for federal employees to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.

Prince Albert had four residential schools, the first one opened in 1879 and the last one closed in 1997.