Alberta leaves National Truth and Reconciliation Day holiday to employers


As the Alberta government “encourages all Albertans to reflect on the legacy of residential schools” on September 30, it leaves the implementation of a holiday to individual employers for provincially regulated industries.

In June, Ottawa declared September 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a federal holiday that aims to give public servants the opportunity to recognize the legacy of residential schools.

The designated paid holiday for federal employees also responds to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

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“For provincially regulated industries, the issue of work vacations is a decision for individual employers, unless an employee’s employment contract or collective agreement specifically grants federally regulated holidays.” said Adrienne South, press secretary for the Alberta Ministry of Indigenous Relations.

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The province is encouraging reflection and will lower flags on government buildings in Alberta on September 30 “to honor the lives lost in residential schools, and commemoration ceremonies will take place.”

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“We should not limit our recognition to the residential school legacy to one day. The Government of Alberta will work with First Nations and Métis communities to establish a permanent memorial on the grounds of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for the victims of the residential school system, ”South said.

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She added that the province is “committed to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, including helping Indigenous Albertans reclaim their traditional Indigenous names.”

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However, the Assembly of First Nations Alberta Association said it was upset that the provincial government did not consider legislating to widely observe September 30 as a public holiday.

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“There have been too many stories in recent days of this provincial government ignoring the First Nations peoples and communities of the province lately, that’s enough,” Regional Chief Marlene Poitras said in a press release Friday.

“Why does the government not intervene and recognize this day, which responds directly to the calls to action of the TRC to raise awareness of the struggles that the First Peoples of Canada went through in the face of colonization?

“This refusal to officially recognize the federal holiday of September 30 in Alberta goes against reconciliation with First Nations and shows contempt and a lack of care or respect for the Aboriginal people of Alberta.

Poitras also highlighted concerns raised by an Alberta First Nation about not having adequate access to referendum questions and the Senate vote included in many October 19 municipal elections.

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“I was also told that the government is taking no action to ensure that First Nations can effectively participate in referendum issues in the next municipal election with regard to daylight saving time and the equalization formula.

“While $ 10 million is channeled to the municipalities to facilitate voting on these points, no voting booth is installed on the Nations, which are not municipalities and do not follow the same electoral rotation as the other communities.

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“Instead, we are told, ‘Drive to the nearest community.’ For some nations in Alberta, this is a hike of over 100 kilometers in one direction. For others, they are communities accessible by plane and find themselves without any option to participate in the democratic process. “

Poitras says it sends a message to First Nations people that their voices don’t matter.

“I call on the Government of Alberta to immediately correct these actions, to set up polling stations on referendum points on reserves and to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, 2021.”

Elections Alberta and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs confirmed Thursday that some people will need to travel to a nearby municipality or vote by mail to participate.

“Not all communities have an election this fall; summer villages, improvement districts, special zones, First Nations and the Alberta side of the City of Lloydminster do not have municipal elections in October, ”the spokesperson for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Mark Jacka.

“To ensure easily accessible voting information as well as easy access to voting opportunities, partner communities will provide First Nations residents with election notification and the information needed to vote. “

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The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) said on Aug. 25 it was filing formal grievances against employers, including Alberta Health Services (AHS), who refused to recognize the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

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The union said some employers “are not respecting the new public holiday” despite “collective agreements that require employers to recognize federally created holidays.”

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However, an AHS spokesperson told Global News that the health agency “may or may not be required to recognize a new federally regulated holiday as part of collective agreements signed with unionized employees.”

The matter is under review, said Kerry Williamson.

“AHS has been working with stakeholders, including the Wisdom Council, on how best to recognize the day in a meaningful way and planning is underway.

“AHS has recognized September 30 as Orange Jersey Day for many years,” said Williamson.

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Meanwhile, Saskatchewan has not declared September 30 a provincial holiday, but it falls on the same day as the province’s proclaimed Orange Shirt Day – a day when people honor residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad, who had his orange shirt removed on the first day. from school.

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“We continue to proclaim September 30 as Orange Shirt Day and recognize it as an important day of remembrance for those who have suffered harm and to honor the lives lost in residential schools,” said a Saskatchewan government spokesperson. .

The employees still have to work that day, but all provincial government buildings will be flying the flags at half mast.

Likewise, in Saskatchewan schools, staff and students will be in class on September 30th.

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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