COCHRANE— To reflect on the lasting legacy of residential schools and to honour the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people impacted by them, the Town of Cochrane will recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday.
The decision was made in August by the Town’s senior leadership team, coming after the federal government’s announcement in June that all federally regulated workplaces will have the day off, giving public servants an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the history of residential schools.
Kristin Huybrecht, manager of intergovernmental relations and corporate communications with the Town of Cochrane said the decision to acknowledge Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday was not a difficult one to make on their part.
“In determining whether or not to fully support this, we looked at our human resources administrative directive and our collective agreements, which state that we will honour any federally named holiday,” Huybrecht said. “We made the decision to extend this to all staff recognizing the importance of the event.”
“I think it shows our level of commitment to our Indigenous neighbours, to the Indigenous community within our community. What we are looking to achieve is to be able to honour the intent of the day by allowing staff the opportunity to go and recognize the importance of the day in a way that makes the most sense to them.”
Contrarily, the Alberta government recently made the announcement that it will not acknowledge the day as a statutory holiday from a provincial level. All flags will be lowered at provincial buildings but the province is leaving it in the hands of business-owners to offer the day off to honour Residential School Survivors and reflect on the lasting impacts of residential schools on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.
“I think what we’ve noticed is that not all municipalities have taken this approach,” Huybrecht said. “At the end of the day, we feel it’s the right approach and so that’s why we’ve decided to move forward on this.”
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was created in response to one of the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, calling “upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as 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.”
Nova Scotia, B.C., Manitoba and the Northwest Territories have all announced they will recognize the holiday, while other provinces and territories have yet to declare their plans for Sept. 30.
The Town of Okotoks has also announced they will allow Town employees the day off and the Town of Canmore has approved $18,000 to be moved from their general operating reserve to help with funding for a community-based commemorative event for Truth and Reconciliation Day.
“I think really what we're doing — no different than Remembrance Day — is just demonstrating our level of support into the community and if the community is looking to organize something we're happy to support and engage through that process,” Huybrecht said.
Town facilities will be closed Sept. 30 to mark the holiday and Huybrecht said they are currently looking to find information to share with staff ahead of time, exploring different ways that they can reflect on the history of residential schools and invite and share dialogue about a contentious past.
Joining the ranks of some municipalities, many school boards across the province have also taken it upon themselves to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in their calendars, declaring Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday for students and staff alike.
Rocky View Schools announced they too would recognize the day in their 2021/22 calendar after the Board of Trustees first regular board meeting ot the school year on Sept. 9.
Fourty-four out of 63 Alberta school divisions have made their decision to close over the holiday as of Sept. 18, some reaching the conclusion earlier than others.