EAST CENTRAL — While not yet a provincial statutory holiday, the communities of Humboldt, Nipawin and Melfort have all designated the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a day off for municipal employees.
This is following the federal government designating Sept. 30, also known as Orange Shirt Day, as a statutory holiday for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The day provides an opportunity for Canadians to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools through quiet reflection or participation in a community event.
Penny Lee, Humboldt’s director of communications, said this will mean the Uniplex will be operating at holiday hours and city hall will be closed.
“Although the province of Saskatchewan will not be observing that day as a holiday or a stat, cities have been able to make their own decision to do something of their own,” Lee said. “We are granting the day off for city employees, where it is possible to do so, to enable those employees to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.”
In Nipawin, the day was guaranteed to be off due to the town employees union agreement, which dictates federal statutory holidays are recognized.
In Melfort, Glenn George, the city’s mayor said while he’s supportive of the holiday, he feels it would be “almost impossible” for the City of Melfort to not recognize it following the federal government’s declaration.
“It’s a part of our history and we have to recognize it and we should want to recognize it, I think,” George said. “We just want to do our part.”
In addition to making it a holiday for municipal employees, the city is planning to re-erect a memorial for the victims of the residential school system similar to the one made earlier this year out of shoes after the remains of 215 residential school victims were recognized in Kamloops.
As of Sept. 16, Carrot River has chosen not to recognize the holiday, while Tisdale has yet to enter discussions.
Brennan Hall, Carrot River’s administrator, said whether to make it a statutory municipal holiday was brought up in a recent committee of the whole meeting of council.
“It’s not that they’re against it or anything, but they feel it’s unfair for the provincial government to make us decide that,” Hall said. “They feel if it’s a holiday, it’s a holiday and it should be mandated by the higher powers across the board – they didn’t feel comfortable making that decision.”
He said the policy is planned to be tabled and revisited during their Sept. 21 council meeting.
Brad Hvidston, Tisdale’s administrator, said he expects the potential designation to be brought into discussion during Tisdale’s Sept. 27 council meeting.
There is nothing in the Tisdale town employees’ union contract stipulating federal holidays as days off.