Alberta won’t recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, angering advocates

Province says it will lower flags but puts onus on businesses to give employees day off

All federally regulated workplaces will have the day off on Sept. 30, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to reflect on the legacy of residential schools. But in the province of Alberta, it’ll be just another workday.

The province announced it will not consider the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday, something advocate Nicole Johnston says is a step backwards.

“I wouldn’t want people to take that day as a vacation day or a day off,” Johnston said. “I think they should be taking that day to educate themselves and visit and listen to Elders.”

In Calgary, plans for a permanent memorial honouring residential school victims and survivors is underway, a step toward reconciliation for the Indigenous community.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for the creation of a holiday as one of its 94 calls to action.

Federal employees and people working in federally regulated workplaces like banks have the day off.

All provincial buildings in Alberta will lower their flags, but it’s up to business-owners to offer the day off.

Secretary for the minister of Indigenous relations told media the province is encouraging all Albertans to reflect on the legacy of residential schools every day.

But in a statement, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Marlene Poitras demanded the province acknowledge Sept. 30 as a holiday.

“This refusal to formally acknowledge the September 30th federal holiday within Alberta flies in the face of reconciliation with First Nations and shows a disdain and lack of care or respect for Alberta’s Indigenous population,” said the statement.

Johnston says not only does Alberta need to implement the holiday, but justice still needs to be served.

“Without justice for the residential school children and survivors, how can the real healing begin?” said Johnston. “Reconciliation isn’t just for a group of people; it’s a responsibility for everyone in Canada.”

Unlike Alberta, British Columbia will mark the 30th as a day of commemoration and other provinces are still deciding.

Johnston says on that day workshops and pow wows are planned for Calgarians who have the time to reflect on the effects of residential school.

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