Toronto – Some people will have not one, but two legal days this month.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, 30 September, will be celebrated for the first time on Labor Day, 6 September.
The day is designed to give everyone an opportunity to recognize and remember the legacy of residential schools, which more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend between 1870 and 1997.
As a federal statutory holiday, it is a specified paid leave for federally regulated employees. This means that people who work for the federal government or in workplaces through banks, the post office or the railroad are entitled to days off, or vacation pay if they work. .
Although there are about 10 federal statutory holidays, only five are paid days for all employees in the country. They are: New Year’s Day; good Friday; Canada Day; Labor Day and Christmas Day.
Provinces can also designate holidays. This is why Manitoba has Louis Riel Day and Quebec has St. Jean Baptiste Day, for example.
In addition, private companies and organizations can decide whether they want to honor optional or informal holidays. For example, some stores may choose to remain closed on Boxing Day or Remembrance Day even in provinces where they have not been designated a holiday.
So the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation would be a paid holiday for federally regulated employees. The government of the North Western Region announced that its government employees, including teachers, would also observe a holiday. And British Columbia has advised provincial public sector employers to honor the day. In BC, many public services would operate at reduced levels, but most schools, post-secondary institutions and some health sector workplaces and Crown corporations would remain closed.
Most of the provinces have stated that they are not officially observing this day as Paid Day Off.
The idea of such a day was one of 94 recommendations in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was released in June 2015. That day was officially made on June 3 of this year, when the bill was passed by C-5. both houses of parliament.
The move comes soon after the remains of about 215 children were discovered by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in late May on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
More remains have been found since then, and more searches are underway across the country. The original report estimated that 6,000 children died while attending schools, although many expected the number to be much higher.