City employees will be given the day off on Thursday, Sept. 30, to recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which city hall estimates will cost over $83,000 in lost productivity.
During the Sept. 13 regular meeting, city council unanimously voted to encourage residents and organizations to recognize that day to honour the survivors of residential schools, their families, and affected communities while ensuring those former institutions remain an important aspect of the reconciliation process.
Furthermore, council agreed to support the Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association’s (WACA) activities on that day and seek to meet with the Indigenous community about how the City of Moose Jaw can support reconciliation.
A new statutory holiday
In June, royal assent was given to Bill C-5, which recognized Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and made it the newest federal statutory holiday, a council report explained. This new holiday applies to the federally regulated public and private sectors, including employers subject to the Canada Labour Code.
“The federal government has stated that this day provides an opportunity for each public service to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools,” city manager Jim Puffalt said. “This may present itself as a day of quiet reflection or participation in a community event.”
Objective No. 7 in the City of Moose Jaw’s strategic plan lists people and culture as a topic, including meeting with elders and Aboriginal Peoples to create a relationship and crafting a municipal cultural action plan.
City administration has spoken with WACA and has found a free venue for the organization’s activities that day, Puffalt continued. City hall has also invited WACA members and chiefs to meet near or on Sept. 30 to help guide and advise city council and administration about how the municipality can advance “truth and reconciliation.”
Under the provisions of different collective bargaining agreements, Sept. 30 would be a stat holiday for the police association, the board of police commissioners (CUPE), and the firefighters association. However, staff with CUPE Local 9, UNIFOR Local 101R and out-of-scope members would not be eligible for this day if the city does not declare it a stat holiday.
“At times, the importance of statutory holidays is lost, so it’s important that we bring this back every year to refresh people’s minds,” said Puffalt. “In view of what other cities are doing, a majority are moving toward this … (so) it is important for us to help the process along.”
City administration estimates that giving municipal employees the day off as a stat holiday would cost $83,323 in lost productivity, he added.
“I believe this is an important move. It is a very small step in recognizing the nightmare that is residential schools for our Aboriginal community,” said Acting Mayor Dawn Luhning. “It is a small step in the right direction to do for our citizens.”
Some residents might think that truth and reconciliation don’t apply to Moose Jaw because there are no reserves nearby and no residential schools were near here, but this is still traditional First Nations territory, said Coun. Crystal Froese. That’s why it’s important to reach out to area chiefs to learn from them and hear their stories. This is part of the “truth” aspect, which will help move the process toward reconciliation.
Coun. Doug Blanc agreed, adding the cost to the city is minimal, while he was glad city administration would bring this back to council every year.
The next regular council meeting is Monday, Sept. 27.