National Day for Truth and Reconciliation declared a civic holiday in Edmonton

Edmonton city council designated Sept. 30, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a civic holiday Tuesday.

Councillors voted on the idea at a city council meeting where they discussed where the city is on meeting the 94 Calls to Action outlined in the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

The declaration specifically supports call to action 80, the city said.

Read more: Alberta leaves National Day for Truth and Reconciliation stat holiday up to employers

“We call 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,” reads the call to action.

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A civic holiday is largely symbolic and is not equivalent to declaring it a statutory holiday. There is no obligation for businesses to close or provide stat pay to their employees.

At the Tuesday morning council meeting, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Indigenous people in Edmonton face hardships due to the intergenerational effects of genocide, colonization and residential schools.

Click to play video: 'Marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Edmonton'

Marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Edmonton

“A large number of people who are houseless are Indigenous and they often interact with our front-facing city workers, bylaw officers and transit security officers,” he said.

Indigenous people make up two-thirds of Edmonton’s homeless population but only six per cent of the general population, according to the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Sohi suggested front-line workers could be trained on how to interact with Indigenous people in a way that acknowledges the effects of colonization on the population.

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Read more: ‘The future is bright’: Orange Shirt Society founder on 2nd Day for Truth and Reconciliation

“Things are rough out there and the roughness sometimes creates trauma for both sides,” he said.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – also known as Orange Shirt Day – was made a federal stat holiday in 2021, meaning workers in federally-regulated companies, like banks, airlines and the post office get the day off.

The Alberta government has not recognized the day as a stat, choosing instead to leave it up to individual employers to decide whether to give their employees the day off.

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