From this year onward, September 30th will be observed as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It will be a statutory holiday for federally regulated public and private sector employees. This means all federally regulated employees will have a paid day off work.
The industries that come under this category include public services, banks, airlines, and postal services.
What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
One of the 94 calls to action put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was 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.” – Call to Action #80, p.9
On June 3rd, 2021, Bill C-5 – that sought to establish September 30th as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and a statutory holiday for federally regulated staff – received Royal Assent.
Why was September 30th chosen as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
September 30th is already observed as the Orange Shirt Day in Canada. On this day, events are held to create awareness about the history and the damage done to Indigenous communities by the residential school system, and the need to take steps for reconciliation. Participants show support by wearing orange shirts.
The decision to observe this day as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation seeks to build on the work done by this popular Indigenous-led grassroots initiative.
Should provincially regulated employers give the day off to their staff as well?
Private employers are not required to do so as the holiday doesn’t apply to provincially regulated workplaces. But if they wish to, they may do so.
If you’d like to observe this holiday in your workplace, you should update your workplace policies. Make it clear in your policy whether your employees will get the day off and whether they will receive pay.
Are there any other ways businesses could observe the holiday in their workplaces?
Not all businesses can afford to give their staff the day off. However, they can still observe the holiday and show support in other ways.
For instance, you could educate staff on the history behind the holiday. Or encourage your employees to wear orange on September 30th to remember and honour those who survived residential schools and those who perished.
By wearing orange on this day, you can help create awareness about the tragic legacy of residential schools in Canada. Some other ways to show support include:
Informing workers about available government support
Former residential school survivors can receive mental health support by calling the 24/7 Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. The Hope for Wellness Help Line is also available 24/7 for counselling and crisis intervention at 1-855-242-3310.
Offering an Employee Assistance Program
Offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is an excellent way to support the wellbeing of your employees. An EAP provides confidential counselling services to staff who may be going through personal hardships, such as mental health issues, domestic violence, and substance abuse. The EAP coverage usually also includes the family members of the employee.