Lack of statutory holiday recognition for truth and reconciliation in Saskatchewan a disgrace, says CUPE

CUPE Saskatchewan calls on the provincial government to make truth and reconciliation a statutory holiday and a priority this upcoming fall legislative session.

The first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is being observed across Canada today on September 30, 2021. In June of this year, the federal government passed legislation to establish the statutory holiday in response to Call to Action number 80 of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The date also coincides with Orange Shirt Day – a grassroots initiative that has grown over the years to honour Survivors and to remember all the children who didn’t return home and lost their lives during the harmful, tragic legacy of residential schools and violence through colonialism.

While September 30 is a statutory holiday for federally regulated sectors across Canada, the Government of Saskatchewan has fallen far short of extending the full recognition as a paid day off for all to take part in a day of solemn public commemoration. Instead, recognition of the day by the province is made through a limited proclamation, accompanied by flags being flown at half-mast at all provincial government buildings. It was announced the Provincial Capital Commission will also turn key lights to orange around Wascana Park to mark the day in the very park that has witnessed hostility by the provincial government and its capital commission to past protests for Indigenous rights and well-being. The attempt to dismantle the Walking with our Angels teepee and protest in 2020, inspired by Tristen Durocher and Chris Merasty to highlight Saskatchewan’s suicide crisis, was the most recent example – until a court ruling found the protest to be constitutional protected.

“Today, everyone should have the opportunity to take a pause from their work and everyday activities to honour truth and commit to the journey of reconciliation. The Government of Saskatchewan has the opportunity to take meaningful concrete action by declaring this day a provincial statutory holiday – and each passing day they fail to do so is a disgrace,” said Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan.

Over 130 Residential Schools operated in Canada. Saskatchewan was the site of 20 of those schools, including the last one to close in 1996. Over the summer months, hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered in Saskatchewan and across the country at the sites of former residential schools.

“Today, we are reminded that our provincial government must do more, and we call on the government to make truth and reconciliation a statutory holiday and a priority this upcoming fall legislative session,” said Henley.

CUPE represents 30,000 members working in a variety of public service occupations across Saskatchewan including: health care, K-12 school system, universities, libraries, municipalities, community-based organizations, and various boards and agencies.

Published by the Division Office / nm Cope 342