Three weeks before the new National Truth and Reconciliation Day, Ontario has announced that September 30 will not be a provincial holiday, meaning that only federally regulated businesses and organizations in the province will have the day off.
While other provinces had already announced their plans, indigenous leaders and the business community were still waiting until Wednesday to find out if Ontario would make the day a public holiday.
The head of the Grand Council of the Anishinabek Nation, Reg Niganobe, said he was disappointed but not surprised that the Ontario government decided not to make September 30 a provincial holiday.
The fact that several provinces have already made the same decision exemplifies a lack of respect for the day, he said, adding that the day will be very important to the indigenous peoples of Canada.
The day should offer opportunities for people to learn, Niganobe said, but it’s hard for people to do that if they don’t have the day off from work.
“If the government doesn’t take the day seriously, why shouldn’t the rest of the public?” he said.
The new federal holiday was announced this year in response to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action. The day was established to commemorate the tragic effect of residential schools in Canada and its continuing impact on indigenous communities.
The announcement came shortly after the discovery of unnamed graves in former residential schools in Canada, numbering more than 1,000 at last count. Indigenous leaders have said that the graves are proof of what their communities have been saying all along. Meanwhile, the discoveries forced many Canadians to consider the physical evidence of what happened in residential schools. September 30 is also Orange Shirt Day, which began in British Columbia in 2013 to commemorate indigenous children forced into residential schools.
In an emailed statement, a spokesman for Indian Affairs Minister Greg Rickford said that National Truth and Reconciliation Day is not a provincial holiday in Ontario, but that “employers and employees may agree to treat this day as such, and some may have to do so if it has been negotiated in collective agreements or employment contracts ”.
However, “Ontario Public Service employees will be observing a day of remembrance, similar to Remembrance Day and Easter Monday.”
“We are working in collaboration with indigenous partners, survivors and affected families to ensure respectful commemoration of this day within the province,” the spokesperson said.
As a federal holiday, federally regulated workplaces, such as banks and federal agencies, will be closed on September 30. However, it is up to the individual provinces to decide whether to do the same.
British Columbia “formally recognized” the day, with many schools and public sector workplaces closing or working reduced hours. Manitoba and Nova Scotia will do the same. Other provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan and now Ontario, have failed to recognize the day, drawing ire from indigenous leaders.
Jason Rasevych, board director for the Anishnawbe Business Professional Association and a member of the Ginoogaming First Nation, said Indigenous leaders and elders wanted September 30 to be a legal holiday in Ontario.
Making September 30 a provincial holiday, though it shouldn’t be framed as a public holiday, Rasevych noted, plus a commemoration day like Remembrance Day would add gravity to the day, he said, providing an opportunity for the government to raise awareness. and promoting learning.
It should also be a day for the government itself to reflect on those calls and what it has done so far to promote reconciliation, Rasevych said.
Currently, there are only five legal holidays nationwide that affect employees at all levels: New Years Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labor Day, and Christmas. There are several other federal holidays, including National Truth and Reconciliation Day. However, many of these are also observed as legal holidays in several or almost all provinces, such as Remembrance Day, Victory Day, and Thanksgiving Day.
Ontario, meanwhile, has four legal provincial holidays in addition to the five that are nationally: Family Day, Victoria Day, Thanksgiving and St. Stephen.
National legal holidays mean that legal pay applies to all eligible employees; meanwhile, a federal holiday only applies to federally regulated employees. Federal agencies are usually closed these days. Statistical pay may involve a full day’s pay for not working that day, or time and a half, or even double.
Before the government announcement, Ontario Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rocco Rossi said Ontario’s reluctance to decide on the matter made it difficult for companies to plan ahead as the day approached.
Rasevych agreed that the province was also putting companies in a difficult situation, as they needed certainty about what they should do on September 30.
The Canadian News
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