While the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day – Thursday, September 30 – is not recognized as a statutory holiday by the Ontario government, it won’t necessarily be business as usual.
The day is recognized as a federal holiday, which gives businesses and organizations some freedom as to how they will manage it.
In the case of the Copperfin Credit Union in Thunder Bay, for example, staff will have a day off to reflect and train, CEO Dennis Alvestad said.
“We really started out, you know, trying to figure out what the best first steps are for us, and the best first steps we decided on were education,” Alvestad said. “So we ended up involving our entire board, as well as the senior leadership, in an Aboriginal cultural awareness learning program, and we’re building on that. “
“When this became… an opportunity to reflect and truly honor residential school survivors, it was just obvious for them to participate,” he said. “I think you see many credit unions across the country taking the opportunity to once again honor these survivors, their families and communities.”
Thunder Bay’s Roots to Harvest has also decided to close its doors for the day.
“Our offices will be completely closed,” said Erin Beagle, executive director of Roots to Harvest. “No one will be at work. People will always be paid [for] holiday and people will be able to do whatever they want just like they would any other day off.
Beagle said she was disappointed Ontario did not recognize the holiday, but hopes other organizations take charge of marking the day.
“Everyone has their own choices to make in their organization and what works for them,” she said. “I don’t pretend to know what it is [is] really like. We are a service organization; we are not an income generating organization. “
“By closing Thursday there is a cost, obviously, but there is no additional cost of not doing something that day,” Beagle said. “And I know small business owners are constantly trying to find a balance between what that means for their own business, so I don’t want to put them through it.”
“At the same time, I have seen other organizations or small businesses in particular being able to do or offer something some of these days or times with money spent on some of the efforts. . “
Jason Rasevych, who heads the Association of Anishnawbe Business Professionals, said he would have liked the province to recognize Thursday as well, as that would not have left the decision to mark the day to individual businesses and organizations.
“Some employers will offer their employees the opportunity to participate in local ceremonies to honor the symbolism of residential schools by purchasing an orange shirt and continuing their education,” he said. “But to make it something more of an annual event [and] rather a day of retreat … the province could have at least considered recognizing it this year and working with the leadership to fulfill certain conditions of that day in the future. “
Support is available to anyone affected by their residential school experience and to those triggered by these reports.
A national residential school crisis line was established to provide support to residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.