• reconciliactionyeg

Is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Actually a Holiday?

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,


September 30, 2022 marks the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It may surprise you to know that this day is not actually a holiday, at least not for us in Alberta.


Call to Action 80 specifically calls on the Federal government to establish a statutory holiday “for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Indian Residential School survivors, their families, and communities and to ensure the public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process”. [1]


https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html

The holiday was brought into force by “An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation)”. [2] Federal employees receive the day off of work and holiday pay. In addition to those working for the Government of Canada and Parliament, this applies to all federally regulated industries and workplaces, including banks, federal Crown corporations including Canada Post, telecommunications, road transportation services that cross provincial or international borders, and others. [3]


The Federal government has amended legislation and technically can check the ‘complete’ box for Call to Action 80, but does the federal holiday really satisfy the intended purpose of the Call to Action?


Federal statutory holidays do not apply to provincial governments. In Alberta, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is just considered an ‘Optional General Holiday’. [4] As an optional general holiday, employers can choose whether to offer National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday for their employees. The Alberta government has chosen not to provide the day off for Provincial employees. [5]


Across Canada, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories are the only province and territory to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday. [7] Manitoba has proposed a bill to make the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday, but it won’t be passed in time for this year’s holiday. [8] Meanwhile, some of the other provinces and territories continue to discuss whether they will amend labour legislation to recognise the statutory holiday. [9]


In 2021, there were 319,601 employees of the Federal Public Service [10]. Based on the 2021 population of Canada of 38,068,872, less than 1% of all Canadians are guaranteed to receive the holiday. [11] This isn’t good enough.


Provincial governments should be committed to reconciliation, and this includes making the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday. Doing so would raise awareness about the legacy of residential schools on victims, survivors, and their families. A stat holiday would provide time for individuals to explore their role in reconciliation.

It would provide time for individuals to make themselves aware of the impacts of colonisation on Indigenous peoples in Canada. Time for individuals to reflect and accept their role in the hardships faced by Indigenous people today. Time for individuals to apologize and atone: to attend healing circles, speak with elders, and visit memorial sites. Time for individuals to take action against the ongoing impacts of colonisation. Time that the government should be encouraging all citizens to use for their efforts towards reconciliation.


If businesses were actually closed, people may think about why. Why can’t I go to Galaxyland? Why can’t I go out for dinner? Parents would not have to take a day off work to take children to attend reconciliation events. Closures would encourage individuals to find meaningful ways to reflect, and to remember residential school victims, survivors, and their families.


It took the Federal government six years to implement the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation after the Calls to Action were released. Let’s hope that it doesn’t take six years for the provinces and territories to recognize the importance of actually implementing the holiday.


If you are in Alberta, check out the Government of Alberta’s list of 2022 events to find a meaningful way to participate in the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. [12]


Reconciliation should not be confined to one day. Commit to doing your part in reconciliation throughout the year. Consider taking the University of Alberta’s free Indigenous Canada Course, an Open Online Course available to anyone- you don’t have to be a University of Alberta student. [13]







[1] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Ottawa, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015) at 340.

[2] An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation), SC 2021, c 11

[3] Government of Canada, “List of federally regulated industries and workplaces” (last modified 28 April 2022), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/services/jobs/workplace/federally-regulated-industries.html>.

[4] Government of Alberta, “Employment standards rules- Alberta general holidays” (last visited 28 September 2022), online: Government of Alberta <https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-general-holidays.aspx>.

[5] Emily Mertz, “Alberta leaves national Day for Truth and Reconciliation stat holiday up to employers”, Global News (27 August 2021), online: <https://globalnews.ca/news/8146845/alberta-national-day-for-truth-and-reconciliation-stat-holiday-sept-30/>.

[6] Prince Edward Island, “Province recognizes National Day of Truth and Reconciliation” (9 September 2021), online: Prince Edward Island <https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/news/province-recognizes-national-day-of-truth-and-reconciliation>.

[7] Government of Northwest Territories, “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation declared statutory holiday in Northwest Territories” (13 July 2022), online: Government of Northwest Territories <https://www.gov.nt.ca/en/newsroom/national-day-truth-and-reconciliation-declared-statutory-holiday-northwest-territories>.

[8] Megan Devlin, “Here are the provinces where Truth and Reconciliation Day is a stat”, Daily Hive (13 September 2022), online: <https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/where-truth-reconciliation-stat-september-30>.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, “Population of the Federal Public Service” (last modified 6 December 2021), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/innovation/human-resources-statistics/population-federal-public-service.html>.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Government of Alberta, “Day for Truth and Reconciliation” (last visited 28 September 2022), online: Government of Alberta <https://www.alberta.ca/day-for-truth-and-reconciliation.aspx>.

[13] University of Alberta, “Indigenous Canada” (last visited 28 September 2022), online: University of Alberta <https://www.ualberta.ca/admissions-programs/online-courses/indigenous-canada/index.html>.


81 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All