If TRC day is important, let’s do it right

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, first declared in 2021, is celebrating its second birthday.  In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission  (TRC) recommended in Call to Action #80 that the day be marked as a National holiday.

But in most provinces and territories, it’s business as usual. That is because business groups have balked at having to give employees a paid day off.

And Nova Scotia, as always, leads the way in refusing to give  its more than 475,900 working people a general paid holiday, or statutory holiday. Most working Nova Scotians will just have to commemorate the day on their unpaid lunch breaks (another one of the regressive features of our Labour Standards Act). 

In NS daycares, schools, and government offices will be closed and staff will be paid.  But for anyone who works in tourism, retail trade, malls, restaurants, bars, hotels, gas stations, museums, supermarkets, services or just about anywhere else, Fri. Sept. 30 will be a normal workday. 

Another “punishment holiday”

We all suffered a  kind of “punishment holiday” on Sept 19, the day of the Queen’s funeral.  On that day, only workers at daycares, schools and provincial government offices received a day off with pay.  Everyone else had to work.

The best example of a “punishment holiday” in Nova Scotia is a day when the government declares stores and  businesses must be closed, yet workers receive no pay for the forced day off.  Those “punishment holidays” include  Thanksgiving and Boxing Day.  

Now we are treated to another “punishment holiday” on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, or Orange Shirt Day this Friday. It is a holiday for teachers, day care workers and government workers and few others.

“… unfortunately, Indigenous peoples’ needs are still not the ones that are being met.”

From Yellowhead Institute Report, Dec. 2021

In fact, across Canada, only two territories and one province have declared Sept 30 a statutory holiday.  These are:  the Northwest Territories,  Nunavut and PEI. Yes, our Maritime neighbour guarantees a paid day off work for just about everyone. 

I suppose we in Nova Scotia should just chalk this up to the continuing miserliness of our governments – not just the Tories, but the Liberals before them and the NDP before them.  All these governments have been influenced by a rigid rush-to-the-bottom business agenda that says holidays for workers are unnecessary, and it’s fine to pay Nova Scotians among the lowest wages in Canada.

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad started the Orange Shirt Day movement in B.C. Photo: APTN file

Holiday Blues: Nova Scotia’s poor record

Nova Scotia ties with Newfoundland and Labrador for the lowest number of paid public holidays per year in Canada.  We have 6 paid general holidays, plus a special paid day off for Remembrance Day. 

Province/TerritoryNumber of statutory holidays- paid days off
NS6 + 1
NFLD & Lab.6
This chart compares the number of statutory holidays by province, across Canada. This is derived from here.

Six years after the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were released, the federal government finally declared Sept. 30 a day to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.   The fact that the government will still not take the step to make it a national statutory holiday — such as Good Friday, or Canada Day — tells us that the government is still dragging its feet.  In fact, by Dec. 2021, only 13 of the 94  recommendations have been implemented.  As the Yellowhead Institute’s report Calls to Action Accountability: A 2021 Status Update on Reconciliation noted “… unfortunately, Indigenous peoples’ needs are still not the ones that are being met.”  It seems as though the Canadian government is still giving the back of its hand to Indigenous people. 

Featured image: Atheana Picha | Aritzia’s Every Child Matters T-shirt designed by Atheana Picha (Aritzia.com)

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