LAC LA BICHE – On Tuesday, Lac La Biche council unanimously voted to accept Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, making it a statutory holiday in Lac La Biche County municipal offices.
The day will be recognized by Lac La Biche County and staff each year moving forward to acknowledge and honour the survivors, their families and communities in remembrance of the history of the residential schools.
The newly designated national holiday was passed by the federal government earlier in June, and currently, only applies to federally regulated workers in the public and private sector.
Although the last day of September is no longer considered a working day for federal employees, that is not necessarily the case for school districts, municipal, provincial or privately owned or regulated business. It remains up to individual employers whether they wish to implement the federal holiday or participate in alternative reflective activities on that day.
During the council meeting, Human Resource director Kashif Ijaz stated, “We reached out to 25 other municipalities and most of them are honouring the day, but not all have decided how that will play out... around 16 are still reviewing their options and making a decision.”
In the Lakeland region, some municipalities and school districts have already accepted National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday, including the MD of Bonnyville.
With council’s approval and endorsement of the Sept. 30 holiday, County administration will reach out to partnering organizations such as the Native Friendship Centre and Portage College as well as, nearby First Nations and Métis settlements to discuss the possibility of organizing an event or ceremony on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Additional measure taken by the County could include the lowering of flags to half-mast for the day and the inclusion of territory and land acknowledgements as common practice during council meetings and other public forums. The possibility of hanging orange banners throughout the county’s hamlets was also put forward by Coun. Colin Cote after receiving the suggestion from a Lac La Biche resident. This option will be discussed by administration’s senior management team at a later time.
In the coming weeks, County administration will determine what implications declaring Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday will have on the operations of municipal facilities.