New Brunswick

Fredericton to make Truth and Reconciliation Day a holiday, councillor says province should too

Council unanimously approves making Sept. 30 a municipal holiday, calling it an important move toward reconciliation.

Council unanimously approves making Sept. 30 a municipal holiday for city staff

City council voted to make Truth and Reconciliation Day a municipal holiday.

Truth and Reconciliation Day will be a municipal holiday for city staff in Fredericton after council voted unanimously in favour of honouring the federal holiday.

And council could be asked to consider encouraging the province to follow suit.

Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers said it was important to acknowledge the significance of the day, which takes place on Sept. 30.

"The importance is just to show our commitment ... to the Indigenous peoples that live in our city and in our region, and to acknowledge the importance of this day as a day of reflection and and remembering and learning," Rogers said in an interview after the council meeting on Monday night. 

New Brunswick decided not to make Truth and Reconciliation Day a provincial holiday, meaning provincial services, including schools, will be open on Sept. 30. 

Deputy Mayor Greg Ericson said he'd like to see council go a step further in encouraging the province to adopt the holiday. 

"I'm very excited that we've had an opportunity here to put into action one of the 94 calls to action represented by the Truth and Reconciliation commission's work," he said. 

Ericson, who is also the chair of the governance and civic engagement committee, said he will "create some space" on the committee's next meeting agenda to discuss ways to advocate making the day a provincial holiday. 

"It would be very consistent with the 94 calls to action," Ericson said. 

He noted that recommendation 80 of the 94 recommendations "very clearly" says that the federal, provincial and municipal governments should all declare a statutory holiday.

Several other provinces, including Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador have declared Sept. 30 a holiday.

"I haven't seen reasons shared by the province to explain why they haven't done that,"  Ericson told reporters after the meeting. "If they have a better plan and a more significant vision, I would love to hear it."

Greg Ericson, deputy mayor, wants to encourage the province to make Truth and Reconciliation Day a provincial holiday. (Gary Moore/CBC file photo)

Rogers noted that she felt it was up to the province to decide for itself.

"We were very committed to following through on the recommendation from Truth and Reconciliation and we felt very strongly that it's the right thing to do," she said. "So we made that decision for our municipality and I think every level of government needs to look within and make that decision on their own."

Other municipalities, including Moncton, Saint John and Campbellton, have also decided to make the day a municipal holiday. 

Campbellton Mayor Ian Comeau called the decision, approved by council Monday night, an important move toward  reconciliation.

"We have neighbours in Listuguj which are our friends, and we believe that this is important," Comeau said Monday night.  

"It's one of the recommendations. And I think we'll be taking this step to recognize the importance of honouring First Nations, Inuit, residential school survivors and their families and communities."

Comeau said the current spread of COVID-19 in the region means there won't be anything planned in the city, but he encouraged people to take time on that day to reflect. 

In Fredericton, City Hall will be lit up with orange lights from Sept. 27-30. A Wolastoqey flag will be raised on Thursday, the 30th, and staff will be given orange T-shirts to wear in honour of the memory of children who were sent away to residential schools.

Essential services such as transit will be operating on Sept. 30.