Rocky View Schools (RVS) has officially recognized the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in its 2021-22 calendar, making Sept. 30 a non-instructional day that will be treated as other statutory holidays for staff and students this school year.
The decision was made during the RVS Board of Trustee’s first regular meeting of the school year on Sept. 9, when trustees acknowledged the importance the proposed holiday holds in recognizing the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada. The decision acts as part of the public school division’s commitment to truth and reconciliation.
According to Superintendent Greg Luterbach, a number of school districts in the province have already approved the holiday in their calendars, while several nearby divisions are making a decision on the matter this week.
“It’s certainly not ideal that we’d be making this change now that would be impacting families in three weeks from today,” he said. “But I think it’s the administration’s belief that it is important to support the intent of this day.
“[It’s important] to acknowledge, reflect, and observe truth and reconciliation, the impact of residential schools, and to honour the survivors, their families and communities.”
The federal government passed Bill C-5, legislation establishing a new federal holiday for federally regulated employees, on Aug. 3. The legislation stated the holiday would be observed on Sept. 30, beginning in 2021.
The legislative action fulfils the government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action No. 80, which calls for the “establishment of a statutory holiday to honour survivors of residential schools, 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.”
Luterbach said at the time RVS was made award of the new statutory holiday, the division’s staff reached out to Alberta Education for guidance. As it is a federal holiday, it does not automatically apply to provincially regulated employees, such as school divisions in Alberta.
Ward 2 Trustee Patty Sproule, who brought the motion forward to fellow trustees, said she hopes staff and students take the day as an opportunity to reflect on the past.
“I regret that it’s having to be done with such little notice to our families to prepare for the day, but I think it’s very important that we observe this day,” she said. “I’m glad to see there is finally a day to observe and remember what has happened through residential schools and other atrocities that have occurred over the years.
“[It’s important] that we pause to take the time to remember and understand and learn more so that we make sure they never happen again.”
Similarly, Melyssa Bowen, trustee for Ward 3, said she sees the statutory holiday as a call to action to commemorate the history of residential schools.
“To honour survivors and all Indigenous peoples as they have been impacted by residential schools especially,” she said. “I see this as being valuable in our learning environments and I’m looking forward to Sept. 30 and the learning around this Day of Truth and Reconciliation develops in the coming years.”
Ward 5 Trustee Judi Hunter agreed, adding she sees the marking of this day in the school calendar as a historic event.
“Recognizing the history of Canada and some of it quite troubled and part of our nation building,” she said. “I look forward to the ways in which we can enhance this day of recognition.”
Board Chair and Ward 6 Trustee Fiona Gilbert said as a school division, she hopes RVS will continue to advocate for the holiday to be recognized at the provincial level as well as the federal level.
“So, it’s not just on the schools, but it is something that does need to be recognized provincially, and maybe that will still yet come,” she said.
Follow me on Twitter @carmenrcundy