ATHABASCA — The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is now an official Athabasca County holiday.
At the regular meeting Sept. 14, council chose to honour the day after discussion about what other entities did and how to ensure it wasn’t just another day off, as well as moving their meeting scheduled Sept. 30 to the day before to ensure no conflicts.
“We’re bringing this to council for consideration,” said interim CAO Dawn Phillips. “There are a couple options there; one would be to establish it as a holiday and adjust our policy … to include the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation as a paid holiday for employees; you can accept it as information just encouraging staff to take time to reflect the legacy of residential schools.”
The Town of Athabasca has designated the day as holiday and requested if Athabasca County does not, to consider moving their scheduled Sept. 30 meeting to Sept. 29 or another day as it is a joint meeting with the Town regarding the intermunicipal development plan (IDP).
“I’d like to honour the day somehow, I think it’s very important,” said Coun. Christi Bilsky. “Seeing as the province hasn’t stepped up and recognized it, I don’t know that we should either. I’d like to follow the provincial legislation, but I’d also like to do something special to recognize the day.”
Coun. Dwayne Rawson pointed out Aspen View Public Schools has also designated the day as a holiday with no school for staff or students.
“Athabasca County does lie within Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 territory and I think it would be a mistake not to do this,” said reeve Larry Armfelt. “This is a very serious thing, not just for the Native population, but to everybody else, so I would go along with adjusting this.”
Bilsky reiterated she would prefer action over taking the day as a holiday.
“I do see in the report about lowering the flag; encourage staff to take time to reflect and recognize,” she said. “I just don’t want to lose that part of it.”
Armfelt added he hoped there would be some sort of event planned for municipalities and residents to take part in to recognize the day, not unlike Remembrance Day.
Councillors Travais Johnson and Dennis Willcott concurred there should be something more substantial planned for the community to take part in, but Phillips cautioned it may be too short of notice to organize something for this year with little time before it occurs, but the flags will be lowered to half-mast for the day.
Coun. Doris Splane suggested there also be something at the joint Athabasca County and Town of Athabasca meeting Sept. 29.
“County council now goes to (Sept. 29) and (Sept. 30) is a holiday with some sort of program to recognize Truth and Reconciliation Day,” said Armfelt.