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Danny Cavanagh: September 30 should be a paid holiday for all

Shubenacadie Residential School

For the first time, September 30 is a federal holiday: Truth and Reconciliation Day

This is long overdue. The federal government made this day a paid holiday in the federal sector to be observed as a day of reflection on our relationship with the Indigenous peoples in our communities, provinces and country.

The Nova Scotia Government has committed to making September 30 Truth and Reconciliation Day for provincial workers, but stopped short of making it a paid holiday for everyone.

The first peoples of this land have endured atrocities and hardship throughout their history.  Too often, we are learning about this history of residential schools and the premeditated suppression of languages and customs. Truth and Reconciliation means that we must recognize the land theft and the eradication of much aboriginal history. Truth and Reconciliation means we are finally beginning to face the reality of that history, to stand up to the truth that Indigenous people have always known. It’s been a long time, but Truth and Reconciliation is barely taking hold with much to do to correct the injustices of History. 

Let’s be clear that September 30 is more than a question of becoming a paid holiday. It’s a day to commemorate Truth and Reconciliation. Making it paid will give it much more weight and meaning. What we see in Nova Scotia is a half measure, a sound bite asking people to use the day to recognize how we, the colonizers, can understand the truth and begin to do right on our historical wrongs through recognition by learning and understanding.

On September 30, the Federal government took a small step to make it a paid holiday, to give us all time to reflect on our past, present, and future relationship with Indigenous peoples.

If the provincial government believes in taking bold action, then we say make September 30 a paid holiday for all its workers.

We demand that as a step on the long road to Reconciliation, the government of Nova Scotia take a further step and institute September 30 as a paid holiday for all workers.

Together, we can commemorate Truth and Reconciliation Day as a day of reflection on the historical injustices faced by Indigenous peoples and process true Reconciliation.  It should not be left to employers to decide.

As union members, we know that we can learn much from Indigenous resistance, resilience, diversity, and vibrancy. We aim to create an organization where workers can achieve equality and struggle together, shoulder to shoulder, to build justice.

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

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