Last week Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) DCL 901 launched a petition asking Queen’s University to make September 30th, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday. The Government of Canada announced September 30th as a statutory federal holiday which was previously known as Orange Shirt Day.
“This is an important issue since it is the 80th call to action set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee as part of the way to address the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation,” said Astrid Hobill, President Public Service Alliance of Canada Local 901 (PSAC Local 901)
The Government of Ontario did not recognize this day provincially, however, PSAC hopes to have Queen’s University acknowledge the importance of this day and build community with Indigenous nations and advance goals of reconciliation.
“We are trying to ensure it reaches more people by building solidarity with other union and different groups around campus and the wider Kingston community – asking them to share it and get others to sign on,” said Hobill.
Queen’s University has the ability to mark its own statutory holidays. Other universities that have canceled all classes for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation 2021 include Simon Fraser University, the University of Calgary, and the University of Winnipeg. Queen’s would be one of the leaders in following the same course of action if a petition is passed.
If marked a statutory holiday, September 30th would provide staff, students, and faculty the time to observe events and to have a day that focuses on a day to commemorate and reflect on the horrific legacy left by residential schools and serve also as a day to uplift and honor survivors.
“Queen’s, an institution on the territory of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee people, that has perpetuated colonial violence and erasure and where there has recently continued to be the site of hate and vandalism towards indigenous communities, the recognition of this day would be one small step in addressing the harm that this institution has perpetuated. This would be a concrete commitment from the school to address this legacy,” said Hobill.
PSAC represents 2000 Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Research Assistants, Postdoctoral Scholars at Queen’s University. So far, 200 members have signed the petition, and the goal is to reach 400.
“With the return to campus and adapting to everything with COVID- there is a lot going on and we have had a bit more difficulty reaching undergrads so far, however, we will now be collaborating with the Social Issues commissioner from the AMS in order to get it out to the wider community,” said Hobill.
Queen’s University’s statement explains that due to the timing of the government’s announcement surrounding the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation Day, Queen’s University could not accommodate a cancellation of classes this year.
“However, we will be marking the day with events and reflection and are encouraging flexibility within our community, so people are able to participate in activities throughout the day. Queen’s Chancellor, His Honour Murray Sinclair has endorsed the University’s plan for 2021, with a commitment of rethinking commemoration of the Federal holiday in future years” statement from Queen’s University