Most municipalities in the region will mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday, with commemorative events, educational opportunities, and more planned.
"I think that often the view is that (reconciliation) is a federal responsibility," Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) president Paul McLauchlin told Taproot. "But we make land-use decisions as rural municipal leaders that often can impact Indigenous rights and interests, and we need to recognize that they are partners on the landscape."
RMA shared a list of ideas of what municipalities can do to honour the day and to reflect on the legacy of residential schools. In addition to recognizing it as a statutory holiday, one suggestion was to participate in the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation's online events, scheduled from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1.
The RMA has also partnered with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to provide workshops about Canada's history and the municipal role in reconciliation.
The new federal holiday was announced in June in response to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. The call urged the federal government to establish the day to "ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process."
While Sept. 30 was declared a federal statutory holiday, the Government of Alberta left the decision of whether to mark the day up to individual organizations and employers in the province. Many Edmonton region municipalities are providing a paid day of leave for staff and some school boards are also giving students the day off, but McLauchlin said people shouldn't talk about Sept. 30 as a "holiday."
"The word holiday is not appropriate for this discussion," he said. "It needs to be a day that is a recognition of understanding and learning, and educating yourself, and really not just talk but going down that journey of action."
The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board also released a statement on the importance of recognizing the day, adding that it is "committed to building meaningful, long-lasting relationships with and learning from Indigenous communities in the region."