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In June, the federal government officially declared September 30th as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and established it as a new statutory holiday for all federally regulated employees. This day also coincides with Orange Shirt Day – a day on which people honour residential school survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad who had her orange shirt taken away on the first day of school.

While not mandated to do so, quite a few provincially regulated institutions across Canada, both in the public and private sector, have confirmed they will honour the day by closing their offices. Many other employers have decided to remain open and to seek other ways in which they could mark this important day.

Determining how to honour this day is a very personal one for companies as a whole and for each individual employee. As organizations plan to make a business decision, here are some questions to consider:

  • Is showing support to the Indigenous community important to your business and the customers your serve?
  • Do you want to show your support collectively as an organization, or would you rather give your employees the opportunity to personally mark the day in a manner that is meaningful to them?
  • Does it have to be a day off? Would showing support in other ways be meaningful for you and your organization? Making a donation to a worthy cause, wearing an orange shirt, visiting an Indigenous museum or attending an Indigenous event in your local community to learn more are all good options as well.
  • Will your plans for commemoration this year be sustainable in future years? Doing something this year will mean committing to something next year and beyond.

Some employers are choosing to use the day to learn and reflect on the history and ongoing legacy of the Indian residential school system and to commemorate survivors. Here are some suggestions to help you plan for your learning journey:

For us at Engaged HR, we want to acknowledge that people are unique and there is no need to make others just like us. Residential schools and the treatment of indigenous Peoples over our history has done the exact opposite of this. So, to further our belief that we are all unique individuals, and we all have different ways that we express ourselves and feel connected to our community, we have created an “Engaged for Good Day” for our employees. Each employee has one paid day off per year so that they can connect with their community. Many of our staff are taking September 30th off to participate in Truth and Reconciliation events in their community. Other staff are taking a different day off to support a different cause. This is what “Engaged for Good Day” is about – finding a way to give back, to support others and to connect in a way that feeds you and your uniqueness.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Look inward, personally, and organizationally, and find the right path for you and your workplace. When you find that path, we’d love to learn from you!


Looking to learn more about other HR topics? Check out our Art of HR series!

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