The Canadian Government has proclaimed September 30 as National Day of Recognition for Truth and Reconciliation.  The purpose of this day is to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential institutions where tens of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend segregated institutions to eliminate their indigenous languages and culture.

To be clear the union states that September 30 is a recognized holiday under our Collective Agreements and that all members should be either away from work or, if they are required to work, (and this should be only in very few circumstances) must be paid the appropriate holiday premium.  However, both the Ontario Sheet Metal Contractors Association (OSMCA) and the Electrical Power Systems Contractors Association (EPSCA) do not agree that our Collective Agreements recognize September 30 as a holiday.  That means that as of now, members working in EPSCA and in ICI Sheet Metal will be required to go to work on September 30.  In ICI Roofing the Employers have agreed to honour September 30 as a holiday.

If our employers in EPSCA and ICI Sheet Metal continue to choose to ignore the National Day of Recognition for Truth and Reconciliation, we will be grieving them for this failure.  In our view technical and superficial legal arguments about whether the language in various collective agreements apply, or not, are missing the point.  Our Union intends to honour this day and we expect our employer partners to do the right thing and support the National Day of Recognition for Truth and Reconciliation.

The Union notes that Ontario’s three Chief Justices have recently issued a statement emphasizing the importance of this day.  In the circumstances they have elected to keep the Court of Appeal of Ontario, Superior Court of Justice, and Ontario Court of Justice closed on September 30 regardless of whether the Ontario Government has proclaimed provincial legislation to mirror the federal legislation.

In making this determination the Courts stated:

This day calls upon all of us to reflect on the importance of reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Canada.

You may be wondering how a day away from the workplace can recognize the horrors of the residential institution systems. On its own it cannot.  But this day is a good start.  It is a first step to recognize Canada’s past and ongoing failures, in the hope sometime soon we can make meaningful change.  In our view it is up to each and every member of our union to make the most of this day.

The Ontario Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers’ Conference encourages members to use the day to educate themselves.  Attend an event in your community, in person or virtually and familiarize themselves with the Truth and Reconciliation Report.  These first steps can lead to the beginning of meaningful change that all of us need to commit to.