Workers surprised by reversal of approach from last year
CALGARY—The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) is refusing to recognize the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory day for workers to reflect, a reversal of its approach last year.
“It’s difficult to understand why SAIT no longer thinks it’s appropriate to take the day to contemplate the need for truth and reconciliation,” says Bobby-Joe Borodey, vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents 95,000 workers.
“Even though classes have been cancelled on Sept. 30 so students can engage fully in the national day, workers are being instructed to come to work. It makes no sense,” says Borodey, who is chair of the union’s Human Rights Committee. “Does SAIT really think there has been enough truth, enough reconciliation in the last year? What has changed in the last 12 months?”
In 2021, SAIT took longer than other Alberta post-secondary institutions to decide to recognize the day as a statutory holiday. Once again, it has delayed its decision for this year until the last minute.
“AUPE members have been told they can attend truth-and-reconciliation events, but those events have to be approved by managers and members must be at work before and after the events,” says Borodey.
In an email to staff, SAIT said it had consulted Indigenous stakeholders and added: “Those stakeholders would like to see the SAIT community use the day to pause, reflect and learn about Truth and Reconciliation.”
Borodey says: “SAIT is ignoring its own stakeholder consultations. Those stakeholders said they wanted people to ‘use the day,’ not a tiny part of the day. SAIT, it seems, thinks truth and reconciliation can be achieved in an hour or so.”
AUPE is calling on SAIT to rethink its decision and mark the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday.
“We can think of no good reason to change from last year or to treat students differently from workers. Canada will not achieve truth and reconciliation as long as institutions like SAIT continue to downplay the seriousness of what happened to Indigenous people in this country and what we need to do to move forward,” says Borodey.
Bobby-Joe Borodey is available for comment.
Please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, at 403-831-4394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.