Public sector unions are decrying the lack of initiative by the City of Windsor’s municipal government in not recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday on September 30.

Three CUPE Locals joined the Windsor Professional Fire Fighters Association (WPFFA) Local 455 in urging the municipal Windsor government to adopt the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action number 80, which called for a statutory holiday to “honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”

“We believe that people and governments across Canada must take this time to reflect on the legacy of residential schools and commit to ending the cycle of ongoing colonialism,” said David Petten, president of CUPE Local 543, the union that represents nearly 1,200 City of Windsor inside workers. 

Petten’s sentiments were echoed by other Windsor union leaders: Rob Kolody, president of CUPE 82, representing City of Windsor inside municipal workers; Dan Rutherford, president of CUPE 2067 that represents Windsor Public Library workers; and Kris Matton, president of WPFFA. 

“The Windsor Firefighters stand in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples in pursuit of justice. We call on the City of Windsor municipal government to declare the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday,” Matton said.

The recently established federal statutory holiday marking the atrocities of the residential school system does not apply to municipalities in Ontario due to the provincial government’s refusal to declare a public holiday.

However, the unions are pointing out that municipal governments can voluntarily recognize a statutory holiday on the occasion, pointing to the initiative of several municipalities in British Columbia.

“We are mindful that a public holiday alone will not lead to systemic changes, but we believe that an annual reminder about the legacy of residential schools complemented by further education and action are necessary steps in the path towards reconciliation,” said Kolody, whose local union represents City of Windsor’s outside workers.

CUPE participating in Every Child Matters Healing Walk

On Thursday, CUPE Locals will be participating in local Windsor event – Every Child Matters Healing Walk, organized by the St. Clair College Indigenous Student Services, Can-Am Urban Native Non-Profit Homes and University of Windsor Aboriginal Education Centre.

“Our union is fully supportive of Indigenous communities and other organizations taking meaningful steps towards reconciliation and participating in this event is part of that process,” Petten said. “But due to it being a regular working day, most of our union members won’t be at the Healing Walk.”

However, the City of Windsor acquiesced to CUPE 543’s request to provide time off for Indigenous members who wish to attend the event, the cost of which is being borne by the union.