• Austin Zacharko

Why Sept 30th Matters

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

For the first time in Canada's History, a national holiday will be observed on Sept 30th. This week on the SOMBO blog we will be talking about the difference between Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, why not everybody has the day off of work, how to do more than just wear an orange shirt, and how sustainability is linked to indigenous people in Canada.

As a member of the Metis Nation of Alberta, I feel proud to know that my family is resilient, powerful, and I have a community of indigenous friends that spans the country. As I look to make my own mark on the world, I have been able to follow the path of others who have gone before me. Each one of them, slowly helping to break the glass ceiling that is cracking - but not broken yet. I feel especially energized thinking about my Great-Uncle Douglas Cardinal & my Great-Aunt Joane Cardinal-Schubert who have and were able to make progress during times of oppression - and that now I can do great things too.

Aren't Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation the Same Thing?

While both days will occur on Sept 30th, it is important to know that Orange Shirt Day is an indigenous-led grassroots project that aims to support the survivors of, and educate others about Indian residential schools. On the other hand, National Truth and Reconciliation Day is a federal holiday observed with the goal of allowing people to have time to reflect and learn about Canada's past with indigenous peoples - specifically residential schools - and how to grow forward together.

It could be said that the goal of both titles is the same. In fact, Sept 30th was chosen as the federal holiday because of the importance of this day to indigenous peoples across Canada.

Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day is a project to honor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad and her story. On her first day at a residential school, her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year-old girl.

The annual Orange Shirt Day on September 30th opens the door to the global conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools. The date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year.

Learn more about orange shirt day at their website here.

Why do only certain people have Sept 30th off of Work?

In thanks to our federal government, Canada is observing its first federal statutory holiday on Sept 30th - Truth and Reconciliation Day. This means that all Canadian banks, postal workers, and federal government staffers will have the day off.

It is up to each provincial government to determine if the day should be observed as a holiday in their province. Unfortunately, the majority of Canadian provinces decided against making it a statutory holiday. The only provinces which have made it a holiday are: Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories.

In provinces where the day has not been granted a statutory holiday, employers have the option of providing their staff with a paid day off to observe the day. This means for the majority of Canadians, their ability to observe this day of reflection depends on how highly their company values indigenous peoples. At the end of the day, corporations in these provinces have a choice to make. They can provide people with a day off and lose 1 of the 250 working days in a year - about 0.4% of the available working time in the year. Or they can choose to continue on working.

To the executives and boards of companies that have decided not to provide their employees with the day off of work. I would urge you to reflect on your values.

To those who have to work on Sept 30th. I urge you to have a conversation with your manager or an individual in HR about why this decision by your company makes you disappointed in the company.

To those who are able to have the day off. Spend it well. Learn, understand, connect, give back.

How to do more than wear an orange shirt.

While wearing an Orange Shirt is great, and support for a cause is important - if that's all you're doing, I'm excited to let you know that you can (and should) do more!

  • Don't go shopping, or use a businesses service on Sept 30th.

  • Show businesses that have stayed open that they have made a mistake. There is no cultural or religious reason for them not to observe this day.

  • Educate yourself on Residential Schools and the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada

  • The University of Alberta has a free online course to take.

  • Attend an in-person or online event hosted by Indigenous Peoples on Sept 30th

  • A full schedule of online events can be found here

  • Understand and Act on what the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action are

  • You can find the 94 Calls to Action here

  • Read about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

  • You can learn more about and read UNDRIP here

  • Support Indigenous Peoples financially

  • Consider donating to an indigenous serving charity or non-profit.

  • Consider purchasing goods or services from an indigenous-led business.

  • Read books and stories by Indigenous Authors

  • CBC has a great list here

  • Be an Ally every day - Not just on one day.

  • Above all else - supporting indigenous people one day a year is not enough. If we want to see the change we need to support each other every day.

Why Supporting Indigenous Peoples is Sustainable

I think it's more than fair to say that just like every other person, indigenous people should be provided with basic rights. Unfortunately at this point in time in Canada, Indigenous people lack numerous United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Some of the least developed UN SDG's for Indigenous Peoples in Canada include:

Need I go on. . .

At the end of the day - every person deserves to have these goals to realized for them. And it should not matter your race, religion, ethnicity, class, or physical location on this earth. We all deserve a sustainable life. We all should be working harder to reduce these inequalities.

A cool Sustainability Project that helps Indigenous Communities

SOME fun stuff - I like fun stuff. Ending things off on a happy note is always the best way to go!

Because of the remote physical location of many northern indigenous communities they run off of the North American power grid. Historically this has meant that these communities have relied on shipments of diesel to keep high polluting generators running to provide them with power.

The government of Canada recently announced that over projects in the Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative (IODI) are moving to a second phase. These projects will now work to create community energy plans, deliver training, and develop an implementation plan. In total, the IODI is a $20 million project which hopes to reduce the number of communities reliant on diesel in Canada.


I went to go buy an orange shirt the other day - I wasn't able to - they're sold out - at five different stores. Not a bad problem to have.

Thanks for reading along this week! Have a great day. Come check out this week's jobs on Friday - there are some cool ones!


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