Reflecting on Truth and Reconciliation


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When I attended law school at the University of Manitoba, I worked for a local law firm.  My principal was representing an Indigenous community in Northern Manitoba in a dispute regarding the government’s obligations arising from the decision to relocate the community to accommodate a hydro-electric generating facility.  The dispute was about the government’s failure to provide potable water in the new location – a promise that was made in exchange for the community’s agreement to move.  I don’t know how the case was resolved, or if it was resolved.

Today, I am reflecting upon that time in my life and how little I knew about this history of Canada and its relationship with First Nations.  At that point I had five years of Canadian post-secondary education, but I had no idea of the Truth – the Truth about the lack of clean water, residential schools, cultural genocide, missing and murdered women or the 60’s scoop.

I am grateful for the testimonies of all of those who suffered these indignities. They have shared their stories to make sure that the Truth is known, and the process of Reconciliation can begin. I am also grateful for the work of the many lawyers and Indigenous activists who fight to bring the Truth to light.  My alma mater is now host to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, where the truths of the residential school experience will be honoured and kept safe for future generations.   I just wish it had been there sooner.

Many of the wrongs that have been perpetrated against Canada’s First Nations are not merely historical events, but ongoing violations. Reconciliation is an ongoing process. Meaningful changes have to be made.

In preparing this month’s newsletter, I was excited to learn that there is a timely new arbitration case about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.  However, my excitement was quickly replaced by consternation.  The outcome of the case was predictable.  Its value to Truth and Reconciliation, on the other hand, I will let the readers decide for themselves.


Vaughan Public Library Board v Canadian Union of Public Employees, Locals 905.17 (Part-time and Casual) and 905.18 (Full-time)

CUPE filed a grievance against the Vaughan Public Library Board (“the Library”) claiming that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation should be recognized as a paid holiday under the parties’ collective agreement. The collective agreement lists the employees’ paid holidays, including “any other day proclaimed as a holiday by the federal, provincial or municipal governments.”

At the last round of collective bargaining, CUPE proposed that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation be recognized by the Library, but ultimately withdrew the proposal to pursue the issue through arbitration based on the existing collective agreement language.

The Library argued that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation should be a “day of learning” rather than a “day off”, and that it devoted the day to educational programs promoting Frist Nations’ history and cultural history. The Library also argued that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation should be treated like Remembrance Day, which is a federally recognized holiday not observed by the Library as a paid day off.

The arbitrator found that, per the terms of the collective agreement, the Library was obligated to give its employees a paid holiday on any newly recognized federal holidays, including the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.  Unfortunately, the merits of a day of learning, as opposed to a paid day off, were not relevant to the interpretation of the collective  agreement.  The Vaughan Public Library locations are therefore closed today.  Luckily, there are plenty of on-line resources available on their website.

The article in this update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hunter Liberatore Law LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hunter Liberatore Law LLP. ©

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