Many Manitoba municipalities closing to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Many municipalities around Manitoba will close their offices in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.

The Manitoba Municipal Administrators Association, which represents municipal workers in the province, surveyed 137 member municipalities to see how they planned to mark Sept. 30.

They received 86 responses, with 81 saying they would be closing and five saying they would remain open, said executive director Adrienne Bestland.

Some municipal offices will fly flags at half-mast, while others will light their buildings and monuments orange in recognition of the day.

The federal government passed legislation in May to create the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, after hundreds of unmarked burial sites were found at the sites of several former residential schools across Canada.

The Manitoba government is also closing non-essential offices and closing schools that day.

The five Manitoba communities who said their offices remain open on Thursday are the Municipality of Ritchot, the Town of Niverville, the Town of Altona, the Town of Leaf Rapids and the Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie.

However, after responding to the survey, Ritchot Mayor Chris Ewen said the town’s administration informed council that long-standing municipal policy required it to give staff all statutory holidays off.

Tax season conflict

Originally, the municipality had planned to stay open because the timing of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation conflicted with their scheduled tax season.

“This was a tough decision by council, and it just came down to how fast we had to make the decision,” he said. 

In addition to closing its offices, the community will fly its flags at half-mast, and has planned a walking tour of parks in four communities — Ile des Chenes, Grande Pointe, Ste. Agathe and Ste. Adolphe. 

Books by Indigenous authors will be set out in public places where people can go and read about the experiences of Indigenous people.

Niverville Mayor Myron Dyck also said the decision to remain open this year came down to the scheduling of the town’s tax season.

“But from this year forward, as this will be ongoing, we will be changing our tax billing date to not be Sept. 30,” Dyck said.

A newly opened recreation centre in the community will soon include a local museum “to be able to honour all the people that have been part of this area around us, including our Indigenous friends and neighbours,” Dyck said.

The museum had been planned before the federal government created the Sept. 30 holiday, Dyck said.

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