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Mount Royal University will remain open on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

East gate of Mount Royal University in southwest Calgary. (File) East gate of Mount Royal University in southwest Calgary. (File)

Mount Royal University stands alone amongst Calgary's largest post-secondary institutions as the only one that will be open for classes on Thursday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

This year marks the first time the statutory holiday has ever been held.

The federal government established it as a way to honour the children lost at -- and the survivors of – residential schools, as well as their families and communities. 

"Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process," a statement on the federal government's website says. 

Now, both the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day are held on Sept. 30. 

It's in place for all federal employees and federally regulated workplaces. 

In Calgary, The University of Calgary, SAIT, Bow Valley College and the Alberta University of the Arts will all be closed to observe the holiday, as will the University of Lethbridge

MRU will remain open, but said in a statement to CTV News it is "creating and coordinating many meaningful activities for the whole campus community to participate in." 

"We actually advocated to not have the campus closed for Truth and Reconciliation Day,” said Rachel Timmermans, vice president external of the MRU Students’ Association. 

"The reason for this was because we've been hearing from a lot of Indigenous students that they want the campus community to be more aware about residential schools and what it really means to be walking towards reconciliation – and what that continuous project looks like." 

"We didn't think it would be the best use of students' time to just have the day off from school,” Timmermans said. "We really encouraged Mount Royal to think about how they wanted to address (that day) and whether or not they just wanted to allow this to be a day off, or if they wanted to help facilitate this being a day for learning and reflection." 

Instead of closing, MRU will hold a Journey to Indigenization, a series of activities taking place leading up to and continuing on after Sept. 30. 

MRU said the day will still be used as "an opportunity for us all to acknowledge, reflect and learn about the history and pain of residential schools and to consider how we can advance reconciliation in our lives and work."

"We have lots planned, it's quite a beautiful event,” said Linda Many Guns, associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization.

"We've stayed open at Mount Royal University, and we've stayed open very deliberately…So we can learn from one another. 

“This isn't just open to faculty and students, this is open to every single person on campus. The university has arranged schedules so staff can take part – anybody can take part – because this is about learning collectively in order to make change.

"We're intent on beginning this journey on Indigenization and decolonization. 

"Mount Royal has already been engaged in delivering indigenized courses and I've just been so impressed with some of the incredible ways that decolonization is actually transforming the way classes are being taught,” Many Guns added. 

MRU is encouraging everyone to wear orange on Sept. 30 as a way to “support the education of residential schools in Canada and honour the loss of First Nation, Inuit and Métis children who didn’t make it home.”

The university will be selling orange Every Child Matters T-shirts at the Cougars Campus Store, with proceeds going to the Orange Shirt Society and the Indigenous Student Emergency Fund.  

To commemorate Orange Shirt Day, MRU will light the campus in orange. 

MRU will also be lowering flags to half-mast on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Sisters in Spirit Day (Oct. 4) to "acknowledge and honour the lives lost through residential schools and the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people." 

A complete list of activities is available on MRU's website.

Though they will be closed on Sept. 30, SAIT, the U of C and AUArts will still be hosting Orange Shirt Day events virtually. Top Stories

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