Mixed feelings on campus regarding the National Day of Mourning

Student opinions on how Mt. A. handled September 19

There were many mixed reviews when it was announced that classes would not be canceled on September 19, 2022, which was the National Day of Mourning to commemorate the passing of Canada’s longest-reigning sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8.

The holiday was announced by Justin Trudeau on September 13 and was described as “an opportunity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast to commemorate Her Majesty” on the Prime Minister’s official website. There, it is described as a one-time National Day of Mourning for the federal public service, meaning that provincial government officials could dictate whether they recognized the holiday. On the same day, the government of New Brunswick proclaimed September 19 as a one-time provincial holiday but declared that it would be optional for private sector businesses and employers.

On September 14, Mt. A. students and faculty received an email from President Jean-Paul Boudreau announcing that the university had decided to remain open on September 19. All other schools in New Brunswick, including colleges, universities, and the anglophone and francophone school systems, decided to cancel classes and close their campuses on the National Day of Mourning. Some universities reopened at noon so that students and staff had the opportunity to observe the holiday while preserving academic time.

“I believe that it was disrespectful for [Mt. A.] to have remained open. I do believe that it would have better served the university to stay closed,” says one student, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Even though the student clarified that they were not emotionally affected by the Queen’s death, they still “considered the work that the Queen did for the past 70 years.” They mentioned that September 19 was incredibly meaningful to people who adore royalty and that not all professors were accommodating for those who needed to mourn. When the student contacted a professor regarding missing class out of respect, the professor replied that their grades would be affected. The student therefore attended the lecture, where they felt called out and insulted for wanting to pay their respects to the Queen; the professor reportedly implied that the students who were not in attendance due to mourning were monarchists.

The student added that “there was no given reason as to why we would stay open when nothing else was. With a concrete reason not given, our minds were left up to imagination.” The student believes that remaining open on September 19 “was solely to make a stand against Her Majesty’s colonial background.” They concluded by stating: “For a school who cannot divest, nor can they implement sexual violence policy, nor can they provide proper accessibility for persons with disabilities, they don’t gain any respect from me for taking a stand against the Queen.”

Another student, who also wishes to remain anonymous, had another opinion about Mt. A.’s procedure surrounding the death of the Queen. “Queen Elizabeth had an influence in the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, and therefore, while we can honour the death of a monarch, we can do so without an entire day off,” they elaborated. Rather than closing campus as a reaction to the Queen’s death, the student feels it is more appropriate to shut down campus on September 30, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation seeks to acknowledge those affected by Canada’s residential schools and shed light on the events so we can continue on the path towards reconciliation. It was first declared a provincial holiday last year, which was also the first time Mt. A. decided to recognize the day.

The student explained that for Indigenous students like themselves, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a day to mourn lost lives and reclaim traditions and culture. The student added that on September 30, they will smudge their house, take a moment of silence, and “reflect on the fact that if it wasn’t for enfranchisement and residential schools, [they] would have been raised knowing [their] culture and traditions.”

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