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Celebrating National Aboriginal Day

National Aboriginal Day

Image: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

On June 21, National Aboriginal Day is celebrated in Canada. This day of recognition and celebration was established to honour the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

The establishment of National Aboriginal Day

National Aboriginal Day was the outcome of consultations and statements of support made by various Indigenous groups. Through the Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as National Aboriginal Day, National Aboriginal Day was announced in 1996 by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc.

National Aboriginal Day as a public (statutory) holiday

The Northwest Territories and Yukon are currently the only two jurisdictions in Canada that recognize June 21 as a statutory holiday.

In 2001, the National Aboriginal Day Act was passed, making the Northwest Territories the first jurisdiction in Canada to recognize June 21 as a statutory holiday.

In Northwest Territories, to qualify for statutory holiday pay there are several conditions employees are required to meet:

  • An employee must have worked for the employer for 30 days within the 12 months prior to the holiday.
  • An employee must report to work on their last scheduled work day prior to the holiday and their next scheduled work day following the holiday.
  • An employee must report to work on the holiday if they are scheduled, or called to work.
  • An employee on pregnancy or parental leave is not entitled to statutory holiday pay while they are on leave.
  • Part time employees are entitled to statutory holiday pay once they meet the conditions set out above.

If an employee meets all the conditions for entitlement to statutory holiday pay and has National Aboriginal Day off, he or she is entitled to receive an average day’s pay for the holiday.

If an employee meets all the conditions and works on National Aboriginal Day, he or she must receive payment for the hours that he or she worked at the rate of time and a half, plus an average day’s pay. As an alternative the employer may transfer the holiday to another day giving the employee a day off with pay.

Most recently, on May 8, 2017, Yukon passed its own legislation which also creates National Aboriginal Day as an annual statutory holiday in the territory beginning on June 21, 2017.

“The government received overwhelming support from Yukoners who responded to a survey last year in favour of making National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday in Yukon. I am very pleased that we have achieved this goal together,” stated Minister of Community Services John Streicker.

In Yukon, if an employee does not work National Aboriginal Day, they must meet the following three conditions to be paid for the holiday:

  1. The employee must have been employed 30 calendar days before the holiday.
  2. The employee must work their last scheduled shift before and their first scheduled shift after the holiday (unless the absence is permitted by the territories’ Employment Standards Act)
  3. The employee is required work on the holiday if called to work, but would be entitled to additional pay.

If National Aboriginal Day falls on an employee’s day off, the first working day immediately following the general holiday becomes the general holiday for that employee.

If an employee does work National Aboriginal Day, in addition to their general holiday pay, there are two payment options when an employee works on a general holiday:

  1. Be paid at the applicable overtime rate for all hours worked on the general holiday; or
  2. Be paid at their regular rate for hours worked on the general holiday and be given a day off which may be added to the employee’s annual vacation or be granted a day off at a time convenient to the employer and the employee.

It is important to note that, even if an employee has worked for an employer for less than 30 days, they are entitled to both general holiday pay and the applicable overtime if they work on the holiday.

Consult one of our HR/Payroll publications, The New PaySource®, a comprehensive source for Canadian compliance information, for more compliance information in relation to employee statutory holiday entitlements. This resource is always up to date with the latest payroll developments and offers dozens of exclusive time-saving resources.

Supporting access to skills development and training for Indigenous Peoples

In its 2017 Budget, the Government of Canada announced that, to ensure that programming continues to meet the needs of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, it will work with Indigenous organizations, employers, educational institutions and other stakeholders in the coming year to renew and improve the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS).

Budget 2017 proposes to invest $50 million in 2017–18 in ASETS, which includes new funding, the investment made in Budget 2016, as well as additional reallocated resources from other programming that support skills and training more generally.

Celebrating in your community

To view events that are being held in your province or territory, click here.

Cristina Lavecchia

Cristina is an editor and researcher at First Reference. She is a licensed paralegal and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, Political Science major at York University. During Cristina's paralegal and undergraduate studies she studied employment standards, occupational health and safety, and workplace safety and insurance. Read more

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