On Thursday June 21, 2018, 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 his or her last scheduled workday prior to the holiday and his or her next scheduled workday following the holiday.
- An employee must report to work on the holiday if he or she scheduled, or called to work.
- An employee on pregnancy or parental leave is not entitled to statutory holiday pay while she or her is 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.
On May 8, 2017, Yukon passed its own legislation which also created National Aboriginal Day as an annual statutory holiday in the territory.
In Yukon, if an employee does not work on National Aboriginal Day, the employee must meet the following three conditions to be paid for the holiday:
- The employee must have been employed 30 calendar days before the holiday.
- The employee must work his or her last scheduled shift before and his or her first scheduled shift after the holiday (unless the absence is permitted by the territories’ Employment Standards Act)
- The employee is required to 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 on National Aboriginal Day, in addition to his or her general holiday pay, there are two payment options when an employee works on a general holiday:
- Be paid at the applicable overtime rate for all hours worked on the general holiday; or
- Be paid at the employee’s 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, the employee is entitled to both general holiday pay and the applicable overtime if they work on the holiday.
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Celebrating in your community
Communities outside of NT and YU celebrate National Aboriginal Day sometimes called National Indigenous Peoples Day. To view events that are being held in your province or territory, click here.