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Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Friday, June 21 is the longest day of the year and marks the changing of seasons. It is also a very important day for Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Métis, Inuit). In 1982, this day was chosen to celebrate the land and the Indigenous Peoples and their cultures. It is also a public (statutory) holiday in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

On National Indigenous Peoples Day in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, employees must be given a day off with pay.

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 is scheduled or called to work.
  • An employee on pregnancy or parental leave is not entitled to statutory holiday pay while she or he 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 Indigenous Peoples 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 Indigenous Peoples 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.

In Yukon, if an employee does not work on National Indigenous Peoples 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 Indigenous Peoples 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 Indigenous Peoples 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 taken 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 she or he works on the holiday.

This is a sacred day for employees belonging to Canadian Indigenous communities. Employers in other provinces and territories may have to accommodate employees who want to observe this day. Communities hold feasts and invite guests. 

New federal statutory holiday proposed to mark Indigenous reconciliation

On February 6, 2019, the federal House of Commons heritage committee approved a measure to make the last day of September National Truth and Reconciliation Day. That date, called Orange Shirt Day, is already used as an informal occasion to commemorate the experiences of residential school students.

Therefore, September 30 might become a new statutory holiday commemorating the victims of residential schools.

The heritage committee added the new federal holiday into NDP MP Georgina Jolibois’ Bill C-369, which had proposed a National Indigenous Peoples’ Day across Canada on June 21. It has been meeting for the past few months to discuss the bill, hearing testimony from survivors and Indigenous leaders.

The committee amended the Bill and chose September 30 because “September was the time when children were taken away from their homes… with the specific day chosen to give teachers time to tell modern children the history of the schools.”

Both the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, representing 60,000 Inuit people across Canada, expressed support for two separate dates. Virginia Lomax, a lawyer for NWAC, told the group on January 29, “Combining a day of celebration with a day of reconciliation, in our view, is inappropriate and disrespectful.”

Keeping up to date on how to treat public holidays across Canada

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Celebrating in your community

Communities outside of Northwest Territories and Yukon celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. To view events that are being held in your province or territory, click here.

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 18 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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