New Federal Statutory Holiday: National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Author: Siobhán Rempel, Articling Student

On June 3, 2021, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation), SC 2021, c 11 received Royal Assent. This legislation establishes a new federal statutory holiday in Canada. Here’s everything you need to know.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The implementation of a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation responds to the May 2021 discovery of 215 remains of children buried in an unmarked grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlupsemc territory (Kamloops, BC). This discovery has triggered the search for unmarked graves across the country.

In past years, September 30th has been recognized as Orange Shirt Day. The movement was started by Phyllis Webstad, who had her orange shirt taken away from her when she arrived at residential school at the age of six.

From 1883 to 1996, the Government of Canada mandated residential schools by way of the Indian Act, RSC, 1985, c I-5. The compulsory attendance of over 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children at residential schools across the country was enforced by the Government of Canada throughout this period. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada estimates that thousands of children died while attending residential school.

The purpose of this legislation is

to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 80 by creating a holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which seeks to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis Survivors and their families and communities and to ensure that public commemoration of their history and the legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The legislation will make amendments to the Bills of Exchange Act, RSC, 1985, c B-4 (subparagraph 42(a)(i)), the Interpretation Act, RSC, 1985, c I-21 (subsection 35(1)), and the Canada Labour Code, RSC, 1985, c L-2 (section 166) to include the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation along with the other federally recognized statutory holidays.

Which employees will be entitled to the holiday?

There has been some uncertainty circulating regarding which businesses and employees will be affected by the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this year. September 30th is a federal statutory holiday. The Government of Canada’s collective agreements stipulate that employees are entitled to “one additional day when proclaimed by an act of Parliament as a national holiday” which has occurred in this case. Accordingly, this means that federal employees and workers in federally regulated workplaces will be granted a paid day off.

What services in BC will be impacted by the holiday?

While September 30th is not a provincial statutory holiday, many provincial public-sector employees will be recognizing the holiday this year.

Following the Federal Government’s announcement in June, the Government of BC recently released a statement. Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance stated the following:

The national holiday will be observed this Sept. 30 by federal employees and workers in federally regulated workplaces. We have advised provincial public-sector employers to honour this day and in recognition of the obligations in the vast majority of collective agreements. Many public services will remain open but may be operating at reduced levels. However, most schools, post-secondary institutions, some health sector workplaces, and Crown corporations will be closed.

Additionally, all Supreme Court registries in BC will be closed. This means that all Supreme Court civil, family, and criminal hearings set to be heard on September 30, 2021 have been cancelled.

Many public sector collective agreements use similar language as stipulated above to allow public sector employees to observe “any other holiday proclaimed as a holiday by the Federal, Provincial, or Municipal Government for the locality in which an employee is working shall also be a paid holiday” .

However, most private sector employees are not currently entitled to a paid day off, as it does not yet appear as a statutory holiday in any BC legislation. Some private businesses are choosing to give their employees the day off regardless.

What happens when September 30th falls on a weekend?

Section 193(2) of the Canada Labour Code states that should the holiday fall on either a Saturday or Sunday, employees are entitled to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately preceding or following the general holiday (Friday or Monday).

Note to Readers: This is not legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice or have any questions regarding how this holiday affects employers and employees in BC, please contact the Employment & Labour Group.

Note: The topic of residential schools may be triggering to some readers. A National Residential School Crisis Line can be accessed online or by telephone at 1-866-925-4419.

Siobhán Rempel joined KSW Lawyers (Kane Shannon Weiler LLP) as a summer student in 2021. She is entering her last semester of law at Thompson Rivers University in the Fall of 2021 and will be returning to KSW in 2022 to complete her articles. She has a keen interest in employment, human rights, and public law issues.




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