Whitehorse Daily Star

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Grand Chief Peter Johnston and Chamber President Rick Karp

‘It’s great to see,’ grand chief says of holiday

National Aboriginal Day is officially a statutory holiday in the Yukon.

By Sidney Cohen on May 9, 2017

National Aboriginal Day is officially a statutory holiday in the Yukon.

The territorial legislature unanimously ratified Bill 2 on Monday, making June 21 a territory-wide paid day off.

“I believe that making National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday is an integral step toward the path of our own reconciliation,” Premier Sandy Silver told the House during the bill’s second reading last Thursday.

“It’s time that we celebrate the immense contributions that First Nation people have made, and continue to make, in our territory and across the country.”

The National Aboriginal Day Act is the first piece of legislation to be passed by the chamber under the new Liberal government.

The necessary amendment to the Employment Standards Act was passed after third reading of the act and assented to by Commissioner Doug Phillips.

“It’s great to see,” Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Council of Yukon First Nations said today.

“That’s the first bill that they’ve passed. For me, that’s pretty substantial.”

Though the Yukon Party voted in favour of the bill Monday, it reiterated concerns about the financial impact of an additional statutory holiday on the Yukon government and on the territory’s business community.

Based on figures from Canada Day in 2016, cabinet says a statutory holiday on June 21 will cost the government an estimated $1.28 million.

That figure includes $1.16 million for payroll, and an additional $116,700 in overtime pay for essential service providers, cabinet spokesperson Janine Workman confirmed today.

Before Monday’s vote, Community Services critic Scott Kent of the Yukon Party noted that an economic analysis of the holiday had not been done.

Any cost-benefit study would be useful to other jurisdictions considering implementing the day off in future years, Kent added.

Last spring, the government surveyed Yukoners for their views on the possibility of a June 21 statutory holiday, and received 1,430 responses.

While 83.3 per cent of Yukoners, overall, were for a statutory holiday on National Aboriginal Day, support was much lower among employers – just 54.3 per cent endorsed the additional statutory holiday.

Of the remaining employers, 37.8 per cent did not want a statutory holiday on June 21, and 7.9 per cent went neutral.

Kent suggested the government consider phasing in the holiday over two years.

“That would give these businesses time to prepare and give municipalities time to account for it in their budgets,” he said.

The holiday could be a government day off this year, and a vacation day for all Yukoners starting in 2018, he said.

This idea was also proposed by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

In its first year, National Aboriginal Day could be a holiday for governments, banks and schools, and businesses could have the option, like they do on Heritage Day or Easter Monday, said chamber president Rick Karp.

With Rendezvous Friday a day off for the public sector, he said, “businesses get behind it, and it’s a really wonderful day.

“Not only is it busy for business, for retail sales, but it’s recognition of Heritage Day.”

The government could then reassess for year two, whether to make National Aboriginal Day a holiday for everyone, said Karp.

The business community supports the celebration of National Aboriginal Day; “there’s no question about that,” he said. “However, we have to do it the right way.”

It’s unclear at this time what the new statutory holiday, which will fall on a Wednesday next month, will cost the private sector.

Costs will vary widely from business to business, said Karp.

Size, how labour-intensive the business is, and whether you can run it with a skeleton crew are all factors, he said.

After the National Aboriginal Day bill passed Monday, Karp said, he fielded a few phone calls from concerned business owners who said the new holiday was going to cost them upwards of $4,000.

“If the decision is to stay open on that day or to close on that day, it’s going to cost you regardless,” said Karp.

The government will not delay the full implementation of National Aboriginal Day, Community Services Minister John Streicker told the House Monday.

That’s namely because of the symbolic importance of instituting the statutory holiday during the same year as Canada’s 150th birthday.

Having National Aboriginal Day as a statutory holiday is symbolic in more ways than one, said Johnston.

“It’s not even about having the day off,” he said; it’s about formal recognition of the value of indigenous culture and heritage.

“Canada Day, Discovery Day, all these monumental times are backed up with the respective holiday.”

Now National Aboriginal Day has “the full value” associated with a statutory holiday in the Yukon, he said.

Streicker disputed Kent’s claim that businesses haven’t had time to prepare for the new holiday.

“The original petition was first tabled in 2015 here in the legislature, and the consultation took place a year ago,” he said.

“So we feel that there has been time and opportunity for input into debate and now the time is to respond to the people and to act.”

As for employers concerned about a holiday during peak season, Streicker said, the Employment Standards Act permits businesses to offer an alternative day off in lieu of June 21, if a majority of the employees agree to it.

The Yukon initiative originated with former NDP MLA Kevin Barr, whose former riding, Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes, is now represented by Streicker.

The Northwest Territories is the only other jurisdiction in Canada where National Aboriginal Day is a statutory holiday.

Comments (21)

Up 0 Down 0

Nile on May 15, 2017 at 5:20 pm

As a person of Caucasian decent I'm concerned that my participation in a day celebrating all of the scientific advancements and contributions to Canadian society by our esteemed aboriginal population may be deemed as cultural appropriation. Therefore I will take my holiday pay and go camping in Alaska to avoid and possible conflict.

Up 0 Down 0

Groucho d'North on May 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm

As a seasonal self-employed type, it's just another day I won't get off, similar to a weekend but just a bit different. However, there will be plenty of days off again in the winter.

Up 15 Down 3

Brett on May 13, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Why must holidays be paid? Make them 'optional' work days as opposed to forcing business to pay for nothing.

Up 30 Down 9

Dave on May 12, 2017 at 10:06 pm

I'll use the solstice day holiday to celebrate everything Caucasians have invented that improved the lives of natives such as indoor plumbing, toilet paper, central heating systems, glass windows, electricity, snowmobiles, chainsaws, ATV's, boats with outboard motors, wood stoves, modern medicine, rifles, metal axes and modern clothing so the women no longer have to chew on hides in order to have something to wear. More recently it's cellphones, big screen tvs, and nice roads and fancy pickup trucks or air travel so they can travel to see each other instead of relying on slogging through the mosquitoes infested bush for days or travelling by snowshoes or canoes.

Up 12 Down 21

Hugh Mungus on May 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm

If adding a single paid holiday to your payroll is gonna break the bank then you probably shouldn't be in business in the first place. Funny how these alleged business owners in this thread don't mention their business name because if they did they'd note see one cent of my money come through their do.

Reminds me of that Chris Rock line:
"You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? "Hey if I could pay you less, I would, but it's against the law."

Up 27 Down 6

north_of_60 on May 11, 2017 at 7:24 pm

I'm guessing that none of the people extolling this additional paid holiday would be saying the same if it wasn't another day they got paid for not having to work. Socialists love more 'free money' from the taxpayers of Canada. Meanwhile the private sector sees their expenses rise and productivity drop.

Up 36 Down 4

Both Sides on May 11, 2017 at 3:28 pm

I'm not an employer but a few people close to me are small Yukon employers.

While I of course appreciate another day with my family I can see how businesses see this as a kick in the face. One month to prepare for a loss of productivity and having to pay for your employees to either have the day off or pay them more than their regular wage to keep them working. While it is nice that you can swap this day for another that's also a difficult choice. If you don't close on the holiday depending on your business most of your clients aren't working anyways. And if you close on another day you are likely closing on a day where a majority of your clients are open. Also businesses that work by appointment have to switch the days of their patient's treatments which can potentially effect the customer.

Don't get me wrong, I look forward to spending a day with my family. I am FN myself and look forward to actually being able to go and take in some of the cultural events with my kid that I usually miss due to working. But I can completely understand why some employers are annoyed.

Up 16 Down 17

ProScience Greenie on May 11, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Many of us with mixed cultural backgrounds from all over the planet have been celebrating the summer solstice since time immortal Stanley Miller. It is an ancient time of celebration much like the winter solstice and the equinoxes common to all.

It's all good, the more holidays the better. We're not slaves after all.

Up 19 Down 2

ProScience Greenie on May 11, 2017 at 10:03 am

How much longer? - my apologies for not recognizing that we are lucky to have many fine small businesses in the Yukon that are good members of our communities and treat both employees and customers fair and square. As opposed to other businesses that depend on corporate welfare and cheap foreign labour.

Up 23 Down 20

BnR on May 11, 2017 at 7:19 am

I wonder if there would be the same level of negative comments if this holiday was re-named Robert Campbell Day, or something more "patriotic".....
I said it before, scrap Discovery Day and re-brand it. What matters the name?

Up 12 Down 16

Well Hello! on May 11, 2017 at 7:13 am

Welcome back, Josey Wales! I've been missing your insightful, no-holding-back comments for awhile now. They often make me smile and usually provide good food for thought. And where is June Jackson? Is that her name? Haven't heard from her for awhile either. I've always enjoyed her thoughtful comments also. She likes to tell it like it is and I always appreciate her views as a senior citizen who has seen most of it before. The Whitehorse Star's colourful 5%.

Up 17 Down 31

Stanley Miller on May 11, 2017 at 12:13 am

This holiday was inevitable so please do not be so negative people.

Go out and see the First Nation culture and celebrate with them on their holiday. Its not a queen's holiday from the Victoria era, it's their holiday. . And remember as they make strides healing from colonialism and genocide, more of their culture will be brought forward for everyone to enjoy.

This is part of healing and moving forward.

Up 20 Down 7

Costs are over-stated on May 10, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Employees are paid, whether they work this day or not, so an employer (inc City of Whitehorse and YG) shouldn't be throwing regular payroll figures as additional 'costs'. Except - as stated - any overtime pay for employees who actually do work that day. The 'loss' is in productivity, or revenue, as one poster stated. Productivity is a whole other ball game to measure, and I doubt that any government in the territory tracks it.

Up 23 Down 16

Josey Wales on May 10, 2017 at 2:42 pm

YukonMax...heritage day? Next one will be likely named..."Diversity is our strength Day". Where can all gather celebrating our national capitulation via what in my opinion should be classified a mental illness...the liberal voter.
YM clearly you did not get the memo, we are to be ashamed of our heritage...hence the fetish to dilute this nation into enclaves of cultural ghettos that are not remotely ever going to be harmonious

"Diversity is our strength " said an idiot . ...really?
Tell that to the natives, worked great...that diversity now didn't it?
Should really be edit free this comment.....☄️

Up 32 Down 6

How much longer? on May 10, 2017 at 1:21 pm

This does act as a not-insignificant transfer of money from employers to employees, there is no talking around that, whatever the merit of the cause.

As an employer, nobody will be paying me for this day off. But it will cost me to pay my staff for that day with no offsetting revenue. The law requires me to pay them 10% of what they made in the two prior weeks. My annual income from my business is less than the average government employee. Imagine the wailing from YEU if such an income cut was proposed there.

PSG - oh my, surely you must recognize how most of us employers are simple folk, not the big box stores, franchises and other corporations that dominate these Chambers. We don't have time or patience for such business politics. This will impact the family I provide for.

The simple answer here was one-in one-out and cut the colonial Queen Victoria holiday a few weeks before, or the Sourdough.

Up 48 Down 20

what a crock of s**t on May 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

“I believe that making National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday is an integral step toward the path of our own reconciliation,” Premier Sandy Silver told the House during the bill’s second reading last Thursday.

Enough already, jeez reconciliation this, payments that, consultation here and there prior to any infrastructure or mining project.

This has to stop or we will never move forward and keep living in the past. Will the next FN generation that will be born in the 2020's still drag out the residential school excuse every time they're in court?

And lastly, as a private business owner who has at least 50% of my workforce that identifies as FN, the ones who work for me and earn a good wage, understand how much this pushed through holiday will cost me.

Up 30 Down 15

YukonMax on May 10, 2017 at 10:40 am

Okay! Fine. So now I have to consider how will I recoup from this hit? The only way is by cutting back some hours from my only employee. But no worries, my employee isn't first nation. Why wasn't there a first nation holiday in place by now is unacceptable. But to add this one without cancelling another one is a kick in the face of many private businesses. What will ever happen to the Heritage Day?

Up 44 Down 19

jc on May 9, 2017 at 9:02 pm

"Immense Contributions". Details please! If the FN have done immense contributions, why the need for reconciliation?

Up 26 Down 22

ralpH on May 9, 2017 at 5:15 pm

From one that will reap the benefits of this holiday I must say it is a bit over the top. What we should have done is took one out and replaced it with this one. May long weekend is an example of a day that no longer needs to exist. Most have just came off Easter weekend and spring break. with this change we then can appreciate a holiday that honors first peoples.

Up 35 Down 48

ProScience Greenie on May 9, 2017 at 3:17 pm

No tears for Karp and crew that have the nerve to tell us that the price of a cup of coffee or burger meal will double if we pay a decent wage or that they need TFWs because we're all too lazy. Suck it up. Over a month away but happy A-day/solstice to all, enjoy the day.

Up 32 Down 21

north_of_60 on May 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Attributed to Alexander Tytler 1747 – 1813
The rent-seeking socialists will self-identify with their 'thumbs down', thus proving Tytler's point.

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