National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: Not a Holiday in Ontario

Can An Employee Be Incorporated

The federal government passed legislation in June, 2021 recognizing September 30th as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The purpose of the Holiday is 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 Holiday is intended to respond to the 80th call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

As with any holiday, an employee may be wondering whether or not they get this day off work. For the majority of employees in Ontario, the answer is no.

Who Gets the Day Off?

The June legislation operated to amend the Canada Labour Code (“Code”) by adding the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to its definition of “general holidays”. Under the Code, employees governed by the Code are entitled to a holiday with pay on each of the general holidays, which now includes the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The Code, however, only applies to employees in certain industries and according to certain employment contracts. For instance, the Code applies to federally regulated private sectors such as banks, airports, and Crown corporations such as the Canada Post, as well as federally regulated public sectors. Employees working in these industries will be entitled to the day off with pay.

Ontario Opts Not to Adopt the Holiday

For employees not regulated by the Canada Labour Code, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation remains a regular working day. This is because the Ontario government opted not to adopt the holiday as a provincial holiday. Although the Holiday was introduced by the Government of Canada, our Constitution permits individual provinces such as Ontario the power to make their own employment laws. This includes deciding which Holidays will be days off. It is not uncommon for there to be inconsistencies between federally recognized holidays and provincially recognized holidays. For instance, Family Day is recognized in Ontario as a statutory holiday but is not recognized by the federal government. On the other hand, Remembrance Day is a federal holiday, but not a provincial one in Ontario.

The move not to adopt September 30th as a provincial holiday was met with harsh criticism from opposing political parties. Andrea Horwath, the Official Opposition New Democrat Leader called the decision not to recognize the holiday “shameful”. Mike Schreiner, the Provincial Green Party Leader, likewise urged the Ontario government to “to respect the voices of Indigenous leaders and elders who are calling for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to be recognized as a provincial statutory holiday in Ontario.” As of the date of this posting, however, the Ontario government has not changed its position.

What Holidays Are Recognized in Ontario?

As mentioned, most employees in Ontario will not automatically have September 30th off work. However, all employees in Ontario (with very limited exceptions) are automatically entitled to days off for the following holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Family Day
  • Good Friday
  • Victoria Day
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day (December 26)

The mentioned exceptions include employees who work in hotels, motels or tourist resorts, restaurants and taverns, hospitals and nursing homes, or continuous operations.

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