What Defines a Public Holiday? | Calgary, Alberta

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July 2018 Newsletter
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July 2018
Volume 5, Number 7

July is here, and summer has arrived in all its glory! A time to revel with family and friends in hot days and warm evenings, to enjoy the multitude of outdoor activities available, and, for most of us, to take some well-deserved vacation time. Some take weeks-long breaks, while others take long weekends. With careful planning, you can even add a vacation day or two to federally or provincially mandated holidays to make for an extra-long weekend. 

But what holidays have statutory designations, and which ones are observed in certain provinces only? This month, we offer information on holidays across Canada...a chance to learn what employers are legally required to provide their employees, while also learning about the various meanings behind special holidays in different provinces.

Keep reading for more information!

What Defines a Public Holiday?

There are myriad general holidays, public holidays, statutory holidays and even down right quirky holidays across Canada. Defining them is not always straighforward, but we like the following definition found on the Nunavut Territory Official Website:
"General Holidays are days that have been decreed by Governments to hold special meaning. Some holidays are of national importance and others are of local significance. Some holidays commemorate a historical event, while still others are religious in nature."

Click on the map below to go to an interactive link! By rolling over each province and territory, you will see the public holidays legislated in each.

A Further Word About General Holidays

While each province and territory determines its individual general holidays, the Canada Labour Code (the Code) provides for nine paid holidays per year to all employees under federal jurisdiction:

New Year's Day
Good Friday
Victoria Day
Canada Day
Labour Day
Thanksgiving Day
Remembrance Day
Christmas Day 
Boxing Day

If your organization is not under federal jurisdiction, the employment standards that regulate your conditions of work are defined by your provincial or territorial ministry of labour (see map above).
How Can a Holiday Be Weather Dependant?

The Royal St. John's Regatta has been a part of Newfoundland history for 185 years. It has been known to draw a crowd of up to 50,000 people annually to the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake. It is the oldest and probably one of the most celebrated annual sporting events in North America - in 2018, the city will celebrate its 200th Anniversary.

The Royal St.John's Regatta itself is a curious entity. It is:

- one of the last fixed seat rowing competitions known to exist in the world;
- the only civic holiday in North America to be declared by a committee of persons not associated with a government body; and
- the only civic holiday that is dependant on the weather!

Regatta Day is scheduled for the first Wednesday in August, but it’s ultimately determined by Mother Nature and a group of volunteers. At 6 a.m. on the first Wednesday of August, thousands of St. John’s residents roll over in bed, turn on the radio, and find out if they have the day off.  

On the big day, the Course Captain wakes up in the wee hours to review weather reports. The primary concern is wind — too much makes for unsafe rowing conditions — but rain is also a factor. At 5:30 a.m. the Course Captain speaks to the regatta committee and its 50 members take a vote on whether or not to go ahead.  It’s serious business — the room is on lockdown during the vote and nobody can use their cellphones. Around 6 a.m., the Course Captain announces their decision to the media and the city hears its fate.

If the regatta’s a go, government offices and many businesses shut down. But if not, they try again the next day.

“We just keep going until we have the regatta.”

Click the picture above to learn more about the Royal St. John's Regatta!

Women's Rowing Team, Royal St. John's Regatta (credit: NTV.ca)

Provincial and Territorial Labour Codes

Click on the individual links below for details on each province and territory's labour code and legislated public holidays:

Family Day in Canada

Family Day seeks to allow Canadians from certain provinces to enjoy a break between New Year's and Easter while emphasizing the importance of family life. Family Day originally began in the province of Alberta, proposed by former premier Don Getty. In 1990, the Family Day Act was passed and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Helen Hunley, declared the third Monday of every February a provincial public holiday known as Alberta Family Day. 

It took nearly two decades before other provinces began to create February holidays known as Family Days, Saskatchewan in 2007, Ontario in 2008 and British Columbia in 2013. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario celebrate Family Day on the third Monday of February whereas British Columbia has chosen to celebrate it on the second Monday in February. 

Although they are not known as Family Days, to follow suit, four other Canadian provinces and territories (Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Yukon) created similar February holidays in order to break up the long stretch between New Year's and Easter.  These provinces have opted for names relating to heritage; Manitoba (Louis Riel Day), Prince Edward Island (Islander Day), Nova Scotia (Heritage Day) and Yukon (Heritage Day).

Victoria Day

Victoria Day was declared a Canadian holiday by the government in 1845, to celebrate the birth of Queen Victoria on May 24, 1819. At that time, it was celebrated with picnics, parades, sporting tournaments, fireworks, and cannon salutes. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Canada’s parliament officially named the holiday Victoria Day. And it was decided that the day would be celebrated on May 24th each year (or on May 25th if the 24th fell on a Sunday).

In 1952, the government made the decision to begin celebrating Victoria Day on a Monday. It would be observed on May 24th if that worked out, otherwise it would be held on the Monday immediately before it. But while the day bears her name, it’s actually come to be the date that all ruling monarch’s birth dates are marked in this country – including the current Queen, who was actually born on April 21st. It continues to be celebrated in various fashions across the country; the holiday has always been a distinctly Canadian observance.

Optional General Holidays

If an employer agrees to designate additional general holidays for their employees, all employment standards rules related to general holiday pay still apply for these additional holidays. Employees should confirm this and any pay entitlements with their employer.

Optional general holidays can include, for example, Easter Monday, Boxing Day, Heritage Day.  An employer can designate these or any other day as a general holiday. When this occurs, that day will be subject to the same rules as the other public holidays

Answering Human Resources Questions calls for knowledge and skill.

Contact Wendy Ellen Inc. for assistance today!
About Wendy Ellen Inc.
Wendy Ellen Inc. specializes in providing human resource and benefits management skills to small to mid-sized companies on an as-needed basis. From recruitment, Human Resource policy development and legislative compliance, employee retention and engagement, individual advisor/coaching, succession planning to employee development and performance, Wendy Ellen Inc. will help you protect your most valuable resource, your people.
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