NWT decides not to declare holiday for Queen’s funeral
The Northwest Territories will not declare a holiday for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on September 19, in line with several southern provinces.
The likes of Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have each decided not to follow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s lead after Trudeau declared a federal holiday earlier this week.
On Wednesday, NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane said in a statement: “The Northwest Territories will not be making September 19, 2022 a statutory holiday, or a holiday for public service employees. All government offices and service locations will be open for business as usual.
“In the Northwest Territories, our public service is much broader than in other jurisdictions and providing an additional holiday at this short notice would have far-reaching service delivery implications.
“Like all residents, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and will find ways in my own life to consider her impact and mourn her passing.”
Provinces in Atlantic Canada, by contrast, have opted to declare one-off provincial holidays.
Employees of the federal public service will each receive a holiday on Monday, September 19, 2022 to mark the Queen’s funeral.
But the GNWT’s decision means no holiday will apply to territorially regulated sectors or territorial government employees – in other words, the majority of workers in the NWT.
The question of whether to declare a holiday in northern Canada following the death of the Queen represented both a political and operational decision.
Premier Cochrane last week hailed the Queen as “a well-known and beloved figure who has spent her life helping young people and supporting causes related to wildlife and the environment,” adding the late royal left a legacy that “will be remembered for generations as a reminder of what true dedication to service looks like.”
But Queen Elizabeth II was also the embodiment, for some of the NWT’s residents, of a colonial regime that – no matter how distantly responsible the Queen might have felt – has inflicted real and significant decades-long suffering upon Indigenous peoples and communities.
Beyond that consideration, there is also the operational matter of the NWT government’s collective agreement with the Union of Northern Workers.
The collective agreement states that unionized workers are entitled to a paid holiday for “additional days when proclaimed by an Act of Parliament as a national holiday.”
Monday’s holiday was announced by the Prime Minister earlier this week but no corresponding parliamentary act exists. That created a potential grey area in which the collective agreement suggests national holidays are broadly considered applicable to the GNWT’s unionized staff, but this particular holiday falls outside the wording given.
Wednesday’s statement made clear that territorial employees will be expected at work.
Cochrane said she would host an event at the NWT legislature’s Great Hall from 11:30am till 1:30pm on Monday “to remember and memorialize Her Majesty.”
Correction: September 14, 2022 – 15:28 MT. This report initially stated employees in federally regulated jobs are entitled to Monday’s holiday. They aren’t – the holiday applies only to federal workers. But federally regulated employers (like banks, telecom companies or some parts of the aviation sector) are invited to join if they so choose.