Should the NWT add a February day off to its stat holidays?

A file photo of Rylund Johnson in October 2019. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A file photo of Rylund Johnson in October 2019. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

With Family Day approaching in various provinces across Canada, a Northwest Territories MLA is fighting for the territory’s residents to add their own holiday in February.

In the Legislative Assembly on Friday, Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson chuckled his way through his opening statement, joking he was glad the territory “was heading into a long weekend.”

“Oh wait, Mr Speaker, I thought for a second we were in Alberta, or BC, or possibly Ontario, maybe Saskatchewan or even New Brunswick,” he said.

“But we’re not. We’re in the Northwest Territories, and we don’t get a statutory holiday in February. In fact, after New Year’s, I have to wait over three dark months until the next holiday.”



Johnson proceeded to make the case for adding a statutory holiday in February, giving NWT residents a break in the stretch between New Year’s Day and Easter weekend.

“It doesn’t need to be Family Day,” he said.

“PEI has Islander Day. Manitoba will be celebrating Louis Riel Day. Maybe we could have Elders’ Day or NWT Day. I’m not picky – I’ll even compromise on the date. The Yukon celebrates Heritage Day on the 26th. I’ll even take a St Patrick’s Day in March, if it’s good enough for Newfoundland to make it a stat.”

Johnson concluded: “It’s been a long year. February has been a hard month for all of us and, with the highest suicide rates in this month, I believe we need to give our workers a break.



“We don’t have a single piece of legislation before us in this House this sitting – nothing for us to do. I can’t think of anything more politically palatable than creating a holiday called Family Day.”

Justice minister RJ Simpson – or Minister of Holidays, as Johnson called him throughout Friday’s question period – said the GNWT has no plans to add a statutory holiday to the roster any time soon.

Minister RJ Simpson. Sarah Sibley/Cabin Radio

There are currently 10 statutory holidays in the NWT, including Christmas and Boxing Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day, and Labour Day.

This compares to 10 in the Yukon and BC, nine in Ontario and Alberta, and 10 in Nunavut.

Despite a series of rejections from cabinet, Johnson wants the GNWT to consult the public on the addition of another holiday in the first few months of the year.

He concluded: “I really have a hard time believing that, if we listened to the will of the people, they would not want a Family Day.”

Correction: February 13, 2021 – 16:41 MT. An earlier version of this article stated the NWT has 12 statutory holidays. In fact, the territory has 10. Boxing Day and Easter Monday are holidays for NWT government staff but are not, more broadly, statutory holidays. The figure for Nunavut has also been corrected from 13 to 10 – again, the Nunavut government observes a greater number.