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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: Legal requirements and best practices for retailers

September 13, 2021

To honour First Nations, Inuit, and Métis residential school survivors and their families, the Government of Canada has designated September 30 annually as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The new statutory holiday applies to all federally regulated public and private sectors, including airports and airlines, banks, federal crown corporations such as Canada Post, radio and television broadcasting; and telecommunications such as telephone and Internet services.

While national holidays are traditionally honoured Canada-wide, each provincial legislature would need to recognize the day for it to apply to private businesses. This means that the holiday does not apply to provincially regulated employers, such as retail, at this time. However, many will recognize this period of Canada’s history and its lasting impact.

While B.C., Manitoba, Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador and Northwest Territories are recognizing the holiday on September 30, this is not a statutory holiday and businesses will not have obligations in terms of closure or extra wages. Some provincial government employees, university, health care and school district employees will also be off in some provinces.

Ontario

Ontario has two pieces of ‘holiday’ legislation that should be of interest to retailers – the Retail Holiday Act and the Employment Standards Act (ESA). The Retail Holiday Act controls which retail establishments may or may not open their doors on a given holiday (and grants the municipality the right to allow opening). The ESA provides statutory holiday for a list of designated “public holidays”, and prescribes the rules of public holiday pay, etc.

The Ontario government has made it clear that Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will not be recognized by either the Retail Holiday Act or the ESA, meaning it has no legal impact on a head office or retail establishment for retailers.

The province will also not be giving public sector employees the day off.

British Columbia

B.C. has recognized it as a day of commemoration and has advised provincial public sector employers to give their employees the day off. However, the Employment Standards Act — which lists holidays that businesses must honour by closing or paying overtime wages — remains unchanged. Most schools, post-secondary institutions, some health sector workplaces, and Crown corporations will be closed. Many public services will remain open but may be operating at reduced levels. 

In terms of retail, private sector employers are not required to give time off for September 30, and we do not have widespread reports about employers recognizing it as a paid holiday in the private sector.

To be clear, the day is not a statutory holiday and thus no extra pay is required.  

Manitoba

The Manitoba government has announced that it will be recognizing National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with the closure of schools and daycares on September 30, 2021. Further, Manitoba’s non-essential government services and offices will also be closed in observance of this new holiday.

For provincially regulated businesses, including retail, there will be no special pay or closure requirements.

Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador

Provincial government offices and schools will be closed in honour of this day while businesses will have the choice to remain open.

Other provinces and territories

Other provinces have not recognized the day as a statutory holiday, and private businesses will have the option to operate as usual.

Best practices

From speaking with RCC members, many businesses and organizations will be honouring the day through internal and external messaging and staff education efforts.

Remembrance Day was also cited as a benchmark. For Truth and Reconciliation Day, some retailers will be planning to open stores later in the day while displaying symbols such as orange shirts, flags at half mast and communications explaining why the day matters. Leveraging the day as a marketing event is widely seen as inappropriate.

At least one retailer did say they were planning to keep stores open that day and pay time and half; some others are offering staff paid time off to attend events or volunteer. However, these do not seem to be common approaches.

Retailers operating in provinces where schools are closed may also want to take this date into account as it might impact retail workers with child care needs.

RCC will continue to update as more information comes out closer to the date.

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