MLAs mull making National Aboriginal Day a holiday

The Yukon's MLAs have agreed to look into making National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday. The NDP had wanted the government to agree to make June 21 a holiday starting in 2016.

The Yukon’s MLAs have agreed to look into making National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday.

The NDP had wanted the government to agree to make June 21 a holiday starting in 2016.

Instead, an amended bill was passed unanimously on Wednesday agreeing to consult with Yukon First Nations, employers, employees and the public about the possibility of making that happen.

“We have the opportunity here today to make this decision and move forward in that direction, to have National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday in the Yukon,” NDP MLA Kevin Barr said, “because it is the next right thing to do and to promote the understanding of the importance of indigenous peoples in our society, not only the losses, but what is contributed by the first peoples.”

Barr presented a petition signed by 650 people asking for the change. He said he has support from First Nations across the territory as well as Yukon Employees Union, the Yukon Federation of Labour, and the plumbers and pipefitters union.

Yukoners already get nine statutory holidays: five federal ones, plus four designated by the territory.

Approximately one in four Yukoners identify as being First Nations, Metis or Inuit.

First Nation government employees get National Aboriginal Day off, but it is not an official holiday.

Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction in Canada that recognizes the day as a statutory paid holiday, Barr said.

But declaring something a holiday is not as easy as making an announcement, according to Community Services Minister Currie Dixon.

“First of all, the Employment Standards Act would need to be amended. That would require legislative amendments to that act to recognize a new holiday,” he said.

“Though it’s not specifically required in the Employment Standards Act, it is normal practice to consult with the public and interested groups – such as First Nations, the business community, NGOs and labour organizations – in order to get their perspective on the potential implications of any changes to Yukon’s statutory holidays.”

Someone would have to make sure the changes didn’t conflict with other laws, he said.

According to department officials it would take at least a year to get that done.

Adding an extra holiday will have an impact on Yukon businesses, so it is important to talk to those businesses before moving forward, said Dixon.

“We enthusiastically recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of aboriginal peoples across Canada and here in Yukon.

“We will continue to do so, but before we make a decision like creating a new statutory holiday, more work needs to be done. The amendment to this motion charts out a path forward for us that will allow us to do that work in order to see this conversation continue.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Respiratory assessment centre in Whitehorse closes doors on advice of CMO

Screening for COVID-19 to be done at Whitehorse hospital, Yukon Communicable Disease Control instead

Whitehorse brings back parking meter fees

Drivers will need to top up meters again as of June 1. The city had suspended enforcement in March.

Phase two of the Yukon’s reopening plan could start July 1

New phase would include travel between B.C. and the Yukon

Spas, hair salons, tattoo parlours and more ready for reopening

Many personal services shops set June date to offically welcome back customers

Community Development Fund awards announced

January intake sees $1.4 million for 24 community projects

UPDATED: Yukon government clarifies businesses available to travellers

Travellers can stop anywhere along the approved route in one of the marked communities

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week. June… Continue reading

Pilot Station salmon sonar to go ahead this season

The Pilot Station sonar, located near the mouth of the Yukon River… Continue reading

Renovations start at LePage Park

The Yukon Historical and Museums Association has started a resurfacing project for… Continue reading

Contract awarded for mixed-income housing project

The Yukon government has awarded a $16.8-million contract to build the mixed-income… Continue reading

Watson Lake man charged with gun offences after break-and-enter

Alfred Magun, 60, was arrested and charged with eight offences

Top of the World Highway border crossings remain closed

The Little Gold Creek and Poker Creek border crossings will remain closed… Continue reading

Gymnasts return to Polarettes

Club reopens, summer camps also approved

Most Read