B.C. to close schools, give public workers day off Monday to mourn Queen

·4 min read
People pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II at a memorial in Queen’s Park in New Westminster, B.C. (Justine Boulin/CBC - image credit)
People pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II at a memorial in Queen’s Park in New Westminster, B.C. (Justine Boulin/CBC - image credit)

B.C.'s premier has declared Monday, Sept. 19, a day of remembrance this year to align with the federal decision to mark the Queen's funeral with a holiday.

Public schools, including post-secondary institutions, and most Crown corporations will be closed.

The province says it is encouraging private-sector employers to acknowledge the day, as well.

"This will be a national day to reflect on the incredible life of Canada's Queen and the longest-serving monarch in British history," Premier John Horgan said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

No extra pay for private employees working

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Monday will not be a statutory holiday in B.C. This means private-sector employers do not have to pay their staff an additional wage for working that day.

As Canada continues its national mourning period following the monarch's death last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday announced that Sept. 19 would be a federal holiday.

"We will be working with the provinces and the territories to try and see that we're aligned on this. There are still a few details to be worked out, but declaring an opportunity for Canadians to mourn on Monday is going to be important," Trudeau said during a Liberal caucus retreat in New Brunswick.

The provinces have all been taking different approaches to the day. The Atlantic provinces will all observe a holiday, but Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have opted not to.

Although it has been seven decades since the passing of the previous monarch, King George VI, it's a long-standing tradition for Canada to deem the day of a monarch's funeral a national holiday.

According to the Government of Canada's manual of official procedure, the prime minister will convene parliament and pass a resolution of loyalty to the incoming monarch — in this case, King Charles III.

Parents need to find child care as schools close

Following the news from the provincial government, B.C. school districts began contacting parents to inform them classrooms will be closed Monday and that they will have to make alternative arrangements for child care.

Kyenta Martins, the co-chair of the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council, said having an unplanned day off so soon into the new school year will be challenging.

"It's a chaotic month," she told B.C. Today host Michelle Eliot. "This is going to make it really difficult on short notice to find child care on Monday."

She also pointed out that several districts already have a scheduled day off the same week, which will reduce the learning period to three days.

Post-secondary institutions will also be closed.

Surrey Board of Trade opposed to holiday

In a statement, Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman said her organization is glad a statutory holiday was not declared by the province, citing the impact it could have had on businesses.

Had the province declared Monday a statutory holiday, it would have required private employers to either give their workers the day off or extra pay for working.

However, Huberman worried that with schools closed, many parents and employers would also feel pressure to take time off.

"There will be pressure by employees to get time off irrespective because of the federal holiday," she said.

A time to evaluate Canada's work on reconciliation

Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Kukpi7 of Neskonlith in B.C., says Sept. 19 should be marked as the "end of the colonial era in Canada" and a time when Canada is evaluated for its work on reconciliation.

"I'd like to see every year on Sept. 19, we measure where are we? What did we do as Canada? We see the residential schools' survivors and loved ones with the mass graves and burial sites. What did we do about that?" Wilson told CBC News.

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC
Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC

She said Indigenous leaders worked for many years to have Sept. 30 declared a national holiday to recognize residential school survivors and their loved ones.

"[It's] really apparent to see how easy Sept. 19 could be chosen as a national holiday when we worked for years and decades on Sept. 30 being observed as a national holiday," she said.

"It's a stark contrast, and it just shows you the work that needs to be done and the hardships we have from the colonial past, the colonial legacies that continue to repress our people in Canada."

She said further discussions with other Indigenous leaders will occur at the end of the month at the Union of B.C Indian Chiefs meeting.

Commemoration service

An official commemoration service and ceremonial procession will begin at 10:15 a.m. on Monday at the B.C. Parliament Buildings and make its way to Christ Church Cathedral.

"The procession will include the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Premier John Horgan, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and other dignitaries. A 21-gun salute will be fired," it said in a written release.

Justine Bouln//CBC
Justine Bouln//CBC

Public seating at the service will be limited, but a live stream of the event will be available online.

The province says further details about the service will be shared once finalized.