By: Helen Patterson, B.A., LL.B.
Why 150 Years?
It’s almost Canada Day eh? I love being a Canadian! We are so proud of our country and our heritage and the way we welcome newcomers to share in this great place we call home. This year Canada Day (July 1st) falls on a weekend and so many of us are thrilled that we get our long weekend! And this year our country is commemorating our 150th anniversary. What happened 150 years ago that marks this milestone? The researcher in me had to take a look. Let’s take a journey – and determine why this year is significant and learn a few fun facts on the way.
The name “Canada” likely came from the Huron-Iroquois word “Kanata”, meaning “village or settlement”. Jacques Cartier used the word Canada to describe the area he first discovered. The first official use of the name came in 1791 when the Province of Quebec was divided into the colonies of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, and then in 1841, the two colonies were united under the one name, the Province of Canada. An amazing website has been set up this year by the Government of Canada with a wealth of information for this special year (Canada150).
The British North America Act, 1867 created the new self-governing Dominion of Canada and there were only four provinces at that time - Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The 150 we celebrate this year is based on 150 years since 1867. Three years later in 1870 there were a number of historic changes to land ownership where Canada purchased Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Britain also transferred the North-Western Territory to Canada. Eventually Canada discovered the Prairies enormous farming potential, and the expansion commenced. Manitoba, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon eventually joined the country in the 1870s. It wasn’t until 1905 that the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were created. After great debate and two referenda, the people of Newfoundland voted to join Confederation in 1949, creating Canada’s tenth province. Fifty years later in 1999, Nunavut was created from the eastern part of the Northwest Territories, covering 1.9 million square kilometres of Canada’s Eastern Arctic.
Here we are in 2017 - Canada is made up of 10 provinces and three territories, a multicultural and diverse country with the freedom and spirit that drove our indigenous peoples, ancestors and newcomers to continue to build strength and unity. The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal peoples: First Nations, Métis and Inuit. These are three distinct peoples with unique histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. There has been progress made in recognizing our aboriginal peoples through reconciliation. While many celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday we need to be respectful of the rich history of these lands inhabited by our aboriginal peoples and this should not be forgotten as we move forward; the City of Vancouver is addressing this through rebranding. Canada will also continue to welcome immigrants and refugees from all over the world. We are looking at creating an environment of equality with our strong human rights regime. We stand with great pride when we sing our national anthem and recognize the everyday heroes in this great country.
With Glowing Hearts - This Land is Your Land
“O Canada” was proclaimed Canada’s national anthem in 1980, although the original version came a century earlier, and was in French. The music was composed by Calixa Lavallée, while the French lyrics to accompany the music were written by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The official English lyrics were based on a poem written in 1908 by The Honourable Robert Stanley Weir. You can read the full history of “O Canada”, and learn about the lives of the people behind the anthem. Many other folk songs over the years have captured Canadians love for our country. I attended a spring concert recently at my son’s school and it was so wonderful to see the excitement of the children exploring and celebrating the 150 year anniversary through song.
When did July 1st become a Statutory Holiday?
On June 20, 1868, the Canada's Governor General proclaimed that Canadians should celebrate the anniversary of the confederation. July 1 became a statutory holiday, known as Dominion Day, in 1879. However, no official celebrations were held until the 50th anniversary in 1917 and the 60th anniversary in 1927. After World War II, Dominion Day was celebrated more frequently and more events were organized by the national government. After the centenary of the confederation in 1967, Dominion Day events became more widespread. July 1 became popularly known as Canada Day. The date was also officially known as Canada Day from 1983 onwards.
Canada Day is celebrated across the country and eligible employees are legally entitled to the day off with pay (Memorial Day in Newfoundland). But some businesses stay open and employees who work on that day are generally entitled to premium statutory holiday pay, usually at about 1.5 times the regular salary. And this is not to be confused with overtime pay which is something completely different.
Not all employers know the complex rules and intricacy that comes along with time off and pay related to statutory holidays. Can an employer substitute the statutory holiday for another day? Can an employer choose to move the July 1st to a Monday or Friday if it falls mid-week? Do all employees, even part time and casual workers, also get the day off with pay? What other statutory holidays apply in the province or territory where we operate? What if our business is in more than one province what then?
There are only four other holidays along with July 1st that are actually consistent across Canada – making it very confusing at times for employers to implement. The number of public or statutory holidays varies from between 5 to 10 days depending on the province or territory where the employees work (and for federally regulated employers). While many focus on the social aspects of the public holidays, there are other obligations that businesses must address that aren’t always top of mind or as exciting. The legal payment rules are quite tricky and often employers don’t even realize they aren’t paying employees correctly for statutory holidays. Human resources and payroll professionals help businesses answer some of these questions and they help drive solutions that make sense for their specific industry. Planning for statutory holidays and addressing these compliance rules is another part of workforce strategy, and having the right expertise, the right tools and the right approach aligned with the corporate strategy is required.
What are companies doing to celebrate 150 years?
Family and friends will gather to have barbeques, watch firework displays and wave our red and white flags to celebrate this occasion and our uniqueness. Family and friends gather to have barbeques, watch firework displays and wave our red and white flags to commemorate this occasion and our uniqueness. We are fortunate to enjoy the freedoms and privileges we often take for granted in this progressive and democratic country. Celebrate Canada is a four-day celebration that began on June 21 with National Aboriginal Day, continued with Saint-Jean Baptiste Day on June 24, Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27 and coming to a spectacular close on Canada day July 1. There are celebrations being held in our capital Ottawa and throughout the nation and you can find a list of Canada Day info here.
A number of businesses have offered Canada 150 sales and promotions, celebrating home-grown products; ADP Canada gave away a Roots Canada 150 limited edition leather backpack at the recent Canadian Payroll Association conference, and we will have a long weekend and grass roots celebrations with work colleagues.
I hope you find time to relax and enjoy the July long weekend activities, 150 celebrations, time to soak up some Vitamin D and recharge – those short weeks can mean cramming in more work than you’d like!
HAPPY CANADA DAY!
Helen has a unique background combining careers in employment law and human resources and brings this expertise to her role in HR and Compliance Insights and Product Compliance at ADP Canada..