Prime Minister ‘Proclaims’ Holiday for Federal Employees in Honour of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II: What Does This Mean for Employers?

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Royal Family announced Her late Majesty’s funeral is to take place on Monday, September 19, 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later proclaimed that September 19, 2022, would be a federal holiday in Her Majesty’s honour. Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that September 19, 2022, would be recognized as a provincial “Day of Mourning.”

Shortly after the announcement of a federal holiday, Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Labour, publicly clarified that the holiday is only for federal government employees, and not generally for all federally regulated employees (such as banks, airlines, and telecoms). Others are welcomed to follow the federal government’s lead, but are not legally required to do so.

At this time, the federal government has not formally legislated or issued an Order in Council “proclaiming” the public holiday. The Prime Minister’s announcement does not have the force of law. The only proclamation which has been made by the federal government is one “requesting that the people of Canada set aside September 19, 2022, as the day which they honour the memory of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.”

In short, the federal government has only acted in its capacity as an employer (of the civil service), and not in any legislative capacity. Thus, only the federal civil service will benefit from a “public” holiday, while other employers can voluntarily participate.

Provincial Government Response

In Ontario, Premier Ford also confirmed that the province would not introduce a public holiday. Provincially regulated employers are, again, welcome to follow the federal government’s lead, but are under no obligation to do so. Premier Ford did, however, recommend that all workplaces take a collective moment of silence at 1 p.m., in honour of Her Majesty.

Implications for Unionized Workplaces

Collective agreements often contain generic language which grants unionized employees with recognition of “new” public holidays, including ones that are proclaimed by either federal or provincial governments (subject to individual collective agreement language). This last occurred when the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was included under the Canada Labour Code. A public holiday recognizing the Queen’s funeral on September 19, 2022, however, did not follow this process. Accordingly, September 19, 2022, is not subject to the same consideration.

Nonetheless, employers should carefully review their applicable policies and/or collective agreements, and be ready to address the potential expectations raised amongst their employees.