Balancing Diversity: Canadian Statutory Holidays

Mackenzie Grant

Many people consider Canada to be a “melting-pot” of cultures and religions. With a large amount of diversity across the country, there are bound to be dozens of holidays of religious or cultural significance outside of the ones people typically get off from work or school.

The Easter long-weekend has come to an end. Many Catholics and Christians used the time to attend church and observe the Easter holiday with their families. Good Friday falls under the common statutory holidays observed within Canada. Other common statutory holidays are: Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas. Half of these common statutory days are observed mostly by Christian and Catholic Canadians.

With Canada being home to so many religions, ethnicities, and cultures, should governments and businesses be taking a look at adding statutory holidays that represent more of Canada’s population?

A large population of Canada celebrates holidays such as Passover, Holi or Eid, but don’t get to take time off of school or work without losing out on learning or being paid. This can impact work performance and the quality of education a student may receive.

I would appreciate time off school [for Eid]. I usually end up missing 2-4 days of class which negatively affects my attendance. High school teachers don’t typically wait for everyone to come back to continue with their lessons. So, I miss quite a lot of class work,” said Sabrina Ballan, a grade 10 student.

While some believe Canada could only benefit from adding more holidays, others think the current statutory holidays are more than enough.

“[Adding more holidays] doesn’t make sense. Then we would have to give everyone a religious holiday. With so many religions in Canada if we all had every holiday off, nobody would work,” says college student Annoushaiy Akmal.

Adding new statutory holidays can be tricky to accomplish for both federal and provincial governments to agree on. A recent example of this is the attempted National Day of Mourning the federal government tried to put in place for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

Adding new legislation for more holidays is something that may take years to achieve.

Another option could call on individual businesses and corporations, instead of governments.

As many employment contracts give employees the option to self-identify race and gender identities, a potential solution could be asking workers to select which holidays and festivals they celebrate and wish to take off.

While this may be a viable short-term option, this presents many potential issues including religious and cultural discrimination, or employees abusing the system by claiming they celebrate all holidays and festivals.

As Canada continues to grow and become a more diverse country, it will only be exposed to more cultures and religions. Finding a way to be inclusive of all Canadian citizens and their culture is something the country will need to find ways to prioritize.