CBC News | North
May 9, 2017
National Aboriginal Day celebrations in Whitehorse last June. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)
Celebrating the territory's First Nations culture with a day off 'a progressive step', gov't says
Yukoners will have another day off this summer, despite the concerns of some business owners.
The territorial government followed through Monday on its promise to make National Aboriginal Day — June 21 — a statutory holiday in Yukon, starting this year. It's the first piece of legislation passed by the new Liberal government.
In a statement, Community Services Minister John Streicker called it a "progressive step."
"We are enabling all Yukoners to celebrate Indigenous peoples' history, culture, traditions and continuing contributions across Canada and here at home," the statement reads.
The opposition NDP first presented a motion in 2015 to declare the holiday in Yukon. The motion won unanimous support from MLAs at the time, but the Yukon Party government said there would be public consultation first.
The Liberals then campaigned on a promise to go ahead and establish the holiday.
The idea was not universally supported. Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis was opposed, saying it would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to give its hundreds of employees another paid day off.
Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, also said businesses were split on the idea, with some worried about their bottom line.
He says the Chamber recommended the day be a non-statutory holiday in 2017, similar to Discovery Day, in August. There could then be more "negotiations and discussions" before 2018, he said.
"We didn't really have those negotiations and discussions, and government went on and made it a stat holiday," Karp said. "So we have to deal with that."
He says he's already had calls from some business owners who are worried about the cost.
"But having said that, they're all saying, 'Well, I suppose it's for a worthy cause, and we'll go along with it,'" Karp said.