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B.C. government cancels school for Queen's funeral

Premier John Horgan said K-12 public schools and public post-secondary institutions would close Sept. 19 alongside most Crown corporations to mark Queen Elizabeth II's funeral.
QE2 visit to Parliament Hill 1982
Queen Elizabeth II visits Parliament Hill in Ottawa on a tour that would eventually land her in B.C.

B.C. Premier John Horgan has announced he'll be following the federal government's lead in declaring a national day of mourning Sept. 19 to mark the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would hold a federal holiday to mark the state funeral.

Speaking on the final day of the Liberal Party's caucus retreat in St. Andrews, N.B., Trudeau said the holiday will apply to all federal employees. Whether the holiday will extend to other residents will be up to each province or territory.

“Declaring an opportunity for Canadians to mourn on Monday is going to be important,” Trudeau told reporters.

In a written statement late Tuesday, Horgan said the holiday would apply to provincial public-sector employers. 

“K-12 public schools and public post-secondary institutions, and most Crown corporations will be closed. We encourage private-sector employers to find a way to recognize or reflect on the day in a way that is appropriate for their employees,” said Horgan.

“This will be a national day to reflect on the incredible life of Canada’s Queen and the longest-serving monarch in British history.”

The B.C. public holiday will not be considered a statutory holiday, meaning private-sector employers won't have to pay overtime to staff who work Monday. 

Earlier, federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan said federally regulated sectors like banks and airlines can but are not required to observe the holiday.

Industry representatives responded by calling on provinces to avoid a formal statutory holiday at a time many businesses are still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six-day notice makes a formal statutory holiday "deeply unfair for small businesses," said Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, adding it could also "cost the economy billions."

"For many small businesses, such as restaurants, hotels and movie theatres, this would mean paying more in order to stay open. Small businesses are already struggling with labour shortages and requiring them to close or pay time-and-a-half to their employees with no notice would be extremely costly or result in a day’s lost productivity,” he told the Canadian Press.

The government of Prince Edward Island responded saying it would hold a one-time statutory holiday Sept. 19, covering all provincially regulated workers. Provincial government offices and public schools would be closed, said the government in a statement. 

The provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador said they would close schools and government offices but left the decision up to the private sector on whether they would follow suit. 

Ontario and Quebec are not recognizing the holiday.

In a press release Tuesday afternoon, the Office of the Premier said a ceremonial procession and commemorative service for Queen Elizabeth II will be held in Victoria on the day of her state funeral.

The procession will start at the B.C. Parliament Buildings at 10:15 a.m. and proceed to Christ Church Cathedral. It will include B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, Horgan, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and what was described as “other dignitaries.”

“A 21-gun salute will be fired,” said the release.

Public seating will be limited at the church, but the commemorative service, scheduled for 11 a.m., will be live-streamed.

With files from the Canadian Press

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