Human rights impact of statutory holidays probed by City of Winnipeg

The City of Winnipeg is investigating how statutory holidays fit in with its human rights principles.

A motion from the City’s Human Rights Committee says it is looking at how the legislative statutory holiday and days of observance align with the City’s principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion. It says it will be gathering feedback from stakeholders.

“The majority of legislative statutory holidays and days of observance imposed by federal and provincial legislation represent only one culture and religion,” the April 22 motion says.

Of the eight legislative statutory holidays, the two religious holidays are Christian.

“It is clear that the ones that have been traditionally observed tend to be tied to either a particular culture or religion or background,” Pitblado Law Partner Todd Andres said in an interview with CTV News.

Andres says these holidays could be a human rights issue as an employer.

“They don’t have legislative authority over the statute, the employment standards code,” Andres said. “If the provincial employment standards code was to be amended, that is something that would have to be done by the provincial government.”

However, he says the City of Winnipeg can make holiday changes for its employees.

“The City of Winnipeg as an employer can make specific agreements with its unions to recognize certain holidays other than the ones set out in the employment standards code.”

Andres says holidays could be up for debate in the future.

“There is a tendency now to be perhaps more critical that. Just because things were a particular way at one point in time doesn’t mean they don’t need to be re-examined and looked at again.”

Feedback will be shared with the city’s human rights committee on July 18. 

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