In Nova Scotia, Heritage Day is supposed to be a paid public holiday.
At least for some of you.
This year, Heritage Day is celebrated on Monday, Feb. 21. And Nova Scotia’s 2022 honouree is not a person, not a group that made history. The honouree is a panorama – the Landscape of Grand Pré, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The NS government says of Grand Pré
“The landscape is an outstanding example of how early European settlers adapted to conditions on the North American Atlantic coast with the much-needed help and support of the Mi’kmaw people. The place is also a major symbolic place of memory for the Acadians.”
Of course, it’s also the setting of “Le Grand Dérangement.” From 1755-1763 the British colonizers forced thousands of Acadians off their land and deported them by ship to the Anglo-American colonies, and to England and France. Here’s a Historica Moment to watch.
How to get the day off with pay
Heritage Day is one of the six paid holidays days each year. A decade ago we had only 5 paid holidays each year! Nova Scotia has one of the lowest number of paid holidays, or what some call “statutory holidays”, in Canada. For example, New Brunswick has eight, and PEI has seven paid holidays. However Quebec has eight, and Ontario and Saskatchewan each boast ten.
In Nova Scotia, Heritage Day means most stores, services and offices must be closed. To receive pay for the day off, you have to have earned pay at your job (even if it’s virtually) for at least 15 of the last 30 days. You also must have worked your shift right before the holiday, and your shift after the holiday—even though in these Covid times you may not have actually gone to your workplace to work.
By law, coffee shops, convenience stores, gas stations, hotels, and small drug stores are allowed to remain open. So when you have a coffee at Tim’s or Starbucks on Monday, you should know that the employees who serve you will probably have clocked fewer than 15 of the last 30 days. That way the employer does not have to give them the holiday with pay. In fact, most coffee shop or restaurant workers on Heritage Day will likely receive their regular pay (no bonus at all) for working on the holiday. No extra pay and no time off.
If you want to get a paid holiday on Heritage Day, consider helping to organize a union at your workplace. Then the union can negotiate Heritage Day as a paid holiday for you. More than 30% of working people in Nova Scotia have a union that represents them! Ask Equity Watch (firstname.lastname@example.org) or me how to do it!
Featured Image: Pomquet, rug-hooked art by Catherine Bussiere