Will you get a paid holiday on Heritage Day?

In Nova Scotia, Heritage Day is supposed to be a paid public holiday.
And it will, be at least for some of you.

This year, Heritage Day is celebrated on Monday, Feb. 20. And Nova Scotia’s 2023 honouree is Rita Joe.  Elder Rita Joe was a member of the We’koqma’q Mi’kmaq community. She was a poet, a book author and a community leader.  She was a survivor of the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie.  Her most famous poem was I Lost My Talk:

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe  (1932-2007)

I lost my talk
The talk you took away.
When I was a little girl
At Shubenacadie school.

You snatched it away:
I speak like you
I think like you
I create like you
The scrambled ballad, about my word.

Two ways I talk
Both ways I say,
Your way is more powerful.

So gently I offer my hand and ask,
Let me find my talk
So I can teach you about me.

Rita Joe receives the Order of Canada from Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn, Apr. 18, 1990. (photo credit: The Canadian Press)

How to get the day off with pay

Heritage Day is one of the six paid holidays days each year. A decade ago NS 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.

If you belong to a union, you’ll likely get the day off with pay.  If your workplace has no union, there are two rules you must follow in order to get paid for the holiday.

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 for at least 15 of the last 30 days. You also must have worked your shift right before the holiday, and your shift immediately after the holiday.

If you qualify for the holiday, and must work on the day you are entitled to get your regular pay for the day’s work plus one and a half times your pay for the hours you work. 

By law, coffee shops, convenience stores, gas stations, tourist attractions, hotels, and small drug stores are allowed to remain open. If you have a coffee at Tim’s or Starbucks on Monday, you should know that the employees who serve you will probably have worked fewer than 15 of the last 30 days. That way the employer will not not have to give them the day off 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 28% of working people in Nova Scotia have a union that represents them! Ask Equity Watch (equitywatchns@gmail.com) or me how to do it! Today’s Equity Watch webinar was

Featured image above: Portrait of Rita Joe by Jo Napier. Learn about artist Jo Napier and Great Women Productions here.

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