Arbitrator Determines that National Day of Mourning was not “Proclaimed” a Holiday Under Collective Agreements

Following Queen Elizabeth II’s death last fall, September 19, 2022 was declared to be a National Day of Mourning. The Vaughan Public Library Board (the “Library”) did not recognize the National Day of Mourning as a paid holiday for its employees, a decision which CUPE grieved. It was thus left up to an arbitrator to determine whether the National Day of Mourning should properly have been considered to be a “holiday” under either of CUPE’s collective agreements with the Library.


CUPE is the bargaining agent for the Library employees. It is a party to two separate collective agreements with the Library, one pertaining to its full-time employees and the other pertaining to its part-time and casual employees.

Article 15.01 of both of CUPE’s collective agreements provides as follows:

               All employees will be paid for the following holidays:

                New Year’s Day                               Victoria Day                                      Thanksgiving Day

               Family Day                                        Canada Day                                      Christmas Day

               Good Friday                                      Civic Holiday                                     Boxing Day

               Easter Monday                                 Labour Day

               and any other day proclaimed by the federal, provincial or municipal governments.

Both parties agreed that this case hinged primarily on the term “proclaimed” as used in Article 15.01.

On one hand, CUPE argued that the National Day of Mourning had been “proclaimed” to be a federal holiday and, as such, that employees under the collective agreements were entitled to be paid for that day. In support of its position, CUPE pointed to statements made by the Prime Minister of Canada and by Minister of Labour O’Regan, as well as a directive issued by the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Government of Canada.

On the other hand, the Library argued that this was, at its core, a contract interpretation case. In its view, the National Day of Mourning did not meet the requirements of Article 15.01 as it had not been “proclaimed” to be a holiday, in the sense of being officially declared through a legislative enactment process. Furthermore, the Library argued that the National Day of Mourning was not proclaimed a “holiday” in the Canada Gazette, or made a holiday under the Canada Labour Code, the Holidays Act, or any other legislation. Finally, the Library argued that CUPE was improperly trying to equate either the Prime Minister or the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Government of Canada with the “Federal Government”, an interpretation of the term that was overly broad.


In his decision, Arbitrator Beatty agreed with the Library that this was ultimately a contract interpretation case. Giving “proclaimed” its normal and ordinary meaning, and recognizing that different words have different meanings, Arbitrator Beatty concluded that the use of the term “proclaimed” in Article 15.01 was meant to include a link or connection to a legislative process. This interpretation was also consistent with existing jurisprudence.

Additionally, Arbitrator Beatty noted that there was very little evidence to support the conclusion that the National Day of Mourning was actually treated as a “holiday”, including the fact that it was not made a holiday under any legislation. Furthermore, Arbitrator Beatty indicated that there was no evidence that the “Federal Government”, or any other level of government, treated the National Day of Mourning as a holiday, since neither the Prime Minister of Canada or the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Government of Canada constitute the Federal Government.

In light of the foregoing, Arbitrator Beatty was satisfied that the National Day of Mourning was not a holiday under the collective agreements. Finding that the Library therefore did not violate the collective agreements, he dismissed the grievances. 

In Our View

Many collective agreements contain language similar to that at issue in this case, whereby employees are entitled to additional paid holiday leave in respect of days proclaimed by various levels of government. This decision will therefore be helpful for those employers in understanding what exactly is meant by the term “proclaimed” in these clauses, and when such days will in fact have to be recognized as a holiday under the collective agreement.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Birrell at 613-940-2740 or Joël Rocque at 613-790-9285.




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