Aboriginal Day to be stat holiday in Yukon starting this year

'It's about time,' says Premier Sandy Silver, but some business owners, and the City of Whitehorse, worry about the impact on their bottom line.

Government will table legislation when MLAs reconvene next month

Kids play while adults listen to the music at Aboriginal Day celebrations at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in Dawson City, Yukon, in 2015. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Premier Sandy Silver is promising Yukoners another day off this summer, as his government moves to make National Aboriginal Day, June 21, a statutory holiday.

"It's about time," he said. "It's about a new way of doing governance here in Yukon as well, and showing a commitment we've made to better relations with First Nations governments."

The idea has had support from all parties in the past. The NDP introduced a motion in 2015 to make the day a stat holiday and MLAs voted unanimously in support of the idea.

But they also agreed to consult with the business community first. The Yukon and Whitehorse Chambers of Commerce then surveyed their members and found them split over the idea.

Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, says the concept of a stat holiday on National Aboriginal Day is 'a good one,' but it needs a bit more review. (Mardy Derby)

Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, says most business owners like the idea as a way to recognize and honour First Nations culture, but some worry about their bottom line.

"It adds considerable cost," Karp said. "And with our economy the way it is right now, it adds an additional burden to the business community.

"This is an idea that I think needs a little bit more review, consideration, and hopefully we'll be able to do that."

Whitehorse's mayor is more firmly against the idea. With 300 employees, Dan Curtis says it would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars for another paid day off.

"I'm not in favour of it, but if that's the decision of our government, of course that's the decision. But it will come as a significant cost to the City of Whitehorse, most certainly."

The legislative assembly reconvenes on April 20.

With files from Vic Istchenko