Yukon Chamber of Commerce split on proposed Aboriginal Day holiday

Yukon businesses are almost evenly divided in support or opposition to a proposed new statutory holiday on National Aboriginal Day. The Yukon Chamber of Commerce said most support the idea, but some worry about the cost.

'It was fairly close to being right up the middle,' said Chamber spokesperson

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

Yukon businesses are divided in their support for a proposed new statutory holiday on National Aboriginal Day, according to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber surveyed its members after Yukon MLAs voted unanimously last week in support of a new holiday on June 21.

Rich Thompson, chair of the chamber, said members were split between being "generally supportive and generally opposed" to the idea. "It was fairly close to being right up the middle," he said.

Thompson said there is "overwhelming support" among businesses for recognizing and honouring the history and culture of Yukon First Nations, but some worry about the costs associated with another statutory holiday — lost productivity, or paid overtime.

Thompson said businesses in the hospitality industry — especially those that employ many people, such as hotels — are in a tough spot.

"Typically, in a week where a stat holiday occurs, in the hospitality industry you can count on that being a week where you lose money. The margins just aren't there," Thompson said.

"These are real expense issues to them, that they have to consider."

The Yukon government will consult Yukoners about the proposed holiday before moving ahead with the plan, something Thompson said the chamber welcomes.

He's also urging the government to do an economic assessment of the idea, and explore other ways to recognize First Nations without making a new holiday.

Right now, the Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction in Canada to mark National Aboriginal Day with a holiday.