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Canada’s federal holiday to mourn the Queen leaves a patchwork of confusion

On Canada’s east and west coasts, schools and government offices will be closed on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral. But in the two most populous provinces, employees will be at work – unless they are federal employees. Banks and other federal industries, however, have been given the option to close – or to remain open.

On Tuesday, the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, declared 19 September a federal holiday. But the ensuing chaos of determining who qualifies for the holiday has left workers confused across the country.

The prairie province of Saskatchewan will remain open for businesses. In neighbouring Manitoba, only government employees will have the day off. But in Prince Edward Island on the Atlantic coast, a full statutory holiday has been declared, with provincial authorities ordering businesses to close or pay their employees time and a half.

“Declaring an opportunity for Canadians to mourn on Monday is going to be important,” said Trudeau, during a cabinet retreat in the province of New Brunswick – which will close schools and government offices. “For our part we will letting federal employees know that Monday will be a day of mourning where they will not work.”

In Canada, nearly 90% of workers fall under provincial jurisdiction, and in not declaring the holiday a general holiday, the federal government has left a patchwork of confusion.

Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador have opted to give workers a public holiday.

Quebec, which has long been skeptical of the monarchy, was the first to rule out a public holiday after Trudeau’s announcement.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, said workers would not get a holiday – but could instead observe a “moment of silence”.

“This will give all Ontarians an opportunity to reflect on the remarkable life of Queen Elizabeth II and her unrelenting commitment to service and duty,” the premier, Doug Ford, said in a statement.

The British Columbia premier, John Horgan, said in a statement he would “follow the lead of the federal government and join with other provinces in observing the national day of mourning” – referring to four other provinces that took a similar approach.

Small business advocacy groups had been critical of a possible national holiday, arguing the announcement left little time to prepare, arguing a stoppage of work could cost the country billions.

And in British Columbia, the teacher’s union said the timing was poor, given an upcoming holiday at the end of September as teachers work to get students settled back in school.

“It’s very unusual to have a part-holiday that only really applies to public sector workers,” Bruce Hallsor of the Monarchist League of Canada told CTV News. “She was everybody’s Queen – she wasn’t only the Queen of public sector workers.”

Only one province, Alberta, has not yet announced whether it will make the state funeral a public holiday.

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