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Manitoba initiative encouraging culturally ‘inclusive’ scheduling of non-stat holidays

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Manitoba has eight statutory holidays per year, two of which are based on religious holidays, including Christmas. A Winnipeg psychologist is suggesting it’s time to adapt. Abigail Turner reports. – Dec 20, 2021

Manitoba has eight statutory holidays per year, two of which are based on religious holidays, including Christmas. A Winnipeg psychologist is suggesting it’s time to adapt.

“If we take a look at the holidays we celebrate in our calendar, they’re reflective of a colonial and white culture,” says Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman, clinical psychologist with the Clinic Psychology Manitoba and founder of Lead with Diversity.

He and his team at Winn Love created the initiative called “Celebrate Everything.” It’s a strategy that suggests workplaces offer two additional paid days off to employees to celebrate religious holidays. He says the initiative creates inclusivity.

“Most certainly, Winnipeg is very diverse and diversity is just a numbers game,” he said. “Inclusion is a relationship game and the relationship between different people – and we don’t have that sorted.”

“Winnipeg has been dubbed one of the most racist cities in Canada, and the goal is really to make it one of the most inclusive.”

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He says by only allowing holidays off for Christmas or Easter, it sets a precedent in workplaces.

“What that does for people psychologically is that it tells them that one holiday or the origins of that holiday or the people associated with that holiday, are more important.”

Read more: B.C. employer allows staff to swap some stat holidays for ones that reflect their beliefs

“What’s happening now with all the restrictions coming up with COVID, people are really up in arms and really concerned and understandably so, because it’s restricting time with family. But people who come from other communities who celebrate holidays throughout the year have had their holidays restricted with family, because of calendars, because of school and because of COVID restrictions,” he said.

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Robertson College, a school with more than 200 staff members, is one of the first to adopt the initiative.

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“I hate the notion of us just unintentionally excluding team members,” said Liz Choi, CEO of Education Canada Group, a parent company for Robertson College. “When I first learned of Celebrate Everything what I really loved is that it started conversations.”

“If we do truly celebrate peoples differences and acknowledge where they come from and their holidays, then they will feel a sense of belonging.”

Read more: ‘No pride’: Growing calls to cancel Canada Day amid residential schools discovery

Choi says when she first presented the new offer to staff it was met with a lot of positivity. She says the project hit close to home.

“I didn’t realize in the past that my not getting to celebrate my cultural holidays had a significant impact. I didn’t know it at that time because I’ve learned to internalize it. Knowing what I’ve missed out, I don’t want our team members to go through the same kind of experience.”

She says she understands the business model isn’t as accessible for smaller workplaces, but she says there are long-term benefits.

“If (businesses) do give their team members additional days off for the cultural holidays, then they’ll have less challenges with staff retention and overall attraction.”

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