‘Scrambling’: Some B.C. parents, businesses frustrated by closures for queen’s funeral

Click to play video: 'B.C. school closures for Queen’s funeral puts strain on parents and private sector'
B.C. school closures for Queen’s funeral puts strain on parents and private sector
Monday was not a statutory holiday in B.C., but schools across the province were closed. Working parents who could not arrange childcare had no choice but to take the day off, and as Kylie Stanton reports, the impact of closing schools on short notice went far beyond the classroom – Sep 19, 2022

Some parents and businesses in B.C. reported frustrations Monday due to mandatory and optional closures associated with Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

Public schools and post-secondary institutions were shuttered as a mark of respect for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, who was laid to rest at the Windsor Castle grounds. The provincial government also granted a day off to most public service workers and Crown corporations, following in Ottawa’s footsteps by observing the National Day of Mourning.

Some municipalities proceeded with a civic holiday, too, including Victoria and Vancouver, contributing to difficulties finding child care for some parents, and operational challenges for businesses that were subsequently short on staff.

“My son attends child care at one of our local (recreational) centres and it’s closed, so that’s not even an option,” said Lisa Connell, chair of the Parents Advisory Council at Tillicum Elementary in Vancouver.

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“I think that this could have been a learning opportunity at the schools.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. premier, lieutenant-governor attend farewell to Queen Elizabeth II at Victoria cathedral'
B.C. premier, lieutenant-governor attend farewell to Queen Elizabeth II at Victoria cathedral

Connell acknowledged the sadness of the occasion, but suggested a moment of silence may have been simpler than closing schools and sending parents “scrambling” for child care that is already “difficult to come by” in many neighbourhoods. Instructors could have taken time out of their lessons to teach students about the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II and the role of the monarchy, she added.

Meanwhile, she said some parents are left absorbing the cost of the one-time holiday, instead of the provincial government.

“Some of them really need to be working every day to put food on their tables,” she said. “Not all employers are understanding.”

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Mark Robinson, a single parent and community support worker in Nanaimo, B.C., said he was lucky to be able to take the day off work. Many parents aren’t in the same boat, he added, and it’s not only parents who are affected when government-run services are paused.

“There’s definitely a trickle-down effect with the people I support, the people I work with,” he said.

“We’re an essential service, so unfortunately it gets harder for everyone, not just the staff but the employer and the people we serve.”

Click to play video: 'Sights and sounds of Victoria procession and service in honour of Queen Elizabeth II'
Sights and sounds of Victoria procession and service in honour of Queen Elizabeth II

In an emailed statement, ICBC said its essential services were still available Monday, but road test appointments would need to be rescheduled. Some have already been rebooked on a priority basis, it added, and all remaining customers with appointments will soon be contacted.

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Annie Dormuth, director of B.C. provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said she thought most B.C. businesses that wanted to stay open could on Monday, but they were not spared the initial “confusion” and “frustration” that came with the sudden holiday announcement.

“Keep in mind that throughout the last two years, businesses have had to adapt their operations on a moment’s notice so these types of sudden changes are … unfortunately more the norm these days, but it still creates quite a bit of a stressful situation on the business itself,” she said.

Bruce Williams, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said some businesses were not able to operate at full capacity Monday due to staffing shortages. He echoed Dormuth’s comments about confusion surrounding the National Day of Mourning.

“Is this a statutory holiday? Do we have to pay time and a half?” he said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. royal commentator heads to London for queen’s funeral'
B.C. royal commentator heads to London for queen’s funeral

Elizabeth, who died on Sept. 8 at the age of 96, sat on the throne for 70 years. Her son, King Charles III, is now head of state not only for the United Kingdom and Canada, but 13 other nations as well.

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Dignitaries including British Columbia’s premier and lieutenant-governor joined a commemorative service Monday in honour of Queen Elizabeth in the capital city named after her great-great-grandmother.

The service at Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral followed a procession that began at the legislature and was led by the Royal Canadian Navy Naden Band and members of a 100-member guard carrying their rifles upside down as a mark of mourning.

– with files from The Canadian Press

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