The Many Faces of the August Long Weekend

kids in grass_96137972Most Canadians are well versed in the stories of Christmas and Easter, and we all know that Canada Day recognizes the birthday of our nation. But for many, the first-Monday-of-August long weekend (often referred to on calendars as “Civic Holiday”) is shrouded in mystery and, at times, confusion.

Let us clear the air.

A long time ago, there was a lengthy and dreary gap between Canada Day and Labour Day where no holiday occurred. The first Monday of August, occurring right between the two, seemed like the perfect place for a summer holiday.

But there is more to it than that. Few know that what is most widely known as “Civic Holiday” actually has ties to the abolition of slavery which officially took place on August 1, 1834. Some communities across Canada call this “Emancipation Day”.

Across Canada, the day is known as “British Columbia Day,” “New Brunswick Day” or “Saskatchewan Day,” depending on where you are. Alberta calls it “Heritage Day,” and in Nova Scotia and PEI, they celebrate “Natal Day”.

In Ontario, the holiday has many aliases. It began in 1869 when Toronto City Council marked it as a “day of recreation”. Later on, Burlington recognized the Monday as “Joseph Brant Day”, while Brantford, Oshawa, Ottawa, and Sarnia all followed suit with names of their own (Founders’ Day, McLaughlin Day, Colonel By Day, and Alexander Mackenzie Day respectively). Municipalities across Ontario have a range of local names for the holiday honouring different historical figures, yet most Ontario workplaces simply go with “Civic Holiday”.

Today, Toronto’s official name for the first-Monday-of-August long weekend is “Simcoe Day”, and it coincides with Toronto’s annual Caribana festival. And although many organizations give employees the day off , this Monday is not a “statutory holiday” nor is it recognized or mentioned in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.

As for Manitoba, there’s a new movement to have the weekend renamed Terry Fox Day starting next year. A bill to rename the holiday after the Winnipeg-born icon will be introduced in the upcoming fall session. Fox died in 1981 at the age of 22 while attempting to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

“His birthday is on July 28 — that’s very close to the Civic Holiday,” said Manitoba’s Premier Greg Selinger. “So it is just a way for us to think of his contribution as we are enjoying time with our family on the long weekend.”

No matter where you’re from, where you’re celebrating, or what you call the holiday, enjoy the long weekend!

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