As much as Victoria Day may give a signal to Canadians that Summer is on the way and it’s time to hit the cottage for a long weekend, so too Labour Day, falling as it does on the first Monday of September, is often regarded as reminder that summer is drawing to a close as schools are opening their doors, days are conspicuously shorter and fall is in the air. Though for most of us, Labour Day now means a lazy long weekend and maybe an evening watching the Labour Day Classic the holiday has an important place in Canadian history and has been around since Sir John A. was prime minister and the aforementioned Queen Victoria was still not amused.
Labour Day is a statutory holiday in Canada and goes back to April 15 1872. On that date, a demonstration in the form of a parade was organized by the Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA) which was campaigning for the release of two dozen leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union who were in prison. The reason? They had organized a strike in an effort to have their workday reduced to nine hours. Back in 1872, unions were illegal and striking was considered to be a criminal activity. Regardless, the TTA encouraged the formation of trade unions, mediated in employee/employer disputes and provided avenues for workers to air grievances.
“There was enormous public support for the parade and the authorities could no longer deny the important role that the trade unions had to play in the emerging Canadian society. A few months later, a similar parade was organized in Ottawa and passed the house of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John Macdonald. Later in the day, he appeared before the gathering and promised to repeal all Canadian laws against trade unions. This happened in the same year and eventually led to the founding of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1883.
Labour Day was originally celebrated in the spring but it was moved to the fall after 1894. A similar holiday, Labor Day is held on the same day in the United States of America. Canadian trade unions are proud that this holiday was inspired by their efforts to improve workers’ rights”-timeanddate.com
Labour Day in Canada still continues the fight for workers rights, and recognizes the work done by these pioneers by celebrating their achievements through workers parades,-Toronto’s Labour Day Parade enters the CNE around 11 a.m. on Monday– as well as picnics, fireworks and an international air show that goes on all weekend.
Now it would be ironic if a celebration of workers’ rights involved having to work on that very day, and naturally there are a lot of us on holiday on Monday Sept 7, so plan early and get your shopping and work done in advance. Banks, Government offices, libraries, the LCBO and The Beer Store, and most Grocery stores, including Fiesta Farms will all be closed on Monday, although some are fighting to remain open. (Note that it is the owners of these stores that want to remain open, not the workers, so it is particularly fitting/ironic that the fight for workers rights continues especially regarding labour day)
As far as getting around goes, the TTC will be running on a holiday schedule, and GO Transit will be on its Sunday schedule. If you do need to do some shopping, The Eaton Centre, Vaughan Mills Mall, Square One and Bramalea City Centre will be open until 6 p.m. And if you are looking for activities that require more energy than hanging in a hammock all day, check here for a good list of activities that are not overly laborious.
If you want to thank anyone for your five day work week, or an eight hour workday, or a fair minimum wage, or fair treatment of employees, raise a glass to the men and women that made all of this possible back in 1872. Just make sure you get to the LCBO before Monday.