When I think of the Civic Holiday what first comes to mind is a memory from my childhood. Every Summer around this time my Dad would have an argument with his boss, who also happened to be my grandfather. My Dad would insist they were closing for the August Civic Holiday, and my grandfather would insist he’d never heard of it before…Was it something new this year? Was it even a real holiday? Had my Dad just made it up? Every year, the same argument, and every year my dad would win, and the shop would close for the day.
Flash forward twenty-some years, and now my husband works for a company which refuses to acknowledge the Civic Holiday. For the umpteenth year in a row my husband is stuck working while everyone else has a long weekend. Bummer. My husband told me that the reason he doesn’t get the holiday off is that he works for a national company and the Civic Holiday is a municipal holiday.
The first Monday in August is only a holiday in Windsor? Until this year I’ve never really thought much about it. (Yes, yes, I am simple and foolish.) Then this year I had a few emails from folks wanting to co-ordinate events for the August long week. Emails from folks who did not live in Windsor, or even in Ontario. Wait now, is the Civic Holiday celebrated outside of Windsor? Is it a municipal holiday, or isn’t it?
I was curious so I did some research, and I figured I’d share the results with you guys.
The Civic Holiday takes place on the first Monday of August. The Canadian Heritage site shows that it is celebrated in 10 out of 13 provinces or territories. Quebec, Yukon, and Newfoundland do not take part. In some parts of the country it is recognized as a statutory holiday, while in others — such as here in Ontario, it is a civic holiday.
So my husband was right…
It turns out the Civic Holiday is a municipal holiday after all. It is celebrated across the province of Ontario, but the provincial government has not recognized is as an official holiday. On the other hand the various municipal councils across Ontario have declared it a holiday. (Municipal councils have the right to make by-laws proclaiming a civic holiday and requiring shops to close for the day.) So yeah, it is a municipal holiday, but it’s also celebrated across the province and in other parts of Canada as well. The holiday is called by different names across Canada, so for simplicity’s sake calendars usually refer to it as “Civic Holiday”.
I was also curious to find out when the holiday first started. Apparently in Ontario it dates back to as early as 1869 when the Toronto City Council first voted in the midsummer holiday. I’m not sure what year it started being an official City of Windsor holiday, but I was able to find reference to it being celebrated in Walkerville in 1896. Sorry Grandpa, but when you were arguing with my Dad about it back in 1980s the Civic Holiday was certainly not a new holiday. (Does anyone know what year it was first celebrated in Windsor? I wasn’t able to find that info anywhere online.)
August 1st also marks the anniversary of the day that slavery was abolished in the British Empire. In 2009 a provincial bill was passed officially naming August 1st “Emancipation Day”, which ties in with the fact that the Emancipation Celebration was going on in Windsor this weekend (with similar events being held across the country).
If you’re curious you can read more about Emancipation Day and the August Civic Holiday is this interesting article from the Ottawa Citizen.