Canadian Juneteenth, aka "you don't really need a reason to go to the beach"
August 1, 2011 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Today is a holiday across most of Canada, though there's little agreement as to why we get the day off.

August 1 (or the first Monday in August) is most commonly known as the August Civic Holiday. This is uninformative, since civic holiday is the generic term for any legally recognized holiday. For many Canadians it is a statutory holiday, though in some provinces it is only an optional holiday acknowledged by some but not all employers.

It is still officially recognized under the name "civic holiday" in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Ontario and Manitoba, but in recent decades many provinces have co-opted August 1 as their day of official self-celebration. It is BC Day, New Brunswick Day, Natal Day (Nova Scotia and PEI), and Saskatchewan Day.

Albertans know it as Heritage Day, a celebration of multiculturalism. Yukon's Heritage Day celebrates the history of the territory.

Québec does not recognize August 1. The Québécois provincial day is St. Jean Baptiste Day, aka "La Fête Nationale du Québec" (The National Holiday of Québec) is a statutory holiday on June 24. Its celebration dates to 1834, and since its inception it has been focal for the sovereigntist movement.

Newfoundland and Labrador also do not celebrate August 1. Instead, they take the first Wednesday in August off in honour of the Royal St. John's Regatta, a rowing competition which they say is oldest organized sporting event in North America. Charmingly, if the weather is no good for rowing on that day they move the Regatta and the holiday to the next sunny day.

Various Canadian cities have their own names for the civic holiday. Brantford, Burlington, Oshawa, Ottawa, Hamilton and Peterborough name the day after the respective founders of their cities. Sarnia and Coburg recognize Confederation-era politicians. Overlapping with Caribana, Toronto has Simcoe Day (more on this in a moment). Oshawa honours Samuel McLauglin, industrialist and founder of what became GM Canada. Burlington remembers Joseph Brant, who led the Mohawk Nation against the Yankees in the American Revolutionary war. North York has Mountie Day.

Guelf celebrates August 1 as John Galt Day. Who is John Galt?

Since 2008, Ontario also recognizes August 1 as Emancipation Day, as do many commonwealth countries. This commemorates the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire on August 1, 1834.

Toronto has celebrated the day (Simcoe Day) as a day of victory over slavery since 1869. Upper Canada (Ontario) was the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to pass anti-slavery legislation. On the first day of the first session of the Executive Council of Upper Canada, our abolitionist Lt. Gov. John Graves Simcoe heard testimony form Chloe Cooley, a woman who had been kidnapped, taken to the United States and sold into slavery. The Act Against Slavery followed shortly thereafter. It did not free the enslaved (unsurprising since many legislators were slaveowners) but it did ban the slave trade and emancipated the adult children of slaves. By 1810, no one in Upper Canada was enslaved.

This is not how we celebrate the civic holiday, but I wish it was.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow (44 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
PedantFilter: It's Guelph, not Guelf.
posted by pdb at 1:57 PM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


How I wish it really was spelled "Guelf."
posted by saturday_morning at 1:58 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Something something gift horse...
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:59 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


How I wish it really was spelled "Guelf."

The most reliable method for a Guelf to convince others to make a linguistic change is to write an epic poem to prove the point. It worked for one Guelf. It could work for you, too. Bonus: You get to put the people you don't like in hell!
posted by The World Famous at 2:07 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


though there's little agreement as to why we get the day off.

Because it's my mom's birthday.
posted by philip-random at 2:15 PM on August 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Québec does not recognize August 1"

So they go straight from July 31 to August 2?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


Most of my Canadian friends seem to be under the impression that we observe an excessive number of holidays in the States, to which I always counter that they've got so many holidays here that they couldn't be bothered to properly name them all.

Then I explain that nobody actually gets off of work on Flag Day.
posted by wreckingball at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not unlike the seemingly randomly distributed bank holidays in Ireland, if I remember correctly.
posted by psoas at 2:26 PM on August 1, 2011


It was a bank holiday here in Sydney yesterday. But I don't feel so bad about it because the bankers don't get labor day, presumably because they don't want to have to share popular holiday destinations with us riffraff.
posted by Joe Chip at 2:27 PM on August 1, 2011


Eh.
Just call your civics thingy a Bank Holiday Monday
posted by Bwithh at 2:28 PM on August 1, 2011


We have a day off today here in Ireland too! Eyyy! (cracks a beer)
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:29 PM on August 1, 2011


I think Canada should switch to a 4 day workweek in Summer. Life (and summer) is too short.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:31 PM on August 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


I always thought it was just to give a holiday in August, like there is now family day in early Feb, a creation to give a holiday in Feb. (Getty did that in Alberta as a desperate attempt to keep his seat, didn't work. )
posted by PinkMoose at 2:32 PM on August 1, 2011


Québec does not recognize August 1

C'est 1er août.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:36 PM on August 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


We've celebrated the Civic Holiday by doing fuck-all today. Happy 1st of August!
posted by LN at 2:37 PM on August 1, 2011


If Quebec doesn't recognize today as a holiday, then what the hell were all of them doing in a giant tailback at the border this morning?
posted by Kitteh at 2:38 PM on August 1, 2011


Do you get lots of Nova Scotians not showing for work tomorrow, on Post-Natal Day?
posted by biffa at 2:44 PM on August 1, 2011


Who is John Galt?

The Rand fans should be happy.

Anyway, it is even more patchwork than the FPP suggests: quoth Wikipedia: In Ontario since 2008 the holiday is officially observed as "Emancipation Day"; however many municipalites have local names as well, such as Simcoe Day in Toronto (the Carribean Cultural Festival, formerly known as Caribana is held this holiday weekend), Mountie Day in North York, Colonel By Day in Ottawa, George Hamilton Day in Hamilton, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, Founders' Day in Brantford, McLaughlin Day in Oshawa, Alexander Mackenzie Day in Sarnia, James Cockburn Day in Cobourg, Peter Robinson Day in Peterborough, and John Galt Day in Guelph.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:57 PM on August 1, 2011


Stripper By Night?
posted by biffa at 2:59 PM on August 1, 2011


I think I prefer this real John Galt to the fictional John Galt.
posted by Bwithh at 3:00 PM on August 1, 2011


Don't you all know everybody is really celebrating Colorado Day? (Yes, the Mile-Hi State is celebrating its 135th birthday today.)
posted by kozad at 3:03 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


PedantFilter: It's Guelph, not Guelf.

I apologize. No excuse - I even used to live in the area.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:17 PM on August 1, 2011


I call it Simcoe day and I don't even live in the big smoke
posted by NiteMayr at 3:19 PM on August 1, 2011


It's called Simcoe day because that's where all the cool people in Toronto go on long weekends.
posted by GuyZero at 3:22 PM on August 1, 2011


I always enjoyed the idea that it's labeled Civic Holiday in the same font that the generic cans of food in Repo Man use.

CIVIC HOLIDAY
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:30 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


heh. I didn't even realize it was a holiday until I walked down to the post office to mail my already-late MefiMix swap CDs. Sorry guys, one more day...

We've celebrated the Civic Holiday by doing fuck-all today. Happy 1st of August!

I've celebrated it by marathoning through the first half of Cloud Atlas in the park. I'm just home now to transition from coffee to beer, then I'm headed back there to try and finish it all! Such a fantastic story(s).
posted by mannequito at 4:48 PM on August 1, 2011


Thank you for reminding me of the downside of an American client base. (Yes, I get 4th of July off... But that was, like, a whole month ago.)
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:54 PM on August 1, 2011


Québec does not recognize August 1

If you let them keep getting away with this kind of thing, they'll soon want to secede.

Thank you for reminding me of the downside of an American client base. (Yes, I get 4th of July off... But that was, like, a whole month ago.)

August is the only month in the US calendar that doesn't have some kind of holiday in it. True, many of the other holidays around the year aren't Federal Holidays giving one the day off work, but the stretch from July 4 to Labor Day is truly a long dry spell in the US calendar.
posted by hippybear at 5:06 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


August is the only month in the US calendar that doesn't have some kind of holiday in it.

Highlighting, I think, the saddest irony to the relabeling of French fries to freedom fries.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:35 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


As made brief reference to in the FPP, today is Emancipation Day in Jamaica.
posted by Mike Mongo at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2011


I hope that this is not interpreted as being patronizing in any way but Canadians should perhaps know that some residents of the United States have a huge (non-stalkery) crush on your country.
posted by Morrigan at 5:58 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm in NB today, taking in New Brunswick day when I would usually be basking in Simcoe Day. Given the noise outside our motel room, the Mrs. and I have just learned that, for some, at least New Brunswick Day involved setting off fireworks.

Great FPP by the way!
posted by dry white toast at 6:15 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and on the topic of inconsistent Canadian holidays, while most of the chumps in this country are celebrating "Family Day" in February (which was concocted quite recently because it was agreed that there needed to be some kind of statutory holiday between New Year's and Good Friday to mitigate the Winter Crazies), we in Manitoba are celebrating, at the behest of our province's schoolchildren, a political revolutionary who thought he was God's chosen prophet and whom the state hanged for treason.
posted by wreckingball at 6:41 PM on August 1, 2011


EvenMorePedantFilter: I'ts Cobourg. Named in honour of the British monachy's Saxe-Coborg roots. And misspelled ever since.
posted by thecjm at 6:56 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I can't spell Saxe-Coburg. Coborg sounds like some sort of conjoined robot.
posted by thecjm at 6:59 PM on August 1, 2011


dry white toast, I heard some fireworks in Fredericton on Friday, as well. Not really sure what's up with that. Although there's a new fireworks store on the outskirts of town, maybe that's causing it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:34 PM on August 1, 2011


Let me get this straight: I spelled Coburg correctly and it's the people of Cobourg who are getting it wrong? Wow.

a political revolutionary who thought he was God's chosen prophet and whom the state hanged for treason.

Do you mean the Father of Confederation, the elected Canadian MP who was prevented from taking his seat by threat of assassination or the leader of the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan who was deposed and executed following a Canadian war of aggression?

(not a boring life, that Louis Riel)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:09 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fireworks in Nova Scotia too. This was last night on fabulous Dover Island during a climbing party (that this happens to take place annually on 'Natal Day' might be a coincidence).
posted by Flashman at 9:19 PM on August 1, 2011


Thanks for this post. You know, surprisingly, I never knew about Emancipation Day. I'll blame the fact that I just moved to Toronto in November, though I spent the first 15 years of my life in Mississauga, so I don't really have an excuse.

I love the story behind Emancipation Day and I wish we made more of a big deal about it, especially since I don't recall any other holidays that celebrate emancipation or even Black history in general (Black History Month doesn't count, as I recall both in Ontario and in BC in highschool we never learned a damn thing about Black history which is a real shame).
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:26 PM on August 1, 2011


There was a firework at 2 am in Montreal last night. Perhaps some people decided to take the night as a holiday instead? But wait! The actual counterpoints are these:
- There are always fireworks in the middle of the night in Montreal - even we've launched them from our roof
- There is no need for a Quebec holiday in August. August is already understood to be the month where no work should be attempted.
posted by niccolo at 3:52 AM on August 2, 2011


If Quebec doesn't recognize today as a holiday, then what the hell were all of them doing in a giant tailback at the border this morning?

We're in the middle of communal vacation time (nb. this year the holiday started on the third weekend, contrary to the Wikipedia article). Not everyone is off, but my commute to work has been like a Sunday drive for the past week and a half.
posted by cardboard at 4:54 AM on August 2, 2011


Wait... you mean Canada only has one holiday with no apparent purpose? The Spring Bank Holiday and Summer Bank Holiday mock you.

Meanwhile, Illinois sits about pondering whether to take Casimir Pulaski Day off and trying to remember who Casimir Pulaski was.
posted by hoyland at 6:20 AM on August 2, 2011


"Québec does not recognize August 1"

So they go straight from July 31 to August 2?


Believe me, if they thought they could prove some obscure point about Quebecois exceptionalism and self-determination, they damn well would.
posted by googly at 7:52 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had no idea that "Simcoe Day" was a Toronto-specific thing. Growing up in the burbs outside TO (Mississauga REPRAZENT!), we called it Simcoe Day too, as it was easier than "August Civic Holiday" :)
posted by antifuse at 7:19 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


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