Every year, everyone always looks forward to the Labour Day long weekend because who doesn’t like an extra day off! But it’s not just a randomly given vacation day, Labour Day is observed internationally to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers resulting from a labour union movement.
While some countries celebrate on May 1 (popularly known as May Day), here in Canada we celebrate on the first Monday of September. Labour Day in Canada can be traced all the way back to April 1872 when a parade was staged to support the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike against a 58-hour work-week. This was still viewed as a criminal act at the time and 24 union leaders were arrested.
However, labour leaders weren’t ready to give up. A similar demonstration was scheduled on September 3 of the same year to protest the arrests. This prompted our Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to repeal the anti-union laws. The next year the Trade Union Act was passed. And in 1894, the Canadian Prime Minister, John Thompson, made Labour Day an official September holiday.
But enough of the history lesson! There are many parades and picnics organized by unions on Labour Day, but most Canadians see it as the Monday of the last long weekend of summer. Celebration activities typically include picnics, firework displays, water activities, and public art events. Families with children in school, also view this as the last chance to travel before the end of summer and school starts. And of course teenagers and young adults see Labour Day weekend as the perfect opportunity to have last-minute parties before they return to school. But no matter how you celebrate, remember the milestones workers have overcome since the 1800s and enjoy the long weekend!