Labour Day

August 30th, 2013 by Abhi Saini

Many Canadians view the Labour Day long weekend as their last opportunity to visit the cottage or spend time with family and friends before the end of summer. Most of us are unaware of the fascinating history behind the holiday.

Labour Day in Canada is celebrated on the first Monday of September to commemorate the contributions of organized labour towards Canadian society.

The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to the “Nine-Hour Movement” that began in Hamilton, Ontario. Unions were illegal in Canada, so activists used strikes and demonstrations in an effort to achieve a shorter work day.

The most prominent example came in 1869 when the Toronto Printers’ Union petitioned for a work week of 58 hours. Employers rejected this request repeatedly, and workers went on strike on March 25th, 1872.

The publishing industry was “paralyzed,” and workers from other industries joined the movement. On April 14th, 10,000 workers staged a rally and marched together to Queen’s Park demonstrating worker solidarity. Employers retaliated by hiring replacement workers.

Prime Minister John A. Macdonald eventually stepped in to side with the workers. Macdonald helped pass the Trade Unions Act that “legalized and protected union activity” on June 14. The majority of the workers’ demands were eventually met, including a shorter work week. 

Sir John Sparrow David Thompson

In 1894, Prime Minister John Thompson’s government officially declared Labour Day a national holiday, and a huge parade was organized in Winnipeg celebrating workers’ solidarity. The celebrations quickly spread to other Canadian cities and eventually became annual tradition across Canada.

This Labour Day, take some time to commemorate the contributions of those who fought for the rights we enjoy today.

Posted in Special Events |

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.


Recent Posts


Facebook  Twitter  Youtube  Pinterest