Labour Day is a statutory national holiday celebrated throughout Canada on the first Monday in September.
The September date has remained unchanged, even though the government has been encouraged to adopt May 1 as Labour Day, the date celebrated by the majority of the rest of the world.
Moving the holiday, in addition to breaking with tradition, could have been viewed as aligning the Canadian labour movements with internationalist sympathies. Another major reason for keeping the current September date is that the United States celebrates its Labor Day on the same day.
History of Canadian Labour Day
The origins of Labour day in Canada can be traced back to a printer’s revolt in 1872 in Toronto, when labourers tried to establish a maximum 54-hour work week. At that time, any union activity was considered illegal and the organizers were jailed. Protest marches of over 10,000 formed in response. This eventually led to the Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald repealing the anti-union laws and arranging the release of the organizers as well.
The parades held in support of the Nine-Hour Movement and the printers’ strike led to an annual celebration. The date was adopted in Canada in 1894 by the government of Prime Minister John Thompson.