Days and confused: Canada’s Civic Holiday all over the map

Enjoy your day off Canada — maybe

Oh Canada.

How did this happen? You have taken a very noble idea (a free day off smack in the middle of summer) and turned it into a wildly confusing situation for those of us in the professional holiday-tracking business.

The idea of a Canadian civic holiday goes back to the middle of the 19th century when kindhearted government officials decided to give workers a three-day weekend.

I speak of your first-Monday-in-August civic holiday — with its dozen or so alternate names including Heritage Day (Alberta), Simcoe Day (Toronto), Natal Day (Halifax), Colonel By Day (Ottawa), British Columbia Day (ummm…British Columbia?) and the tricky Regatta Day (Newfoundland and Labrador) — which, by the way, actually takes place on the first Wednesday in August — unless, of course, the weather’s not quite right.

And then it’s anyone’s guess.

Sorry, Quebec

The idea of a Canadian civic holiday goes back to the middle of the 19th century when kindhearted government officials decided to give workers a three-day weekend. Still, it’s not what Canadians call a “statutory” holiday — which means your boss doesn’t legally have to play along. Worse, some provinces pretend the civic holiday doesn’t exist at all. For example, care to know what they call it in Quebec?

Monday.

Oh well. Have a fun day at the office lovely people of Quebec. At least, you’ll have an easy commute. (In fairness, though, Quebec does observe Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in late June.) And as for those poor souls in the Yukon, sandwiched between Alaska and something called the Northwest Territories, they’re out of luck on the civic holiday as well.

Anyway, Canada, I mean Ottawa, have yourself a very happy Colonel By Day, which sort of sounds like “‘colonel’ by day — and maybe, ‘lounge singer’ by night?” 

Yukoners must wait until the third Monday in August for the charmingly-named Klondike Gold Discovery Day to roll around. But with a population density of 0.18 per square mile, they’re not likely to make too much fuss about it.

rowers on regatta day
St. John’s, Newfoundland, hosts Regatta Day — but only if the weather cooperates. (Ken Eckert)

Americans would never put up with this. We like our national holidays national — so all of us can grill hot dogs and pretend to fit in our swimsuits at the exact same time. Take Labor Day. It’s a fixed target — the first Monday in September. We don’t have devious states going off in their own directions. Delaware, for example, doesn’t get to sneak away to a different part of the calendar and call it “Very Few People Know Where Delaware’s Located Day.”

Anyway, Canada, I mean Ottawa, have yourself a very happy Colonel By Day, which sort of sounds like “‘colonel’ by day — and maybe, ‘lounge singer’ by night?” (Yes, we know, it’s a day to honor British (!) Colonel John By.

Then again, maybe we can pop up on August 7 for a Regatta Day visit, Newfoundland (and Labrador). We hear that you absolutely, positively have the day off.

If it’s not too windy.