Canadian Civic Holiday

Caribana: Celebration of Caribbean People

Toronto Caribana Parade 2009
Toronto Caribana Parade 2009
Toronto Caribana 2009
Toronto Caribana 2009
Toronto Caribana Parade 2009
Toronto Caribana Parade 2009
Toronto Caribana Parade 2009
Toronto Caribana Parade 2009
Toronto Caribana Parade August 3, 2009
Toronto Caribana Parade August 3, 2009
Lt Governor John Graves Simcoe
Lt Governor John Graves Simcoe

Caribana: Celebration of Caribbean People

Most of Canada, (with exception of Newfoundland & Labrador, Quebec and the Yukon Territory) celebrated Civic Holiday on the first Monday of August. This holiday is know by different names in each province and even within municipalities. For instance;

Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Day)

Ontario (Simcoe Day + others)

British Columbia (British Columbia Day)

Alberta (Heritage Day)

New Brunswick (New Brunswick Day)

Manitoba (Civic Holiday)

Nunavut (Civic Holiday)

Nova Scotia (Natal Day)

Northwest Territories (Civic Holiday)

Prince Edward Island (Natal Day

Source: Canadaninfo.

According to Canadainfo website, the holiday on the first Monday in August is known by different names within Ontario. Different municipalities have named the August Civic holidays differently. Here are some of the names that were given:

1869 - Toronto City Council originated a midsummer holiday for a "day of recreation".

1871 - A Bank Holiday was established by the House of Commons in England. Sir John Lubbock declared that Toronto in Canada had found an August holiday "advisable and satisfactory."

1875 - Perhaps after the precedent set by Sir John Lubbock, Toronto City Council fixed the first Monday in August as a Civic Holiday.

1968 - Toronto City Council officially called the civic holiday “Simcoe Day” after Major-General John Graves Simcoe, who was appointed the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada on September 12th, 1791. He convened the first Legislative Assembly and established York (now Toronto) as the capital of the province. One of his crowning achievements was to begin the phasing out of slavery in Upper Canada, which officially ended in 1810, that is, 23 years before it was abolished in the British Empire and 55 years before the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States.

1980 - Burlington celebrates the holiday as "Joseph Brant Day." Joseph Brant was a Mohawk Chief who became known for his treaty negotiations and loyalty to the British.

1982 - The City of Brantford adopted a policy that stated that the civic holiday be named "Founders' Day". Each year, the Brantford Heritage Committee submits a report to City Council with the name or organization that is to be recognized on that day.

1983 - Oshawa City Council passed a resolution to recognize the holiday as "McLaughlin Day" in honour of the late Colonel R.S. McLaughlin, who brought General Motors to Oshawa. See Parkwood Estate and Oshawa - still motoring after 75 years.

1996 - The City of Ottawa passed a by-law proclaiming the Civic Holiday as "Colonel By Day". John By (1779-1836) was a British Lieutenant-Colonel and military engineer. His most noteworthy achievement was the building of the Rideau Canal and Bytown (now Ottawa) was named after him.

1998 - Sarnia City Council passed a resolution declaring the holiday "Alexander Mackenzie Day". The Honourable Alexander Mackenzie was Canada's second Prime Minister from 1873-1878.

1999 - The Town of Cobourg proclaimed the holiday as "James Cockburn Day". James Cockburn was a father of Confederation and represented the riding of Northumberland West in the Legislative Assembly of Canada, 1861-67.

2006 - Guelph City Council passed a by-law proclaiming the holiday as "John Galt Day" in honour of its founder, Scottish novelist and businessman, who founded the City of Guelph on April 23, 1827 when he was superintendant of the Canada Company.


Historical Significance: August 1, is a very significant date in the abolition of slavery of people of African descent. The retention of the holiday as Simcoe Day has major historical significance. Major General John Graves Simcoe began phasing out slavery in Ontario in 1810, long before anywhere else in the British Empire. It is significant to remember such leadership in the abolition of human slavery. Slavery was abolished in most of the British Empire by August 1, 1834. In essence only slaves under the age of six were freed. Slaves over six years of age were designated as apprentices. The third class of apprentices were released on August 1, 1838 and finally on August 1, 1840 all slaves were released.

In Toronto, the first Monday of August holiday, Simcoe Day, is marked by Caribana, the largest street festival in North America. The Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Caribana showcases the diverse Caribbean culture in music, art, dance, foods and costume design. This festival is a month long celebration, which is an integration of the many Caribbean festivals and carnival into one big carnival which blends the different influences (African, European and Asian) from the different region of the Caribbean.

Caribbean Influences: The Caribana Festival has emerged from influences from Trinidad & Tobago's Carnival, as well as carnival from other islands such as Barbados, Crop Over, the Bahamas, Junkanoo, St Vincent, Guyana, St Lucia, Jamaica and many other Caribbean islands. The celebration of Carnival originated from the European tradition of pre-Lenten feasting, much like New Orlean's Mardi gras. Some islands have linked their carnival to historical events of slavery for instance, Crop Over in Barbados and to some extent, Junkanoo in the Bahamas. Caribbean Carnival events include elaborate costumes worn by many participants, including an elected king and queen, and a street parade with colorful floats.(Caribbean Guide.info) Music include Calypso, pan music, reggae, jazz and hip hop and rap music. The colourful costumes is a major part of the attraction of the parade which is held on the Saturday of the long weekend Civic holiday.

The Canadian Civic holiday is aptly named for Toronto as it shows its historical connection to a politician who was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in the province of Ontario. I would suggest that Simcoe Day should be named for the August Civic holiday throughout Ontario and even the whole of Canada. I also want to suggest that the historical significance of the holiday should be taught as a part of our school curriculum. Currently there is no mention of the historical significance, linked to the abolition of slavery. I asked my daughter (who graduated from high school several years ago) and my husband (who went to school in Ontario from Elementary school through to college), about what did they knew about Simcoe Day; I was surprised that they could not recount any details. This is disappointing. How can all our children feel validated about themselvves when all of our histories are not recognized and taught in our school system?


Comments 6 comments

emohealer profile image

emohealer 7 years ago from South Carolina

This was an awesome read...Sometimes I get caught up in US Holidays and events and it was really nice to take a peek at your Civic Holiday. Great presentation!


DynamicS profile image

DynamicS 7 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

emohealer, thanks for your kind comment. We are neighbours, so its nice to learn about each other. Canada has equivalent to most American holidays, with the exception of the Civic holiday. For instance we celebrate Labour day on September 7th, and Thanksgiving in October.

Thanks for stopping by...


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago

Dynamic - I enjoy discovering little ( or not!) historical details about various parts of the world. Here, in Lisbon, it sometimes feels like party central because of all their national holidays. Plus they appear to add a few in for good measure!

And for sure you live in a beautiful country, a place I'd one day like to get to!


DynamicS profile image

DynamicS 7 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

frogdropping, its good to hear from you. Europeans certainly know how to have fun, we don't have as much holidays as you do. Someone told me that the average number of vacation weeks is about 5 weeks per year. In North America is about 3 weeks, if that much. As for holidays, we could do with a few more.

Canada is indeed beautiful. I hope that you will visit soon.

Thanks for stopping by...


Hui (蕙) profile image

Hui (蕙) 5 years ago

Great knowledge and insightful opinion.People learn a lot from history.


DynamicS profile image

DynamicS 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hui, Thanks for your visit and comment. History is really about people and how they impact the world whether on a large scale or in small ways.

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