Ontario Civic Holiday a “Stat Holiday”: Think Twice…

The upcoming Civic Holiday is celebrated on Monday, August 3 in Ontario. The holiday, which was created in honour of John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, often raises questions for employees and employers alike. Contrary to popular belief, the Civic Holiday is not a statutory holiday in Ontario; it is not listed as a public holiday in the province’s Employment Standards Act. This means that while many employers choose to give their employees a holiday, they are not required to do so by law.

A number of other provinces also have a public holiday, called by a variety of different names, next Monday. British Columbia Day, New Brunswick Day, Saskatchewan Day, Civic Holiday in the Northwest Territories and Civic Holiday in Nunavut are all statutory holidays and are governed by each province’s employment standards legislation. Heritage Day in Alberta, Natal Day in Nova Scotia, and Civic Holiday in Manitoba are not statutory holidays and employees are therefore not guaranteed a holiday.

For more information on work and pay requirements, check out your provincial employment standards legislation.


  1. Of course, employees who have the August Civic Holiday off are not simply beneficiaries of their employers’ largesse. Many employees have, through their unions, collectively bargained to have this holiday recognized as such in their collective agreements. Those without collective agreements who get the holiday off are, arguably, free-riders, more than they are servants of kind and gentle masters.

  2. I think the holiday exists as an agreeable equivalent to the English institution of the August Bank Holiday. It certainly existed in Ontario long before anyone thought of associating John Graves Simcoe with it. It was around by the end of the 19th century.

    The length of the tradition probably leads it to be treated as more like a statutory holiday than some other more recent inventions. I doubt that there are many employers in Ontario, unionized or not, who do not pay extra for work done on that day, if they insist on work at all (as many do.) However, maybe I’m just naive on that point.

    The Civic Holiday is not mentioned in the list of holidays in the Legislation Act (Ontario) either, under any name. Government offices are closed, however. If filing deadlines and so on expire on that day, people needing to do something with a government office will have to rely on s. 89(2) of that Act to get extra time.

  3. Gabriel Granatstein

    Mr?Ms. Davidson – I’m not sure I follow your logic. No question – it’s great that some employers have agreed to provide the Civic Holiday as a paid day. However, whether you are unionized or not, the employer still has to agree. In most cases, unionized employers are free to refuse to concede on issues during bargaining.

    To say that non-unionized employees are “free-loaders” is unfair – both to the employees and employers. The master/servant relationship you refer to is somewhat of an anachronism. Do you also mean that every non-unionized employee who has more than the statutory minimum of vacation has a union to thank? Nonsense. Individuals also have the ability to “bargain”.

    Of course, it’s easier for some than for others and I would be the first person to say that unions have a role to play in Canada, but your comments are unfair to all employers.

  4. Gabriel you are right. When you buy something it belongs to you – subject to the contract and whatever laws apply. Buyer and seller agree on a price and on other particulars (collective agreement as well) and carry on until the end of the contract.

    According to current political and economic theory, neither the buyer or seller is compelled or can be compelled to make a deal. There are a few exceptions but on the whole the exceptions prove the rule.

    Today the situation is such that “employers” can employ many people on a part-time basis which enables the “employees” to work for a number of employers to make a living. When the competition is fierce among the “employees” the employees have the opportunity to work for employers for free but in return – no money – but get experience.

    Employers have no choice and employees have no choice – this is law of supply and demand.