We owe this long weekend to a bunch of Toronto typesetters.
Monday, September 7 is Labour Day in Canada. It’s the last long weekend of Summer, which officially ends on September 22nd but as Albertans know, can actually end any time, without warning.
You might think it’s a bit odd for “Labour” Day to be a day off. But the day doesn’t celebrate work (despite being called “Fête du Travail” in Quebec). It celebrates the labour movement in Canada.
Labour Day has been observed in Canada for 126 years. The catalyst was a social movement known as the Eight Hour Day Movement, which advocated for eight hours for work, eight hours recreation, and eight hours of rest each day. The idea helped create laws in England limiting the work day for children to ten hours. (That’s good ammo for anyone with children who protest having to do the dishes.)
But we digress: back in 1872, a mere five years after Confederation, a strike was staged by the Toronto Typographical Union, fighting for a 58-hour work week.
At the time there were still laws criminalizing unions in Canada. This enabled some of the typographers’ employers to call for their arrest. Police rounded up 24 leaders of the Typographers Union. If not for the Toronto Trades Association throwing the support of its 27 unions behind the Typographers, we might all still be working on the first Monday of September.
The massive show of support and a demonstration in Ottawa caught the attention of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald, and he abolished the outdated union laws. Soon after, the Toronto Trades and Labour Council organized an annual commemorative parade. In 1894 (things moved slowly back then) Canadian Prime Minister John Thompson made Labour Day an official annual holiday to be held in September.
So this Monday, whether you are spending time with family, pulling bounty from a garden, chilling with Netflix, or joining friends on a patio, enjoy the long weekend!