The August Long Weekend in Canada

Everything You Need to Know About Civic Day

August long weekend in Canada

 TripSavvy / Kaley McKean

Civic Day, the reason behind Canada's widely recognized August long weekend, provides a highly anticipated work break in the middle of the summer season. It takes place in most provinces on the first Monday of August and can be called by different names depending on where in Canada you are: Heritage Day in Alberta, Terry Fox Day in Manitoba, or Natal Day in Nova Scotia. On this day, many businesses close down as Canadians take advantage of three consecutive days off, often escaping to the lakes, mountains, and beaches for the weekend. The holiday is not celebrated in Quebec, Newfoundland, or Yukon, so you can expect business on Civic Day to be conducted as usual in those places. In 2020, the holiday occurs on August 3.

Many of the events surrounding Civic Day have been altered or canceled in 2020. Check details below and websites of organizers for more information.

About the August Long Weekend

The first Monday in August may be a holiday for most Canadians, but the reasons for celebrating vary from province to province. For some, it’s simply a day off without a particular meaning attached, but for others, Civic Day is a celebration of history and provincial pride.

In Ontario, the day goes by many names. In Toronto, it's called Simcoe Day—after John Graves Simcoe, who founded the city, originally called the town of York. In Ottawa, it's referred to as Colonel By Day in honor of John By, who supervised the construction of Ottawa’s Rideau Canal and founded the city, originally named Bytown.

Heritage Day in Alberta is a celebration of Canada's diverse world cultures and New Brunswick Day honors the environment and natural resources found in New Brunswick. In Manitoba, Terry Fox Day (changed from Civic Holiday in 2014) commemorates Terry Fox, a Winnipeg-born hero who started the Marathon of Hope to raise funds for cancer. And in other provinces—namely British Columbia and Nova Scotia—the August holiday is simply a celebration of the province itself.

Covehead Lighthouse, Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
 Barrett & MacKay / Getty Images

How to Celebrate

You won’t usually find fireworks, parades, or large, Canada Day-like festivals on Civic Day, but smaller celebrations do take place around the country. The August long weekend offers many Canadians the chance to whisk away to a campground, to the beach, or to one of the bustling cities.

You can expect some businesses, such as banks, libraries, and government offices, to be closed in areas where the holiday is observed. Others may have reduced hours and public transportation typically operates on a special holiday schedule. Several cities across Canada hold events or celebrations for the August long weekend. Check the websites of the events for updated information.

  • In Alberta, locals and visitors can visit Fort Calgary for family-friendly Heritage Day activities including Mountie uniform try-on sessions, kids’ crafts, and a walk through the heritage gardens. Those in Edmonton, rather, can head to the Edmonton Heritage Festival celebrating the food, art, and culture of 100 countries from around the world. In 2020, this festival will take place virtually.
  • The Halifax-Dartmouth Natal Day celebration in Nova Scotia has been canceled in 2020. It typically includes a parade, family activities, live music, and a comedy night.
  • New Brunswick usually holds the Area 506 Festival in Saint John, but it, too, is canceled in 2020. Traditionally, this gathering would feature music, cultural displays, and a village made of shipping containers with food, local-made goods, and a beer garden.
  • There are several options for celebrating the August long weekend in British Columbia, such as the Harmony Arts Festival, White Rock Sea Festival, Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival, and the Honda Celebration of Light (a huge fireworks display). All of these have been canceled in 2020.
  • In Manitoba, music fans would normally head to the Fire and Water Music Festival in Lac Du Bonnet or Rockin' the Fields in Minnedosa, but both have been canceled for 2020.
  • In Saskatchewan, there's the annual Saskatoon Ribfest in Diefenbaker Park, which has been canceled, and the PotashCorp Fringe Theatre and Street Festival, which usually takes over Saskatoon's Broadway District, but will take place digitally in 2020.
  • If you find yourself in Ontario over the August long weekend, hike your way through Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto, bike along the scenic Rideau Canal in Ottawa, or make your way to one of the province’s beautiful provincial parks to camp or swim.        
  • In Prince Edward Island, celebrate the long weekend in Prince Edward Island National Park for beaches, bird watching, and amazing scenery. For a more active holiday, you can bike your way along the 270-mile (435-kilometer) Confederation Trail for even more spectacular views.

Quebec, Yukon, and Newfoundland and Labrador may not officially recognize Civic Day, but they do hold regional celebrations of their own. In Newfoundland, the city of St. John’s celebrates Regatta Day on the first Wednesday of August. The Yukon celebrates Discovery Day on the third Monday of August and Quebec has a holiday on June 24 to mark Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a celebration of French-Canadian culture.

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