Celebrating Labour Day in Toronto

Celebrate the Last Long Weekend of the Canadian Summer

CNE
••• Scene from the CNE midway. Image courtesy Canadian National Exhibition

Labour Day is one of Ontario's nine public holidays. This means many employees will receive the day off with holiday pay. It also means that many businesses and city offices will be closed. All LCBO stores will be closed, as well as all branches of the Toronto Public Library. The TTC operates on its holiday schedule on Labour Day and Go Transit on its Sunday schedule. 

Labour Day in Toronto is celebrated by different groups in different ways.

For the labor movement, it is a day of political action. For students, parents and school staff, Labour Day is often the last day of holidays before it's time to go back to school. And just about everyone thinks of Labour Day as marking the end of the summer season (even though the autumnal equinox isn't for another few weeks).

Why Labour Day Exists

Curious as to the meaning of Labour Day and why we have it? As the name suggests, Labour Day in Toronto began as part of the labor rights movement. In March of 1872, local printers who wanted their workweek shortened to 58 hours went on strike to demand the change. Other workers supported the printers, and in April of the same year, a large crowd marched on Queen's Park. Some of the union leaders were jailed, but eventually, the government of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald passed the Trade Union Act, decriminalizing union activities. The first US Labor Day parade was then held in September of 1872, and the Toronto march became an annual event.

Labour Day was made a national holiday in Canada in 1894.

Toronto's Labour Day Parade

The annual Labour Day Parade takes place on Monday morning, beginning near Queen and University. Marchers head southwest through the city (often along Queen then down Dufferin) and the parade ends inside the CNE around 11 a.m. Participating unions and other groups are organized through the Toronto & York Region Labour Council.

If you're not coming home from the cottage or getting kids ready for school on Labour Day there are a few things to do in the city depending on what you're in the mood for. 

For starters, Labour Day is always the last day of the Canadian National Exhibition so if you haven't yet taken advantage of the annual fun fair, now's your chance to check it out before it shuts down for another year. It is also during the three days of the Labour Day weekend that the Canadian International Air Show takes to the skies over Lake Ontario, which many people watch from inside the Exhibition Place fairgrounds.

In a more recent tradition, the Toronto Argonauts head to Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton to take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the CFL's Labour Day Classic (although the game wasn't held in 2011).

There isn't much in the way of public fireworks during the last long weekend of summer. The one exception is Canada's Wonderland in Vaughan, which usually offers a Labour Day fireworks show on the Sunday of the Labour Day weekend (check the "Live Entertainment" section of the website for details). The fireworks usually begin around 10 p.m., weather permitting.

Many Toronto attractions stay open for Labour Day, including the Toronto Zoo, The Ontario Science Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum, Casa Loma, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the CN Tower, and Black Creek Pioneer Village.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is closed on Labour Day.