The holiday Canada gave the world
Labour Day marks not just the triumph of worker’s spirit but an expression of human dignity and creative excellence.
The first Canadian parade for workers’ rights was held in Toronto on April 15, 1872. One of the prime reasons for organizing the demonstration was to demand the release of 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union, who had been imprisoned for the “crime” of striking to gain a nine-hour working day.
The parade featured throngs of workers and a crowd estimated at 10,000 Torontonians who applauded as the unionists marched proudly through the streets, accompanied by four bands. The event took on a life of its own and was one that authorities could not ignore.
A few months later, on September 3, 1872, seven unions in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, organized a parade more than a mile long, headed by an artillery band and flanked by city fireman. Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald swept away the “barbarous laws” that had imprisoned the ITU workers in Toronto.
After it was declared a legal holiday by the Parliament of Canada on July 23, 1894, the celebration was moved to the first Monday in September, where it has remained ever since.
Labour Day celebrations in the United States began in the 1880s, inspired by the beginnings made in Canada.
The date of May 1, an ancient European folk holiday known as May Day, emerged in 1886 as an alternative holiday for the celebration of labor, later becoming known as International Workers’ Day and celebrated by more than 80 countries.