Family Day (Canada)

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Family Day
Also calledLouis Riel Day (Manitoba), Islander Day (PEI), Nova Scotia Heritage Day (Nova Scotia)
Observed byAlberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan
DateThird Monday in February
2019 dateFebruary 18  (2019-02-18)
2020 dateFebruary 17  (2020-02-17)
2021 dateFebruary 15  (2021-02-15)
2022 dateFebruary 21  (2022-02-21)
Yukon Heritage Day
Official nameYukon Heritage Day
Observed byYukon
DateNo consensus. Arguably last Friday of February, Friday before last Sunday of February, etc.

In some provinces of Canada, Family Day (French: Jour de la famille) is a statutory holiday occurring on the third Monday in February. In the provinces of British Columbia (BC), Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan it is observed as Family Day. In three other provinces, the same day is a statutory holiday but celebrated for different reasons: Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, Nova Scotia Heritage Day in Nova Scotia, and Islander Day in Prince Edward Island. Two-thirds of Canadians live in a province that observes a February statutory holiday. In the United States, Presidents Day (also Washington's Birthday or other names) is also celebrated on the third Monday in February. Some provinces have changed the observance day of their holiday to match the other provinces and/or the American holiday.

The third Monday in February is a regular working day in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the territories. As Family Day is not a federal statutory holiday, federal employees in all provinces (such as public servants and postal workers) work on this day. In Yukon, one Friday in February is deemed Yukon Heritage Day.

Family Day[edit]


The holiday was first celebrated in 1990.[1] Alberta was the only province to have a statutory holiday in February until Saskatchewan began observing it in 2007.[2][3]

The holiday was proclaimed by Lieutenant Governor Helen Hunley, on the advice of her premier, Don Getty. Premier Getty said it was important for Albertans to spend time with their families, and that this holiday would emphasize the importance of family values. The date was chosen to coincide with Washington's Birthday, in order to avoid disrupting trade with the United States.[4]

Getty faced considerable criticism at the time; many employers felt an additional statutory holiday was an unnecessary financial burden. In response, Heritage Day was downgraded to a civic holiday, meaning employers would not be required to observe it. Under Alberta law, the employer may choose to observe Heritage Day as a general holiday, under which rules applying to general holiday pay will be used.[5]

Some Getty critics had suggested the creation of Family Day was linked to the arrest and conviction of one of Getty's sons on cocaine-related charges. Getty himself, however, has said over the years that the two events were not related.[6]


In October 2006, Saskatchewan's Premier, Lorne Calvert, proposed the holiday for the province, starting in 2007.[7] The bill for the Labour Standards Amendment Act, 2006, was introduced in the legislature on November 1, 2006, and received Royal Assent on December 6.[8] The act officially declares Family Day on the third Monday of each February;[9] the first Family Day in Saskatchewan was February 19, 2007.[3]


During the Ontario provincial election in 2007, Dalton McGuinty, of the Liberal Party, promised that, if re-elected premier, he would establish a provincial holiday in February. On October 12, 2007, the provincial government established Family Day on the third Monday in February, to be first observed on February 18, 2008. Its creation raised Ontario's number of statutory holidays to nine per year.[10] However, this holiday does not necessarily add to the number of holidays Ontarians receive because employers can substitute any non-statutory holidays that employees may already be receiving in lieu of this day. Many employers have substituted the popular Civic Holiday, which falls on the first Monday in August. Although the Civic Holiday is enjoyed by millions every year, it is not public (statutory), and workers may have to choose one holiday or the other, based on their contract, union negotiations, service requirements, etc.[11]

British Columbia[edit]

A private member's bill to establish Family Day on the third Monday in February was introduced in the British Columbia Legislature by Liberal MLA Bob Chisholm in 1994 but failed to pass.[12] Although there were renewed calls to introduce Family Day in BC between 2007 and 2011, it was opposed by the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Campbell government.[13][14]

On January 10, 2011, while running for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party, Christy Clark proposed establishing a Family Day holiday on the third Monday of February. Clark subsequently became premier; the Speech from the Throne, delivered on October 3, 2011, said that BC would observe its first Family Day on February 18, 2013.[15]

In 2012, a two-week consultation process was held in order to determine if British Columbians preferred the holiday to fall on the second or third Monday in February.[16] On May 28, 2012, it was announced that Family Day would be observed on the second Monday in February each year, starting February 11, 2013.[17] As this does not coincide with Presidents Day, it also provides two consecutive long weekends for tourism, particularly at BC's many ski resorts.[18]

On February 9, 2018, the British Columbia provincial government announced that Family Day would be moved to the 3rd Monday in February in 2019, to align their holiday with the rest of those provinces who observe it on that Monday.[18]

New Brunswick[edit]

On September 5, 2010, while campaigning for re-election, New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham promised to establish Family Day in his province if his Liberal Party was returned to government,[19] Graham did not win re-election.

The Liberals won re-election in September 2014, and in February 2016 the Liberal Government started studying the implementation of Family Day.[20] On April 26, 2017, Premier Brian Gallant announced that New Brunswick would become the newest province to observe Family Day, beginning on February 19, 2018.[21]

Other names[edit]

Louis Riel Day (Manitoba)[edit]

In February 2007, it was reported that the Manitoba government was considering a February holiday. Legislation proclaiming the third Monday in February as Louis Riel Day was passed by Manitoba's Legislative Assembly on April 17, 2007, and first celebrated February 18, 2008. The day is known as Louis Riel Day, a name suggested by Manitoba school students, in honour of Louis Riel, the Métis leader who led the fight to maintain aboriginal and francophone rights.[3]

Islander Day (Prince Edward Island)[edit]

The provincial government of Prince Edward Island introduced Islander Day in 2009, due to the rising trend of a holiday in February. It was first held on the second Monday of February in 2009, rather than the third Monday, as in other provinces. This incongruity effected much controversy, as businesses suffered as a result of being out of sync with their partners in other provinces, as well as the United States, which celebrates Presidents Day on the third Monday of February. In April 2009, Provincial Attorney General Gerard Greenan moved the holiday to the third Monday in February.[citation needed]

Nova Scotia Heritage Day[edit]

After the Nova Scotia Liberal Party was elected in 2013, its leader Stephen McNeil said he planned to create a February statutory holiday in Nova Scotia.[22] In December 2013 the government introduced a bill to create a holiday on the third Monday in February, starting in 2015.[23][24] The permanent name for the holiday, Nova Scotia Heritage Day, was announced on June 26, 2014.[25] Each year it will honour a different person, the first was Viola Desmond.[26] The first 12, which covers 2015 – 2026, were chosen by a three-member government appointed panel from suggestions offered by Nova Scotian school children.[27] Other days will recognize Mi'kmaq heritage, Africville, Joseph Howe, Edward Francis Arab, Nora Bernard, Carrie Best, J. Willie Comeau, Grand-Pré National Historic Site, William Hall, Rita Joe, Maud Lewis, and Mona Louise Parsons.[28]

Yukon Heritage Day[edit]

In Yukon, Yukon Heritage Day is a holiday observed on the Friday before the last Sunday of February.[29][30] Although the government and many businesses are closed on this day, it is not a statutory holiday.[31] This date is disputed by some.[32]


Governments in the remaining jurisdictions without February holidays have come under some pressure to harmonize. Ontario's enactment of Family Day has meant the Canadian financial sector, including the Toronto Stock Exchange, largely shuts down on this date. In 2008, federal NDP leader Jack Layton proposed that it be made a federal holiday.[33] Not being a federal holiday, federally regulated workplaces (such as the post office) work on Family Day regardless of the day's status in the respective provinces.


  1. ^ "Family Day Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. F-4". Canadian Legal Information Institute. March 12, 2007. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved April 26, 2007.
  2. ^ Chang Li, Henry (February 15, 2016). "February holiday: what are you celebrating?". Global News. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Manitoba's new holiday: Louis Riel Day". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. September 25, 2007. Archived from the original on October 22, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  4. ^ "Family Day (Alberta)". Archived from the original on March 13, 2013.
  5. ^ "Alberta General Holidays and General Holiday Pay". October 12, 2007. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved October 12, 2007.
  6. ^ Frazer-Harrison, Alex (February 16, 2015). "From controversy to tradition: 25 years of Family Day". The Calgary Herald. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  7. ^ "Saskatchewan plans a new paid holiday called Family Day". National Union of Public and General Employees. October 30, 2006. Archived from the original on December 23, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2006.
  8. ^ "Progress of Bills in the Saskatchewan Legislature 2006–2007" (PDF). Journals Branch of the Legislative Assembly. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 26, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  9. ^ "The Labour Standards Amendment Act, 2006". Government of Saskatchewan. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  10. ^ "Discover Ontario on Family Day". Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Archived from the original on March 14, 2010.
  11. ^ "Ontario's Family Day Holiday: Can We Afford It?". Wired. Archived from the original on December 18, 2013.
  12. ^ "BILL M 212 – 1994;FAMILY DAY ACT". Government of British Columbia. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  13. ^ "B. C. goes without Family Day long weekend". February 16, 2008. Archived from the original on April 26, 2009. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  14. ^ "B. C. Family Day holiday idea nixed". Daily Commercial News. February 24, 2006. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  15. ^ Point, Hon. Steven L. (October 3, 2011). "Speech from the Throne, 4th Session, 39th Parliament". Archived from the original on March 1, 2014. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  16. ^ Cassidy Oliver, The Province (May 8, 2012). "British Columbians asked to weigh in on date of February's new Family Day". Archived from the original on June 11, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  17. ^ Terri Theodore (May 28, 2012). "Yay! Another holiday!". The Canadian Press. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  18. ^ a b "B.C.'s Family Day to be moved to 3rd week in February starting in 2019". Global News. February 9, 2018. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  19. ^ "Graham promises new N.B. holiday". CBC News. September 5, 2010. Archived from the original on September 7, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
  20. ^ "Family Day for New Brunswick? The government is considering it". Global News. February 15, 2016. Archived from the original on February 25, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  21. ^ "New Brunswick winter holiday". Government of New Brunswick. April 26, 2017. Archived from the original on April 27, 2017. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  22. ^ "McNeil hits the ground running on first day as N.S. premier-designate". Global News. October 9, 2013. Archived from the original on October 17, 2013. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  23. ^ "What should Nova Scotia name its new February holiday?". CBC News. December 5, 2013. Archived from the original on February 5, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  24. ^ "February Holiday Act Will Give Nova Scotians Break". Government of Nova Scotia. December 5, 2013. Archived from the original on February 19, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  25. ^ "Nova Scotians to mark new Heritage Day in February". CTV News. Canadian Press. June 26, 2014. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2014.
  26. ^ "Viola Desmond 1st Nova Scotian honoured on new holiday". CBC News. February 17, 2014. Archived from the original on February 23, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  27. ^ "History of Heritage Day". Government of Nova Scotia. February 2017. Archived from the original on February 11, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  28. ^ "February holiday dubbed Nova Scotia Heritage Day". CBC News. June 26, 2014. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved June 26, 2014.
  29. ^ "Public holidays". Canada Revenue Agency. Archived from the original on February 21, 2015. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  30. ^ "Heritage Day". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  31. ^ "Employment standards". Government of Yukon. Archived from the original on February 16, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  32. ^ "Yukon Heritage Day | HolidaySmart". Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  33. ^ "Layton wants 'Family Day' a national holiday". CTV News. February 18, 2008. Archived from the original on March 4, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2010.

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