Family Day (Canada)

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Family Day
Also called Louis Riel Day (Manitoba), Islander Day (PEI), Nova Scotia Heritage Day (Nova Scotia)
Observed by Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan
Date Third Monday in February
2015 date February 16  (2015-02-16)
2016 date February 15  (2016-02-15)
2017 date February 20  (2017-02-20)
2018 date February 19  (2018-02-19)
Frequency annual
Family Day (BC)
Official name Family Day
Observed by British Columbia
Date Second Monday in February
2015 date February 9  (2015-02-09)
2016 date February 8  (2016-02-08)
2017 date February 13  (2017-02-13)
2018 date February 12  (2018-02-12)
Frequency annual
Yukon Heritage Day
Official name Yukon Heritage Day
Observed by Yukon
Date Third Friday in February
2015 date February 20  (2015-02-20)
2016 date February 19  (2016-02-19)
2017 date February 17  (2017-02-17)
2018 date February 16  (2018-02-16)
Frequency annual

In parts of Canada, Family Day is a statutory holiday occurring on a Monday in February. In the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Saskatchewan, it is observed on the third Monday of February; in the provinces of Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the holiday is instead termed Louis Riel Day, Nova Scotia Heritage Day and Islander Day respectively. British Columbia (BC) began observing Family Day on the second Monday of February in 2013. Two-thirds of Canadians live in a province that observes a February statutory holiday. Except in British Columbia, Family Day coincides with Presidents' Day in the United States.

The second and third Mondays in February are regular working days in Quebec, New Brunswick and the territories. As Family Day is not recognized in the federal sphere, federal employees in all provinces (such as public servants and postal workers) work on this day. In Yukon the third Friday is Yukon Heritage Day. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the third Monday of February is a school board holiday,[1][2] but not an official provincial holiday.

Family Day[edit]


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

The holiday was proclaimed by Lieutenant Governor Helen Hunley, on the advice of her premier, Don Getty. Premier Getty said it was important for all Albertans to take time for their families, and that this holiday would emphasize the importance of family values.[4]

Getty faced considerable criticism at the time, many employers feeling an additional statutory holiday was an unnecessary financial burden. In response to the criticism, the holiday of Heritage Day was downgraded to a civic holiday, meaning employers are not required to observe this day. 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]


In October 2006, Saskatchewan's Premier Lorne Calvert proposed the holiday for the province, to begin in 2007.[6] 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.[7] The act officially declares the third Monday of each February Family Day, and came into effect immediately;[8] the first Family Day in Saskatchewan was February 19, 2007.

The annual number of days off remains unchanged for many, as Easter Monday is no longer considered a holiday by private businesses. Businesses suggested the new holiday might cost them as much as $140 million a year, and have requested tax breaks to soften the economic impact. The Saskatchewan government has given $95 million corporate tax cuts, but most of the companies benefiting have adjusted the official days off such that the annual allotment remains the same.[citation needed]


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, to be first observed on February 18, 2008. Its creation raised Ontario's number of statutory holidays to nine per year.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12][13]

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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

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 regarded as the Father of Manitoba.[17]

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 the United States, which celebrates Presidents Day on the third Monday of February. In April of 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.[18] In December 2013 the government introduced a bill to create a holiday on the third Monday in February, starting in 2015.[19][20] The permanent name for the holiday, Nova Scotia Heritage Day, was announced on June 26, 2014.[21] Each year it will honour a different person or event, chosen by Nova Scotian school children, the first was Viola Desmond.[22] 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.[23]

Yukon Heritage Day[edit]

In Yukon, Yukon Heritage Day is a statutory holiday observed on the third Friday of February.[24][25] Depending on the year, this falls three days before, or four days after, the third Monday of February.


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.[26] 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.

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;[27] Graham did not win re-election.


  1. ^ "The 2014/2015 School Calendar" (PDF). Canadian Education Association. 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  2. ^ "2014-2015 School Calendar". Newfoundland & Labrador English School District. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Family Day Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. F-4". Canadian Legal Information Institute. March 12, 2007. Retrieved April 26, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Family Day (Alberta)". 
  5. ^ "Alberta General Holidays and General Holiday Pay". October 12, 2007. Retrieved October 12, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Saskatchewan plans a new paid holiday called Family Day". National Union of Public and General Employees. October 30, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2006. 
  7. ^ "Progress of Bills in the Saskatchewan Legislature 2006-2007" (PDF). Journals Branch of the Legislative Assembly. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ "The Labour Standards Amendment Act, 2006". Government of Saskatchewan. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Discover Ontario on Family Day". Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Culture. 
  10. ^ "Ontario’s Family Day Holiday: Can We Afford It?". Wired. 
  11. ^ "BILL M 212 -- 1994;FAMILY DAY ACT". Government of British Columbia. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  12. ^ "B. C. goes without Family Day long weekend". February 16, 2008. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  13. ^ "B. C. Family Day holiday idea nixed". Daily Commercial News. February 24, 2006. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  14. ^ Point, Hon. Steven L. (October 3, 2011). "Speech from the Throne, 4th Session, 39th Parliament". Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  15. ^ Cassidy Oliver, The Province (May 8, 2012). "British Columbians asked to weigh in on date of February's new Family Day". Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  16. ^ Terri Theodore (May 28, 2012). "Yay! Another holiday!". The Canadian Press. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Manitoba's new holiday: Louis Riel Day". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. September 25, 2007. Retrieved November 16, 2007. 
  18. ^ "McNeil hits the ground running on first day as N.S. premier-designate". Global News. October 9, 2013. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  19. ^ "What should Nova Scotia name its new February holiday?". CBC News. December 5, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  20. ^ "February Holiday Act Will Give Nova Scotians Break". Government of Nova Scotia. December 5, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Nova Scotians to mark new Heritage Day in February". CTV News. Canadian Press. June 26, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Viola Desmond 1st Nova Scotian honoured on new holiday". CBC News. February 17, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  23. ^ "February holiday dubbed Nova Scotia Heritage Day". CBC News. June 26, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Public holidays". Canada Revenue Agency. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  25. ^ "2015 Heritage Day: Celebrate Main Streets!". Heritage Yukon. February 20, 2015. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Layton wants 'Family Day' a national holiday". CTV News. February 18, 2008. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Graham promises new N.B. holiday". CBC News. September 5, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2010. 

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