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What is Family Day? (Canada)

Feb 18, 2013

In parts of Canada, Family Day is a statutory holiday occurring on a Monday in February. In the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan, it is observed on the third Monday of February. In the provinces of Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, the statutory holiday on this date is instead termed Louis Riel Day and Islander Day, respectively. British Columbia began to celebrate Family Day on the second Monday of February in 2013. As of 2013, two-thirds of Canadians live in a province that observes a February statutory holiday. Except in British Columbia, the timing of 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, Nova Scotia, and the territories. As Family Day is not currently recognized in the federal sphere, federal employees in all provinces (such as public servants and postal workers) still work on this day. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the third Monday of February is a school board holiday, but not an official provincial holiday.

Family Day


The holiday was first celebrated in 1990. Alberta was the only province in Canada to have a statutory holiday in February, until it was proposed in Saskatchewan beginning 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 this holiday would emphasize the importance of family values.

Getty came in for considerable criticism at the time. Many employers felt that 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.


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

The overall effect in annual days off remains unchanged for many, as Easter Monday is no longer considered a holiday by private businesses. Businesses suggested it might cost them as much as $140 million a year for this new holiday, 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 exactly the same.


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 12 October 2007, the provincial government established Family Day, with the first being observed on 18 February 2008. Its creation raised Ontario's number of public holidays to nine per year. However, this holiday does not necessarily add to the number of holidays Ontarians receive, as 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.

British Columbia

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. Although there were renewed calls to introduce Family Day in B.C. between 2007 and 2011, it was opposed by the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Campbell government.

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.

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. 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.

Other names

Louis Riel Day

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 M├ętis leader regarded as the Father of Manitoba.

Islander Day

The provincial government of Prince Edward Island introduced Islander Day first in 2009 due to the rising trend of a holiday in February. First held on the second Monday of February in 2009, much controversy followed in most business being hurt with being out of sync with their partners in other provinces which held Family Day on the third Monday of each February; which coincided with business partners from the U.S.A which held their President's Day on the third Monday. Provincial Attorney General Gerard Greenan introduced a change to mark the holiday on the third Monday in February in April of that year.


With the growing trend of establishing a statutory holiday on this date, 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 it be made a federal holiday. Unless and until this were to happen, federally regulated workplaces (such as the post office) will continue to 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. Graham did not win re-election.