Labour Day 2018

August 17, 2018

Labour Day is a statutory holiday that takes place on the first Monday in September. While many Canadians may simply think of Labour Day as the unofficial end to the summer, it is actually a day of great significance for the labour movement and workers' rights.

In 1872, at a time when unions were still illegal in Canada, a demonstration was held in support of striking workers from the Toronto Typographical Union who were fighting for a shorter work week. What began as a group of 2,000 workers marching through the city streets became a parade of 10,000, standing together at Queen's Park in solidarity. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald sided with the workers and eventually passed the Trade Union Act which repealed outdated laws and decriminalized unions.

The events in Toronto showed the power of workers to influence public opinion and shape policy through solidarity. Parades supporting and celebrating workers' rights became annual traditions across Canada, and in 1894 the Sir John Thompson government passed a law making Labour Day an official statutory day in recognition of the contribution workers made to the labour movement and workers' rights.

Today we recognize the efforts of our forbearers in the labour movement. Across Canada we come together to honour those who have fought to ensure better rights, wages and working conditions for all workers, and to speak out about ongoing labour issues and injustices.

ONA members have taken a stand on several major labour issues in health care including workplace violence, health and safety, safe staffing and pay equity. This year, ONA Local 8 members in Windsor-Essex launched a series of powerful ads speaking out against violence in the workplace. The first of the four ads has been viewed more than 90,000 times in cinemas, on YouTube and Facebook.

ONA also launched a provincial campaign to raise awareness of the key role that registered nurses play in the health-care system, and called on all parties in the recent provincial election to make RN staffing a health-care priority by including a promise in their election platforms to immediately post and fill 10,000 RN vacancies.

With their passion and dedication to the health, wellness and safety of their patients and clients, ONA members play a vital role in strengthening their communities and the labour movement. As patient advocates, ONA members – RNs, nurse practitioners, registered practical nurses and health-care professionals – are committed to speaking out about many issues that directly affect our ability to deliver high quality care.


We encourage ONA members, family, and friends to join us and other labour leaders in celebrating this Labour Day. Now is the time to start preparing to attend a Labour Day event in your area.

Because Labour Day parades and events allow us to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights before large public audiences, ONA will coordinate and fund registration fees for Locals/Bargaining Units that plan to participate, and where there are more than 40 member participants, an appropriate float/vehicle. Also remember that locals can apply for political action monies under policy 26.11 to Vicki McKenna before the event. Contact your bargaining unit president or local coordinator for more information.

If you or your Local will be participating in Labour Day activities in your community let us know by emailing and we will post the details here for other ONA members. We also invite you to submit any photos from your event - be sure to include the names and Local number with your submission.

See below for details about 2018 Labour Day events:

Check back soon as the event listing will be updated as information becomes available.

Toronto: The Toronto and York Labour Day Parade takes place on Monday, September 3 starting at 10 a.m. Marchers can meet on University Ave (east side), south of Dundas (Section 7A.) Contact your Local president or Region 3 VP Andy Summers ( for details. Click here to learn more.


We have prepared English and French versions of our Labour Day poster. Below you will find two versions of the poster: a generic poster (PDF) and one with a blank space at the bottom (Word) which Locals can customize with their own message and/or event details. Click on the document name below and download the PDF or Word document of your choosing.


We have also created this shareable image that you can download and post to your social media accounts. Show your support and spread the word about this important day!


ONA Resources:

We have developed several tools and resources that can help you increase awareness and promote positive change. Click here to learn more or email for help executing public awareness and advocacy campaigns.

Click here to learn about how union activism and nursing professionalism go hand in hand.

Watch ONA's "Why We're Here" video and learn more about the role the union plays in the lives of its members.

ONA members with a passion for union activism are coming together to learn how to build relationships and strong teams, motivate supporters to take action, and become confident in speaking out on labour issues. Check out this video from ONA's inaugural Activist Camp. Questions about the Leadership program? Email

More Resources:

Visit the Canada's History website for an in depth look at the origins of Labour Day in Canada.

The Canadian Labour Congress is the largest labour organization in Canada. Their website features the latest labour news, information about ongoing campaigns and research current labour issues.

Visit the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions website for the latest news and research on issues affecting Canadian nurses.