Labour Day 2021

August 23, 2021

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 Prime Minister John A. Macdonald sided with the workers and eventually passed the Trade Union Act, which repealed outdated laws and decriminalized unions.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 those early leaders of 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 stands on major labour issues in health care, including workplace violence, health and safety, safe staffing and pay equity. As the roles our members play in the health-care system continue to grow and evolve, ONA will continue working to ensure safe practice settings for those who commit their lives to caring for others.

Our nurses and health-care professionals have been Ontario's first and the last line of defence throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the effort is taking a heavy toll. Stress, exhaustion, health and safety concerns and burnout are the reality for many. Nurses and health-care professionals want action from the government, to improve working conditions and protect those on the front lines of COVID-19, including:

  • Making sure we have the right PPE in our workplaces.
  • Paying us when we’re exposed to COVID-19 and have to self-isolate.
  • Giving us a say in our scheduling and working conditions.
  • Don’t override our collective agreements.
  • Ensuring that our compensation is determined fairly.

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 their ability to deliver high quality care.



Please click here to download the English poster.

Please click here to download the French poster.

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2021 Labour Day Facebook

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We encourage ONA members, family, and friends to join us and other labour leaders in celebrating this Labour Day.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our members and the public must refrain from attending live events, including parades. Many local Labour Day events across Ontario have been cancelled, but while in-person events may not go forward, Labour Day will be marked virtually. We will post information about online events as it is available.

If you or your Local will be participating in Labour Day activities, let us know by emailing and we will post the details here for other ONA members.

See below for details about 2021 Labour Day events:

Ontario Federation of Labour

To see a list of Labour Day events across the province go to:


ONA Resources:

Learn about ONA's Holding the Line campaign.

Learn more about ONA's work fighting Bill 124, Bill 195 and Bill 175 and what you can do to help! Look under the Campaigns and Actions section of the ONA website for all of our ongoing campaigns.

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.

Increasingly, we are hearing about nurses exiting employers and the nursing profession. We are trying to understand why they are leaving and what we can do to change working conditions and/or supports to keep them in the profession.  If you or a nursing colleague exit their employer (or have in the past few months) for any reason, please consider completing our short survey:

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.

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.

Why is Labour Day Important? Win a Prize!

Monday, September 6 marks Labour Day, one of the most important days on the calendar for workers. Again, this year, we can’t gather for our celebrations because of COVID-19, so we are inviting you to help ONA celebrate online.

Please send us a brief 30-second video or a photo of yourself and a sentence or two telling us why Labour Day and/or being part of ONA is important to you. All entries will be automatically put in a random draw to win one of two prizes (Tim Hortons gift cards). One prize will be awarded from all video submissions while the other will be awarded to photo submissions. We may use your videos/photos on social media and in our publications leading up to Labour Day.

You can try something like, “Hi, my name is ________ and I am a member of ONA Local _____. I think ONA is important to me because…. (and/or) I think Labour Day is important because….”

Here are a few examples that you may want to consider:

  • We can celebrate achievements of working together and showing that there is power in numbers.
  • Unions improve the working lives through collective action.
  • ONA has protected members during COVID-19 by standing up for our health and safety rights and demanding employers provide N95 respirators.
  • Unions give a voice to all workers.
  • Even simply wishing everyone a Happy Labour Day makes a great video.

Video submissions should be in MOV, AVI, WMV, or MP4 – you can use your cell phone, no problem. For photos, please submit them in high resolution in JPG or PNG format. Please include your name, ONA Local/workplace, email address and cell phone number. Email this information to

Entries will be accepted until Thursday, September 2, at 4 p.m., so please enter as soon as you are able.