Labour Day 2020

September 4, 2020

ONA Celebrates Labour Day!

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 Prime Minister John A. Macdonald sided with the workers and eventually passed the Trade Union Act, which repealed outdated laws and decriminalized unions.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.

In 2020, we have seen the labour movement in action, protecting the health and rights of workers. Around the world, unions representing health-care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have fought for the health and safety of their members and the public. ONA members have lobbied the Ontario government to ensure nurses and health-care workers have access proper personal protective equipment and to demand protection for their vulnerable patients, residents and clients.

Even as they are hailed as heroes for their work fighting the pandemic, ONA members have been forced to face down the Ford government on several pieces of legislation that threaten their rights. Nurses and health-care professionals are contacting their MPPs and rallying in their communities to raise public awareness and protest bills 124 and 195, which suppress their wages and override their collective agreements. They are also advocating against Bill 175, legislation ONA warns will fail Ontarians who work in and rely on home and community care.

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.


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 2020 Labour Day events:

Click here for a list of Labour Day events from the Ontario Federation of Labour.

ONA Resources:

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.

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 act, and become confident in speaking out on labour issues. Check out this video from ONA's inaugural Activist Camp and Leadership Summit. Questions about the Leadership Summit? 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.



Click here to download the English Labour Day poster.

Click here to download the French Labour Day poster.

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