In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October every year. This year, Thanksgiving Day is Monday, October 12. Thanksgiving Day may look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic as restrictions on private and public social gatherings are being implemented across Canada and employees continue to work remotely instead of in the office. That said, the day, with exceptions, continues to be a public holiday that must be observed and provided to eligible employees.
Statutory (public) holiday
Thanksgiving Day is a public (statutory) holiday in all jurisdictions across Canada, except for the Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). Federally regulated workplaces also observe Thanksgiving Day as a public holiday, regardless of their provincial/territorial status.
Eligible employees are therefore entitled to a day off with regular pay or public holiday pay (depending on the province or territory of employment). In the event an employee is required to work on the holiday, the employee must be paid regular wages and receive a substituted day off with pay at a later date (again, this depends on the province or territory of employment).
Retail business owners
In Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan, as long as retailers pay their employees according to the law, they are allowed to be open on Thanksgiving Day.
In the Atlantic provinces, retail business holidays legislation requires certain retail businesses to close on Thanksgiving day.
In Ontario, Thanksgiving Day is a retail closing day for several retailers (with exceptions).
There are various rules and exceptions in relation to Thanksgiving Day retail hours, based on jurisdiction and type of retail store. Therefore, retailers should ultimately consult with their local municipality or provincial/territorial government to ensure that they are not violating any laws.
Did you know?
The first Thanksgiving Day in Canada after Confederation was observed on April 15, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.
Later on, Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in Canada (1879), with November 6th declared as the official day of celebration.
Eventually, on Thursday, January 31, 1957, the government proclaimed the holiday to be celebrated the second Monday in October for general thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings with which the people of Canada have been favoured. This was also because, after the World Wars, Remembrance Day (November 11th) and Thanksgiving Day (November 6th) fell in the same week.
Many Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving with a large family meal consisting mainly of turkey and pumpkin pie over the three-day weekend. It is also often a time for weekend getaways. However, this year, with the commencement of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is recommended that Canadians skip or have small Thanksgiving gatherings and hold them outside if weather permits. In some jurisdictions like Quebec and Ontario, these gatherings can only be held amongst people living at the same address whether indoors or outdoors.
Hand sanitizers should be made available and everyone should wash their hands before preparing food or eating.
In addition, it is still recommended that non-essential travel between provinces, territories and outside of Canada be avoided.
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!