British Columbia Day in Canada is the name for the first Monday in August when residents of British Columbia celebrate their local heritage. In other Canadian provinces, the same day is known by different names unique to their respective areas, for example, “George Hamilton Day” in Hamilton, Ontario, and “Saskatchewan Day” in the province of that name. British Columbia Day recalls explorer James Douglas’ discovery of the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, the site of the current city of Victoria, and the eventual announcement by the British that the region would become the colony called British Columbia. Similarly, other provinces focus on their particular items of culture, history, and political development.
All across Canada, the day is marked by parades, festivals, and other public gatherings, many of which are themed. As a primary example, British Columbia offers the Anime Revolution, the Vancouver Pride Parade, and the Powell Street Festival (a celebration of Asian-Canadian heritage).
History of British Columbia Day
Despite its not being a Canadian federal government holiday like Christmas or Good Friday (though it was recognized as “legal” in 1996), most residents do get British Columbia Day (or its equivalent in their region) off from work. The seeds for the traditional celebration becoming a recognized holiday were sown in 1969 when the government of Ontario named the first Monday in August “Simcoe Day” in honor of anti-slavery figure John Graves Simcoe. Before long (1974 in British Columbia), other territorial governments heard proposals from prominent politicians and affirmed that they should celebrate their honorable histories in an official capacity.
Canadians often refer to the holiday as one of the “stats” (statutory holidays), or “publics,” which, again, differ in the level of legal importance from territory to territory, and municipality to municipality. But the day does fall in the middle of the summer season, and not too many Canadians complain about a chance to plan a long weekend and make a fun family outing out of British Columbia Day!