WTF is Simcoe Day?
On the first Monday of every August, Canadians indulge in one of the few holidays they neither share with the U.S. nor inherited from Great Britain. Surely a day so unmistakably Canadian deserves a name that reflects the nation’s unique heritage, values and singular qualities. A name that honours (spelled with a u) its history. A name that drips Canadian-ness. They call this day…Civic Holiday.
Yes, the long August weekend is called Civic Holiday, a name that could only excite fans of palindromes (and we know how much they like to party). But worry not, the reason why the official name is so uncreative is to allow Canada’s provinces and municipalities to select their own distinct names and local appellations. Manitobans celebrate Terry Fox Day in honour of the Canadian hero whereas the people of Hamilton; Ontario celebrate George Hamilton Day after their city founder.
In Toronto, the first Monday in August celebrates army officer and certified Canadian badass John Graves Simcoe.
Who the heck is John Simcoe?
John Graves Simcoe was the first Lt. Governor of what is now Ontario, Canada. This means that he founded the city of Toronto, established common law and–most importantly –rocked a snazzy pair of epaulettes.
In 1791, J-Gravey (as his friends called him) was appointed to oversee the British land then known as “Upper Canada.” Apparently, Britain did not have much ambition for the colony, seeing as “Upper Canada” is literally the Southernmost point in the country.
During his 5-year reign, Simcoe established many of the important foundations of Canadian society, including:
- Bicameral legislature
- Trial by jury
- The abolition of slavery
In fact, Simcoe ended slavery in Canada a full 30 years before the rest of the British Empire and a full 65 years before the United States–thereby establishing another important Canadian Tradition: the feeling of being morally superior to Americans.
How the heck do you celebrate Simcoe Day?!
So how do the people of Toronto celebrate Simcoe Day? While there’s no one way, most Torontonians do it in a way that honours not only the man’s great impact on their lives, but also the city he created: they get the heck out of Toronto and drink beers at the cottage. And there isn’t anything more Canadian than that.
Ned Petrie is a Toronto-based actor, writer and 4-time Canadian Comedy Award nominee. He hosts The Panel Show, co-stars on Crack Duck (Mondo Media) and co-created the upcoming animated series Erik The Pillager (BiteTV). If you follow him on Twitter (@NedPetrie), he’ll give you $1 Million.