Civic Holiday aka Simcoe Day in Toronto
Today, we in Canada are in the midst of our “August long weekend” which many don’t know is actually capped off by the officially named “Civic Holiday” which is the first Monday of August. According to the Wikipedia article about the day, it says it is known by the name “Emancipation Day” in Canada and much of the British Commonwealth because of “The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833” which ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834. As well, it is known by local names throughout many places in Canada including where Toronto is, in Ontario. It has been given such charming names as “James Cockburn Day in Cobourg,” good thing they decided to name the day after the guy’s full name and not just by his last name. Sorry for the sophomoric humor folks but joking about wishing someone a “Happy Cockburn Day” was WAY too easy to pass up. Apparently, the day is known as Mountie Day in North York, the area of Toronto and former independent city where I live and spent a lot of my formative years but I have never heard of this name.
In Toronto, we know the day by a different name – if we refer to it by name at all – Simcoe Day. No, it isn’t named Simcoe Day because the bulk of Torontonians hop in their cars on this long weekend and go up the 404 or the 400 to their cottages on Lake Simcoe.
It is named that after the man who founded the city of Toronto – John Graves Simcoe. He chose the spot as his second choice for the capital of Upper Canada (what is now called Ontario) in the 1790s after he realized that having the capital at what we now call Niagara-On-The-Lake but was then called Newark was just plain stupid because when and if the British ever fought with the newly independent United States of America – something that was destined to happen two decades later in the War of 1812 – having your capital attacked in the first 4 seconds of the war wouldn’t be the greatest for morale and/or the conduct of the war.
Maybe the reason most Torontonians don’t actually realize that we’re supposed to call the day Simcoe Day is because we were his second choice. What was his first choice you ask? According to Wikipedia’s article about him,”he proposed moving the capital to a more defensible position in the middle of Upper Canada’s southwestern peninsula between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. He named the new location London and renamed the river as the Thames in anticipation of the change.” Today, there is actually a city named London in that spot as many of you may have guessed but, from what I have read, the river that John Graves Simcoe named the Thames is not a navigable river so it probably wouldn’t have been the greatest for trade as opposed to Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence Seaway – which wasn’t completed at that time but the lake itself still saw a lot of trade happening.