A long weekend

After graduating from law school in 1973 – and beginning Articles at MacDonald, Affleck 100 Sparks Street in Ottawa – the least of my preoccupations was a holiday weekend. Indeed having just begun my employment in June of that year my focus was entirely upon my work at the law office. Generally speaking my work was that of a domestic servant; that is, rudimentary employment to which was attached little profound significance. Much of what I did was closing real estate transactions – which was nothing more distinguished than personal delivery of documentation to the Land Registry Office in central downtown Ottawa. It was a common quip that the legal secretaries knew more about the practice of law than the articling students who were labelled “Gophers”.

Curiously my singular exposure during that period to anything approaching significance involved addressing the admission of a foreigner to Canada for domestic purposes. The firm’s client (that is, the person who sought to admit the foreigner for employment) was a celebrated member of a Montreal family which owned a Canadian international corporation. I recall that making the case to the Canadian authorities for consent to admission of the domestic was based upon a select factual narrative which emphasized that the intended immigrant was by certain indicia the only person who could perform the appointed tasks. I suspect too that the government official who had carriage of the matter was apprised of the background surrounding the applicant. To this day I am not persuaded that my involvement in the process was notable to any degree. It resembled the time I was later chosen to represent a client in the Supreme Court of Canada because I was the only one in the firm who could fit into his official gown. It was what you might generously call a small compliment.

When I opened my own law office on March 1, 1978 it signalled a prolonged period of 36 years during which holidays were infrequent and by that virtue alone a luxury. Most of my leisure time away from the office was spent at times calculated to reflect the seasonal decline of my business – such as the period from Christmas to New Year. Another period of business decline was that immediately after Labour Day Weekend. Labour Day marked the beginning of a new school year, which meant that parents were preoccupied, effectively removing a huge element of the population from holiday travel.

I first began visiting Cape Cod for a prolonged Labour Day Weekend. In later years this was extended to a full week to accommodate the guest house minimum stay. Subsequently I discovered that Cape Cod experienced a notable decline in business in early autumn corresponding to my contemporaneous business inactivity at the law office. I began staying on the Cape for weeks at a time – even to the point of having provided background schmaltz piano music for some social gathering promoted by one or more of the people whom I had acquainted during my visit. I was beginning to blend in with the wallpaper!

Late in my career I learned that mid-winter was also a convenient time for me to withdraw from the work force. I headed south to Key West. Initially I had been reluctant to remove myself from the office particularly during the slow periods because I felt the obligation to afford myself whatever opportunity might arise.

In retirement the matter of holidays assumes a reverse-imperative; namely, holidays like festivals are to be avoided. And when we’re out of the country for extended periods throughout the year, holidays fall into complete disregard. I haven’t however lost that knee-jerk reaction to long weekends – which, in spite of their irrelevance – sustain their erstwhile energy and mania.


The Civic Holiday is commonly referred to as the August long weekend. It is probably the busiest day on highways as tens of thousands of families go camping, to cottages etc this weekend.

It is known by many names in different provinces and municipalities.

It’s called Regatta Day in Newfoundland, Terry Fox Day in MB, Saskatchewan Day in SK, British Columbia Day in BC, Natal Day in Nova Scotia and PEI, Simcoe Day in Toronto, New Brunswick Day in New Brunswick, Colonel By Day in Ottawa, Heritage Day in Alberta and Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, ON. It is called Benjamin Vaughan day in the City of Vaughan, Ontario.

If you can, take Friday off and leave for your holiday on Friday morning or Thursday night and come back Sunday morning or early afternoon to avoid mile-long traffic jams on Monday.

Correction sent in by a visitor: Civic Holiday is not called “Simcoe Day” everywhere in Ontario, only in Toronto. Each municipality that opts to declare the holiday can give it a unique name. It’s called the “civic” holiday because it’s the holiday that cities have authority to declare.