BC Family Day is Not So Family-Friendly

  • April 01, 2017
  • By Tony Wilson, QC

We should make it the same date across Canada

Tony WilsonIt's interesting that in the US, Americans like to name their holidays after noted individuals, political leaders, revolutions or explorers. I've always thought we Canadians could do a way better job of naming our statutory holidays than we do now. 

At the top of my list, “Confederation Day” should replace “Canada Day.” Canada existed well before 1867 in its Upper Canadian, Lower Canadian and Unified forms, so Canada is much older than the 150 years we are currently celebrating. July 1 should celebrate the creation of the federal state in 1867, and the subsequent addition of BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan (and a half hour later, Newfoundland) to create a nation that deliberately decided to forge its own path and not to join the Exited States of America. 

Likewise, the name “BC Day” is dull and uninspiring. Why couldn’t we rename it by amending the Douglas Day Act (RSBC 1996. Chapter 101) and move “Douglas Day” from November 19, to the first weekend in August when British Columbians are sailing, golfing, at the lake or on the Gulf Islands? “Douglas” by the way, is a person and not a tree, and that person is Sir James Douglas: BC’s first Governor. Born in Guyana of a Scottish father and free Barbadian mother descended from slaves, he may well have prevented BC from joining the US in 1858 by asserting British sovereignty during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. We should be celebrating him, and what better way than to rename BC Day after him. 

That brings me to “Family Day.” Now I don't have a problem with a long weekend in February to go skiing or engage in other wintry activities with the family. I don't even have a problem with the name. My beef is with the date. Why, for God's sake, did the powers that be make Family Day the second Monday in February when every other province that celebrates it, does so a week later? 

Well, I’ll tell you. The justification for having it a week earlier in BC than the other provinces was to let British Columbians enjoy local attractions with their families without competing with visitors from other provinces. Put less charitably, Family Day is a week earlier in BC so that we could avoid long line-ups at Whistler, Sun Peaks and other BC resorts without all that riff-raff pouring in from Alberta and other provinces, thereby wrecking all that family fun. 

It's also a week earlier so that BC hotels, restaurants, ski resorts and other attractions could be busy over two holiday weekends in February rather than just the one! BC hotels and resorts could financially benefit on BC Family Day (again, without all the riff raff pouring in from the other provinces clogging up the lift lines). The same resorts could get a double whammy a week later, when all the Albertans show up in BC for their Family Day long weekend.

Although it might be good for the resort business to profit from two Family Day holidays (ours and everybody else's) it’s not always good for families. It can adversely affect hockey and other sports tournaments held in February; particularly for British Columbians who live close to the Alberta border, but who don't have Alberta Family Day off. It can also affect families who have older children in university or college outside BC, but who can’t celebrate Family Day together, because of course, it's on a different day than the rest of the country. As well, BC's Family Day happens when the rest of Canada (and much of the US) is at work with the stock market open, so some of us have to stay in the office to deal with our clients rather than be on the ski slopes with our families. 

In case you agree with me that the current Family Day should be moved, there’s a petition going around at change.org/p/unitefamilyday

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Tony Wilson, QC is a franchise lawyer at Boughton in Vancouver and a Bencher of the Law Society. The views expressed herein are strictly those of Tony and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society, CBABC, or their respective members.