Are Supermarkets Open on Canada Day?

by CiCi
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Canada Day, celebrated on July 1st, marks the anniversary of the confederation of Canada, when the British North America Act (now called the Constitution Act, 1867) united three colonies into a single country called Canada. It’s a national holiday filled with patriotic celebrations, including parades, concerts, and fireworks. Given its significance, many Canadians wonder whether essential services like supermarkets remain open on this day. This article explores the operational status of supermarkets on Canada Day, considering regional variations, legal regulations, and consumer expectations.

The Significance of Canada Day

Canada Day is more than just a public holiday; it is a symbol of Canadian identity and pride. It commemorates the birth of the nation and provides an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate their heritage, culture, and achievements. Across the country, cities and towns host various events, including flag-raising ceremonies, citizenship ceremonies, and spectacular fireworks displays.


Federal and Provincial Regulations

Canada’s legal landscape is unique, as it involves both federal and provincial jurisdictions. While Canada Day is a federally recognized public holiday, the regulations concerning business operations on this day fall under provincial and territorial legislation. This means that the rules about whether supermarkets can remain open vary from one province to another.


Federal Holidays Act

The Federal Holidays Act designates Canada Day as a public holiday. However, it does not mandate the closure of businesses. Instead, it leaves this decision to the provincial and territorial governments. The act mainly ensures that federal employees and those working in federally regulated industries get a day off.

Provincial and Territorial Regulations

Each province and territory has its own set of laws regarding public holidays and business operations. For instance:

  • Ontario: Under the Retail Business Holidays Act, most retail businesses, including supermarkets, must close on Canada Day. Exceptions include small convenience stores, gas stations, and some pharmacies.
  • British Columbia: There are no specific provincial laws mandating the closure of supermarkets on Canada Day. However, municipalities may have their own regulations.
  • Quebec: The provincial government allows supermarkets to remain open, but hours may be reduced.
  • Alberta: Similar to British Columbia, Alberta does not impose strict regulations on supermarket operations, allowing businesses to decide whether to open or close.
  • Atlantic Provinces: Provinces like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador generally have stricter regulations, with many businesses, including supermarkets, required to close.

Regional Variations and Practices

Given the decentralized approach to regulating business operations on Canada Day, the status of supermarkets varies widely across the country. Here’s a closer look at practices in different regions:

Western Canada

In provinces like British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, supermarkets generally have the flexibility to remain open. Many supermarkets choose to operate with reduced hours to allow employees to participate in celebrations. Major chains like Save-On-Foods and Safeway often publish their holiday hours well in advance to inform customers.

Central Canada

Ontario and Manitoba have more restrictive regulations. In Ontario, for example, the Retail Business Holidays Act ensures that most supermarkets close, though some independent stores and ethnic markets may remain open. Manitoba follows a similar pattern, with large supermarkets typically closing their doors, while smaller stores may choose to open.

Atlantic Canada

The Atlantic provinces are known for their stringent holiday regulations. In Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, supermarkets are generally closed on Canada Day. However, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick may allow some flexibility, particularly for smaller, independent stores.

Northern Canada

The territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut have fewer restrictions on business operations. Supermarkets in these regions often remain open, though they may operate on a reduced schedule to allow staff to enjoy the festivities.

Consumer Expectations and Business Decisions

The decision of whether to open or close on Canada Day is not solely based on legal requirements. Consumer expectations and business considerations also play significant roles.

Customer Demand

Supermarkets consider customer demand when deciding their holiday hours. In urban areas with high foot traffic and diverse populations, there may be a strong demand for supermarkets to remain open. Conversely, in smaller communities where residents are more likely to participate in public celebrations, the demand may be lower.

Employee Considerations

Supermarkets also weigh the importance of allowing their employees to observe the holiday. Providing a day off can boost employee morale and loyalty, but it may also require higher compensation for those who work on the holiday. Some supermarkets offer incentives, such as time-and-a-half pay, to staff willing to work on Canada Day.

Economic Impact

From an economic standpoint, staying open on Canada Day can be profitable for supermarkets, especially those located in tourist-heavy areas or regions with significant celebrations. However, the additional costs of staffing and potential lower foot traffic due to the holiday activities must be considered.

The Role of Major Supermarket Chains

Major supermarket chains like Loblaws, Sobeys, and Metro play a pivotal role in setting industry standards for holiday operations. These chains often have standardized policies across their stores, but they also adapt to local regulations and customer expectations.


Loblaws typically operates its stores on a reduced schedule on Canada Day. The company prioritizes providing essential services while allowing employees to celebrate the holiday. Store hours are usually announced in advance and vary by location.


Sobeys follows a similar approach, with many of its stores open for limited hours. The chain emphasizes the importance of serving customers while respecting local customs and regulations. In provinces with stricter laws, Sobeys ensures compliance by closing its stores.


Metro’s policy is to balance customer needs with employee welfare. In regions where laws permit, Metro stores may remain open but often with shorter hours. The company communicates these changes through its website and social media channels to keep customers informed.

Independent and Ethnic Supermarkets

Independent and ethnic supermarkets often operate differently from major chains. These stores cater to specific communities and may choose to remain open to serve their unique customer base. For example, Asian, Middle Eastern, and European grocery stores in urban centers may stay open to accommodate customers celebrating their own cultural holidays in addition to Canada Day.

Public Opinion and Social Media Influence

Public opinion and social media have significant impacts on supermarkets’ decisions regarding holiday operations. Customer feedback, both positive and negative, can influence whether a supermarket decides to open or close on Canada Day in subsequent years.

Social Media Campaigns

Supermarkets often use social media to gauge public sentiment about holiday hours. Campaigns on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow customers to express their preferences, which businesses can use to make informed decisions.

Customer Feedback

Direct customer feedback through surveys, comment cards, and online reviews also plays a crucial role. Supermarkets that actively solicit and respond to feedback are better positioned to meet customer expectations and improve their holiday service offerings.

See also: What’s the Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada


Whether supermarkets remain open on Canada Day is a complex decision influenced by federal and provincial regulations, regional practices, consumer expectations, and business considerations. While the legal landscape varies across the country, many supermarkets choose to balance the need to provide essential services with the desire to allow employees and customers to participate in national celebrations. As Canada continues to evolve, so too will the practices surrounding this beloved holiday, reflecting the diverse and dynamic nature of the nation itself.


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