Are Stores Open on Canada Day in Ontario?

by CiCi
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Canada Day, celebrated on July 1st, is a significant national holiday in Canada, marking the anniversary of the Confederation in 1867 when the three separate colonies of the United Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were united into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada. As with many national holidays, Canada Day is marked by various festivities, including parades, fireworks, concerts, and public ceremonies. For residents and visitors in Ontario, understanding which stores are open or closed on this day is crucial for planning activities, shopping needs, and participating in the celebrations. This article provides an in-depth look at the operational status of stores on Canada Day in Ontario, exploring legal regulations, regional variations, and practical considerations for shoppers.

Understanding Canada Day

Historical Significance

Canada Day, initially known as Dominion Day, is celebrated to commemorate the formation of Canada as a self-governing Dominion within the British Empire. The day has evolved into a celebration of Canadian heritage, culture, and national pride, featuring a wide range of events and activities that bring communities together across the country.


National Observance

As a statutory holiday, Canada Day is observed nationwide, meaning most Canadians have the day off work. It is a time for family gatherings, outdoor activities, and patriotic displays, including wearing red and white, the colors of the Canadian flag. The day culminates in fireworks displays that light up the night sky in cities and towns across the nation.


Legal Regulations Governing Store Operations

In Ontario, the Retail Business Holidays Act (RBHA) governs the operation of retail stores on public holidays, including Canada Day. The RBHA stipulates which types of stores may remain open and under what conditions, with the primary aim of ensuring workers can enjoy public holidays.

General Closures

Under the RBHA, most retail stores are required to close on statutory holidays such as Canada Day. This includes:

  • Major department stores
  • Supermarkets
  • Shopping malls
  • General merchandise stores

Exemptions and Special Cases

However, there are several exemptions to these general closures. Certain types of stores are allowed to operate on Canada Day under specific conditions:

  • Pharmacies: Pharmacies are permitted to open on Canada Day if they have no more than 7,500 square feet of retail space, and the only goods sold are prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, and products related to health care.
  • Gas Stations: Gas stations can remain open on Canada Day, providing essential services to travelers and residents alike.
  • Convenience Stores: Convenience stores that do not exceed 7,500 square feet in retail space are also allowed to operate on Canada Day, catering to immediate and essential needs.
  • Florists: Florist shops can open to sell flowers and plants, catering to those participating in celebrations or looking to gift floral arrangements.
  • Tourist Areas: In designated tourist areas, some retail establishments may be granted special permission to open on Canada Day. These areas are typically high-traffic zones where tourism is a significant part of the local economy.
  • Bookstores: Small bookstores (under 3,000 square feet) that primarily sell books, newspapers, and periodicals can remain open.
  • Art Galleries and Museums: Retail operations within art galleries and museums may also continue, provided they are incidental to the main attraction.

Regional Variations and Local Bylaws

While the RBHA sets out the general framework for store closures on Canada Day, municipalities in Ontario have the authority to pass bylaws that can further restrict or permit retail operations. As a result, the specific rules can vary from one municipality to another.


In Toronto, the largest city in Ontario, most major retail stores, shopping malls, and supermarkets are closed on Canada Day. However, the Toronto Eaton Centre, located in the heart of downtown, often receives special permission to open, reflecting its status as a significant tourist attraction.


In Ottawa, the nation’s capital, Canada Day is a major event, with celebrations centered around Parliament Hill. While most retail stores follow the general closure rules, some stores in the downtown area and those catering to tourists may remain open.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, a prime tourist destination, sees many retail stores in the vicinity of the falls open on Canada Day to accommodate the influx of visitors. Local bylaws often provide exemptions for these stores, ensuring tourists have access to goods and services.

Other Municipalities

Other municipalities across Ontario may have their own specific bylaws affecting retail operations on Canada Day. It is advisable for residents and visitors to check local regulations or contact specific stores directly to confirm their status.

Practical Considerations for Shoppers

For those planning to shop on Canada Day in Ontario, there are several practical considerations to keep in mind:

Check Store Hours in Advance

Given the general closures mandated by the RBHA and potential local bylaws, it is essential to check the operating hours of specific stores in advance. Many stores that are permitted to open may operate on reduced hours.

Plan Ahead for Essentials

Since most supermarkets and large retail stores will be closed, it is advisable to plan ahead and purchase essential items before Canada Day. Stocking up on groceries, medications, and other necessities will help avoid inconvenience.

Utilize Open Stores

Take advantage of the stores that are allowed to operate, such as convenience stores and pharmacies, for any last-minute or emergency needs. These stores often carry a limited range of essential products.

Enjoy Local Celebrations

Canada Day is a time for celebration, and many communities host events such as parades, concerts, and fireworks displays. Participating in these activities can provide a fulfilling way to spend the day, rather than focusing on shopping.

Cultural and Community Impact

The closure of most retail stores on Canada Day reflects the broader cultural and community impact of the holiday. It emphasizes the importance of taking time off to celebrate national identity, spend time with family, and participate in communal activities.

Promoting Work-Life Balance

By mandating store closures, the RBHA helps promote work-life balance, allowing retail workers to enjoy the holiday with their families and communities. This aligns with the broader Canadian values of fairness and quality of life.

Fostering National Unity

Canada Day serves as a unifying force, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to celebrate their shared identity as Canadians. The day off work and school provides an opportunity for reflection, celebration, and coming together as a nation.

See also: What’s Canada’s National Celebration


In conclusion, the question of whether stores are open on Canada Day in Ontario is largely governed by the Retail Business Holidays Act, which mandates the closure of most retail stores while allowing certain exemptions. While the general rule is that major stores and shopping malls remain closed, specific types of stores, such as convenience stores, pharmacies, and those in tourist areas, may remain open under certain conditions. Additionally, local bylaws can influence store operations, leading to variations across different municipalities. For residents and visitors, understanding these regulations and planning accordingly can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable Canada Day, allowing everyone to partake in the festivities and celebrate the nation’s heritage.


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