Canadians "love to shop" on Sundays

Legislation regarding Sunday shopping varies from province to province in Canada. In the provinces that allow it, retailers and analysts say Sunday quickly becomes one of the most popular spending days of the week.

Posted: Oct. 13, 2000

"It's lovely to work on Sundays," says Beth Camm, manager of McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where Sunday shopping is allowed. "The customers are relaxed and in a good mood. They're not in a hurry to pick up one thing and rush off." The store Camm manages is one of four family-owned McNally Robinson stores in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Camm adds that Sunday sales are great. "We make about one-and-a-half times the amount we do on any weekday," she says. Each province or territory in Canada creates its own legislation regarding Sunday shopping, usually under labour or employment standards. Most provinces at one time had a "Lord's Day Act" or "Shops Closing Act" that named Sunday as the day of rest.

Provinces which allow Sunday shopping (now most of them) have repealed or amended this act. The movement to allow Sunday shopping has generally travelled from west to east in Canada. British Columbia led the way in 1980, when it changed legislation to allow each municipality to decide the issue. Alberta followed suit in 1984, followed by Saskatchewan. Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec moved slowly into the legislation in the early 1990s by trying it out, then evaluating the results. All three allowed widespread openings by 1992.

Government spokespeople in Canada's northern territories indicated they were not aware of any Sunday legislation "on the books,"and all said they personally shop on Sundays. A spokesman from the Northwest Territories government said if there had ever been a Lord's Day Act, it had been repealed "before his time."

The Atlantic provinces have held out the longest against the national tide of Sunday shopping. Newfoundland amended its act in December 1997 to allow widespread shopping, but other Atlantic provinces allow Sunday openings only during the months before Christmas, if at all. Nova Scotia has the most restrictive Sunday shopping legislation in Canada.

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