Dates of Recognition, Observance & Celebration

Back to Inclusion Dates of Recognition, Observance & Celebration “Our entire community benefits from a campus culture that affirms everyone’s lived experiences and identities. Learning more about each other, our histories, and our stories helps...

Back to Inclusion

Dates of Recognition, Observance & Celebration

“Our entire community benefits from a campus culture that affirms everyone’s lived experiences and identities. Learning more about each other, our histories, and our stories helps us to create this culture—and to sustain it each day of the year.” Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity & Culture

On this page, you will find several resources that underscore the University’s commitment to cultivating inclusivity and belonging for all members of our community.

The resource Dates of Institutional Recognition encourages engagement and learning about annual dates of local, national, and international significance that support the rights and representation of four groups identified under the Employment Equity Act: Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, racialized persons (visible minorities), and women. We have expanded these groups to include members of other communities who experience discrimination based on faith and/or gender or sexual identity.

The University’s Inclusive Employer Guides share information to increase managers’ awareness of the traditions celebrated by many in our tri-campus community. These dates appear in the Multi-Faith Centre’s more comprehensive list of religious, spiritual, and cultural days of significance, available on their website.

Dates of Institutional Recognition for 2024

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust |
January 27

Created in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust encourages remembrance, reflection, and education about the causes and consequences of the Holocaust. The Holocaust claimed the lives of more than six million Jewish men, women, and children as well as members of other persecuted populations, including members of Romani communities, LGBTQ+ individuals, persons with disabilities, and political dissidents.

The date January 27 commemorates January 27, 1945, when the largest of the Nazi Concentration Camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated. This act forced citizens worldwide to confront the horrific results of unchecked hatred and discrimination—and of their own complicity through collective inaction.

National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia | January 29

Designated by the federal government in 2021 and first marked nationally in January 2022, the National Day of Remembrance of the Québec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia remembers and honours the sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, and community members senselessly killed on January 29, 2017, when a brutal act of Islamophobia claimed the lives of six worshippers at a Québec City Mosque and wounded 19 others. The Day encourages everyone to actively oppose the myriad ways, both blatant and subtle, that Islamophobia expresses itself in our public and private lives.

Black History Month | February 1-29

Celebrating February as Black History Month has become a powerful tradition in North America. Canadians have been officially recognizing it on a national level since 1995. Important groundwork laid by the Ontario Black History Society and strong community support enabled the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to Parliament, to successfully champion the motion in the House of Commons.

Jean Augustine identified February as Canada’s Black History Month to align with the United States, where the February birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and former slave and anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass provided the original rationale for its timing. However, Augustine distinguishes Canada’s national celebration, describing it as an opportunity to recognize the excellence of Black Canadians in all fields as well as individuals of African descent who, historically and today, have emerged “as contributors, as builders, as participants, as collaborators in Canadian society.” Augustine also underscores the essential role that active self-reflection plays in Canada’s Black History Month. It offers a time, she noted in a 2021 interview, “for all of us to examine our own prejudices, to examine our relationships, to ask ourselves, ‘are we allies to ensuring that others are full participants … in the workplace, in … ceremonies, and everything that happens in … [Canadian] society?’”

Pink Shirt Day | February 28

Pink Shirt Day is recognized annually in Canada on the last Wednesday of February.

A collective act of kindness started Pink Shirt Day in 2007. Seeing a grade 9 boy being bullied for wearing pink, two Nova Scotia high school students organized a “pink protest,” encouraging fellow students to wear pink and distributing pink tank tops, headbands, and wristbands to show solidarity. News of the “pink protest” spread, and today, Pink Shirt Day is now celebrated in countries worldwide. For some institutions and communities, Pink Shirt Day is an opportunity to address bullying motivated by homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia. The day has become a broader call for the elimination of all forms of bullying, discrimination, and harassment.

Black Mental Health Day | March 4

Black Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday of March. The Day was created in 2020 by the City of Toronto in partnership with TAIBU Community Health Centre to raise awareness about the impacts of anti-Black racism on mental health in Toronto’s Black communities and to encourage systemic change. A bill proposing an Ontario-wide day of recognition is currently under review.

Recognized immediately following Black History Month, Black Mental Health Day encourages conversations within Black communities about mental health, attempting to reduce stigma and highlight supportive pathways. Additionally, the Day raises awareness beyond Black communities, identifying the lasting impacts of anti-Black racism and encouraging all Canadians to actively address anti-Black racism however and wherever they can.

International Women’s Day | March 8

Officially recognized by the United Nations (UN) since the 1970s, International Women’s Day encourages us to celebrate the individual and collective contributions of women and gender-diverse people while acknowledging where progress is still needed to achieve gender equity. It calls on all of us to reflect on how we can accelerate this progress through action and allyship, both locally and globally.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination | March 21

The United Nations established the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD) in 1966 as part of a larger effort to denounce South Africa’s apartheid regime. In choosing March 21, the UN commemorated the victims of the Sharpeville Massacre. On that day in 1960, the South African Police (SAP) opened fire on a peaceful crowd of adults and children in the Black township of Sharpeville, killing 69 and wounding more than 180. The crowd had been walking to the local police station to protest pass laws that, among other injustices, restricted where Black South Africans could live, travel, and work.

Today, IDERD is recognized as a Day to remember the lives lost in the Sharpeville Massacre and to join global communities in the fight against all forms of racial discrimination and racism.

Sikh Heritage Month | April 1-30

Sikh Heritage Month, launched nationwide in 2019, encourages celebration and recognition of the contributions that Sikh communities have made—and continue to make—to all aspects of Canadian society. It also encourages dialogue about productive strategies to foster inclusion and belonging for the Sikh community in Canada.

The month of April holds great significance to Sikhs globally. It is a time when Sikhs celebrate the birth of the Khalsa. “Khalsa,” founded in 1699, refers to a community that considers Sikhism as its faith and a group of initiated Sikhs. It emerged during the spring harvest festival of Vaisaikhi, a festival also recognized by additional communities and faiths.

Ontario has formally recognized Sikh Heritage Month since 2013, celebrating the historical and contemporary contributions of Sikh communities across the province.

Asian Heritage Month | May 1-31

May 1 marks the beginning of Asian Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the many contributions that people of Asian descent have made—and continue to make—to Canadian society. This month recognizes the breadth and depth of Asian identities, whose roots originate in more than 40 countries worldwide.

University of Toronto Chancellor Emerita Dr. Vivienne Poy, the first Canadian Senator of Asian ancestry, initiated the national recognition of Asian Heritage Month. Building on significant community efforts and a groundswell of support, she successfully proposed the motion in the Senate of Canada in 2001. Dr. Poy reflected two decades later, “My motivation was about education, about learning from each other, because once you learn, you respect.”

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia | May 17

Established in 2004, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia affirms the right of all members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities to live freely as themselves in all countries and in all spheres—at school, at work, in broader society, and at home. Its date commemorates May 17, 1990, when the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from a list of mental health disorders in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The WHO’s decision more than 30 years ago strengthened efforts to destigmatize 2SLGBTQ+ communities and increase access to healthcare and social supports for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals around the world.

National AccessAbility Week | May 25 – June 1

Celebrated since 2017 and enshrined in the Accessible Canada Act (2019), NAAW can trace its origins to National Access Awareness Week, launched 35 years ago in the wake of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion World Tour. This two-year odyssey found Hansen covering more than 40,000 km across 34 countries to champion accessibility and raise money for spinal cord research, rehabilitative research, and wheelchair sports.

Today, NAAW both celebrates the contributions of Canadians with evident and non-evident disabilities and recognizes those who work to make public and private spaces more inclusive for everyone.

National Indigenous History Month & National Indigenous Peoples Day | June 1-30 & June 21

On June 1, the University of Toronto celebrates the beginning of National Indigenous History Month. On June 21, we also celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, which coincides with the summer solstice and affirms the traditional importance of this time for many Indigenous peoples and communities.

Strong advocacy from representatives of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities led to the creation of National Indigenous History Month in 2009 and National Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly National Aboriginal Day) in 1996. Both honour the distinct cultures of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities and encourage widespread recognition of the accomplishments and resilience of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.

Pride Month | June 1-30

The celebration of Pride was born out of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, where protests and demonstrations erupted in response to police raids of the Stonewall Inn, a popular Greenwich Village gay bar in New York. Pride in Toronto is rooted in community advocacy and organizing. It evolved in part from the protests following the 1981 bathhouse raids, called “Operation Soap,” in which 286 men were arrested by police. At the time, this was one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. The raids marked a turning point for Toronto’s gay community, highlighting the need to advance 2SLGBTQ+ rights locally and worldwide.

Pride has many meanings: it is a catalyst for change; a time to commemorate and celebrate; and an opportunity to express collective support and advocacy for 2SLGBTQ+ rights worldwide. As we actively work against transphobic and homophobic discrimination, harassment, and violence and all forms of racism, it is vital that we also make space to centre and celebrate the Indigenous and Two-Spirit, queer and trans-Black, and racialized queer and trans individuals who have often led these movements.

Orange Shirt Day / National Day for Truth and Reconciliation | September 30

September 30 marks Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Both days of recognition—one Indigenous-led and the other established by the federal government—call for remembrance, reflection, and action around the history and devastating legacy of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples and communities.

Orange Shirt Day, launched in 2013, centres the childhood experience of survivor Phyllis Webstad to convey the profound and lasting damage that Canadian residential schools inflicted upon Indigenous children, their families, and their communities. The Canadian government created the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021 to fulfill Call to Action #80 of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015), which identified the need to maintain public memory of Canada’s residential schools as part of the reconciliation process.

Trans Day of Remembrance and Resilience | November 20

Trans Day of Remembrance and Resilience (TDORR) began as a vigil honouring the life of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman brutally murdered in 1998. It quickly evolved into a day to remember and honour all individuals lost to transphobic violence. TDORR is now recognized in countries around the world and is preceded by Trans Awareness Week, which aims to raise visibility of trans people, address issues members of the community face, and recognize the achievements of trans individuals locally and globally.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities | December 3

The United Nations established the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) in 1992, following the International Year of the Disabled Person in 1981 and the UN Decade of Disabled Persons, 1983–1992. IDPD aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities, both evident and non-evident.

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women | December 6

In 1991, the federal government created the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in response to the murder of 14 women at the Montreal engineering school École Polytechnique in 1989. Known as the Montreal Massacre, this brutal act of femicide exposed the extreme ways in which hatred based on gender identity can manifest. It deeply impacted citizens across the country and profoundly shook Canada’s post-secondary sector, particularly at institutions which, like École Polytechnique, actively supported the success of women in what were then considered “nontraditional” career paths.

Inclusive Employer Guides for 2024

We encourage everyone to update their scheduling tools annually to reflect these dates. Please avoid booking meetings and scheduling events on these dates to the extent possible.

The University of Toronto recognizes its obligation to prevent discriminatory impacts on members of its community that arise from the failure to accommodate based on religion or creed. It is the responsibility of both the Manager and the individual seeking accommodation to work cooperatively and respectfully to explore and implement appropriate accommodation options. 

Additional Resources & Supports

If you are a student who needs immediate support, please call the Health & Wellness Centre at (416) 978-8030 to speak with a counsellor. Counselling is also available through the U of T Telus Health Student Support (formerly MySSP) 24/7 by calling 1 (844) 451-9700.

Staff, librarians, and faculty members can access mental health resources and supports through the Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP). The 24/7 helpline at 1-800-663-1142 provides support for those experiencing grief, stress, and trauma.

Accommodation for Religious Observances

The University’s expectations on this matter are articulated in the Policy on Scheduling of Classes and Examinations and Other Accommodations for Religious Observances. As noted in the Policy, the University welcomes and includes students, staff, and faculty from a wide range of backgrounds, cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs. The Office of the Vice-Provost, Students provides additional guidance and assistance in interpreting the Policy.

Tri-campus Offices