Workplace Culture

Top 15 Commemorative Dates to Recognize in the Workplace for Building Your DEIB Calendar 

May 1, 2024

How to recognize commemorative dates in the workplace 

Commemorating important dates at work: Workplaces comprise a variety of individuals with unique backgrounds and experiences. Recognition and appreciation of the contributions of these unique groups are essential for an inclusive and thriving workforce. One of the many ways an organization can affirm its values and dedication to inclusive work cultures is to commemorate notable days throughout the year in meaningful, enlightening ways. While planning which commemorative dates to celebrate, be sure to consider the diverse range of identities in your workforce.

It can seem challenging to select dates everyone will find meaningful. So, it is essential to identify observances that align with the organization’s values. Every organization is different, and one organization’s workforce might not react as favourably as another’s to commemorating some dates in this list. The goal isn’t to find dates that everyone can agree on. It should be to choose observances that resonate with the organization’s culture, and values. A little discomfort may result, but you can use that as an educational opportunity and enhance inclusion and belonging in your workforce. 

This list of dates is not meant to be exhaustive. Its purpose is to serve as a guide to use when planning your organization’s DEIB strategies. DEIB requires more than celebrating days or events at work, however. Driving change in any organization means DEIB efforts must be embedded throughout its processes, values, and workplace culture. Commemorating significant dates throughout the year is a simple way any organization can establish their stance on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

Commemorative dates to recognize at workplaces in Canada 

  • January 24, International Day of Education 
  • February, Black History Month 
  • March 8, International Women’s Day 
  • April 22, Earth Day 
  • April 28, National Day of Mourning 
  • Beginning on the first Monday of May, Mental Health Week 
  • Beginning on the last Sunday of May, National AccessAbility Week 
  • June to September, Pride Season 
  • July 1, Canada Day 
  • August 31, International Overdose Awareness Day 
  • September 30, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 
  • October 17, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 
  • November 11, Remembrance Day 
  • November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 
  • December 10, Human Rights Day 

How to celebrate International Day of Education at work 

When is it? Annually, on January 24 

The United Nations designated January 24 as the International Day of Education. It celebrates the importance of education in promoting peace. Use the principles of this day to emphasize your organization’s commitment to learning and growth. Encouraging your employees to pursue and continue their professional development goals gives your organization a distinct advantage concerning recruitment and retention. The LinkedIn 2023 Global Talent Trends Report found that companies whose employees excelled at developing skills in the last 12 months have a 15% higher internal mobility rate than companies whose employees lagged. To address the current labour shortage, upskilling and cross-training existing workforces makes sense for any organization. 

Learn how employee education plans can help with recruitment goals. Read our blogpost, Recruit Top Talent with an Education Plan. 

How to celebrate Black History Month at work 

When is it? February 

February is a month dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of Black individuals in Canada and around the world. It provides an opportunity to promote racial equality and strengthen DEIB strategies. To commemorate Black History Month, you can plan promotional activities around the annual theme chosen by the government of Canada. Or, engage with inspirational Black stories through companywide communications or when kicking off team meetings. Explore the history of notable Black Canadian accomplishments or invite a speaker with a story or expertise that aligns with your organizational values. Start celebrating Black History Month as part of your DEIB activities. Establish your organization as one committed to racial equality. 

Our blogpost, How to Launch Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Practices in Your Workplace, is a great place to start if you’re considering revamping your DEIB practices. 

How to celebrate International Women’s Day at work 

When is it? Annually, on March 8 

International Women’s Day celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements and aims to raise awareness of the work that remains to be done worldwide to further women’s equality. Use this day to highlight the accomplishments of Canadian women. Consult the Gender Equality Timeline for an overview of its milestones in Canada. Or, plan activities that honour the women and girls making a difference in the world and at your organization. Affirm your organization’s commitment to pay equity and gender equality by updating your pay equity plan or committing to create one. You can also communicate the work of inspiring Canadian women in Canada and your industry in company emails, meeting icebreakers, or other company communications. 

Establish your organization as a leader in gender equality. Use the tips from our HR experts found in our blogpost, Equal Pay Day: Closing the Gender Pay Gap. 

How to celebrate Earth Day at work 

When is it? Annually, on April 22 

Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to set specific goals for your organization and reinforce its ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) strategy. Commit to an environmental cause or fundraising for an environmentally conscious nonprofit organization in your area. You can keep it simple by communicating tips like bringing lunch in eco-friendly reusable containers and water bottles. Or you can take more significant action and make it a day for the Zero Waste Challenge by removing all the garbage cans in the workplace. Of course, there are less drastic ways to acknowledge the day. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim high! Make April 22 a day of sustainable transport by encouraging carpooling or brainstorming ideas to reduce consumption, decrease waste, and improve energy efficiency or organize a lunchtime neighbourhood cleanup. 

Learn the basics of creating an impactful ESG plan with our blogpost, An ESG Strategy for Any Size of Business. 

How to commemorate the National Day of Mourning at work 

When is it? Annually, on April 28 

Every year on April 28, Canada observes a National Day of Mourning to pay tribute to all those who have suffered from work-related tragedies, lost their lives, or suffered injuries on the job. Over the years, organizations have observed this day in various ways. You can host or support local events or observe a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. This date is a perfect time to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to building a culture of safety and ensuring that the health and safety rights of employees are upheld. Help increase awareness about the importance of prioritizing health and safety at work. Prevent further work-related injuries or loss of life; mark your calendar for Canada’s National Day of Mourning today. 

Our blogpost, Get the Most from Your Health and Safety Committee, is a practical resource to review if your organization is required to have a joint health and safety committee 

How to observe Mental Health Week at work 

When is it? Every year, beginning on the first Monday in May 

Organizations that prioritize the wellbeing of their employees tend to have more engaged, motivated, and productive employees. These organizations also experience lower employee turnover rates, absenteeism, burnout, and workplace injuries. By working to reduce stigmas around mental health during Mental Health Week, you can make a difference. Learn how to speak up about mental health at your workplace with our free guide and get started now. Engage employees during this week. Let them know where your organization stands on topics like work–life balance, wellness policies, health benefits, and more. Lead by example and show your workforce how to prioritize mental health and wellbeing in the workplace! 

For expert tips and more, read our blogpost, Mental Health in the Workplace: How Are Your Employees Coping? to learn more about supporting employees’ mental health in the workplace. 

How to celebrate National AccessAbility Week at work 

When is it? Every year, beginning on the last Sunday in May. 

National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) is a time to recognize and celebrate contributions made by Canadians with disabilities while promoting accessibility and inclusion in all areas of life. Celebrate Canadian workplaces’ progress towards accessibility this week and highlight your organization’s commitment to inclusion. You can reaffirm your organization’s accessibility goals through company communications and AccessAbility events. You can also take this opportunity to identify and remove barriers in your organization and ensure that you are doing all you can to go above and beyond the accessibility standards in the jurisdictions where your organization operates. 

For organizations that operate in Ontario, our blogpost, How to Achieve AODA Compliance in 6 Steps, can help get you started with the basics of accessibility requirements. 

How to celebrate Pride season at work 

When? Annually, from June 1 to September 30 

Pride season is an opportunity for companies to show their commitment to sexual and gender equality. Internally, it is also an annual reminder for HR professionals to prioritize diversity and challenge unconscious bias. An organization’s DEIB policies should clearly outline what is and what is unacceptable behaviour and emphasize that offenders are held accountable. Incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into the workplace cultivates a culture of belonging where 2SLGBTQI+ employees feel better supported by their employer compared to organizations where DEIB is less of a priority. A lack of belonging leads to psychological and emotional distress, which hinders a person’s ability to contribute to their full potential. This year, consider ways your company can improve belonging for 2SLGBTQI+ workers and customers as part of your Pride efforts. 

Our blogpost, 10 Ways to Commemorate Pride at Work, can help get you started right away. 

How to celebrate Canada Day at work 

When? Annually, on July 1 

Deciding to celebrate Canada Day in the workplace can be controversial. A recent trend among HR professionals has been to celebrate the delight of an upcoming long weekend while balancing Canadian pridefulness with the reconciliation of a troubled past. Honouring the role of Indigenous people in Canadian history when commemorating Canada Day in the workplace is a great way to establish your organization as one dedicated to equality and inclusion. Share Indigenous and Canadian stories or encourage workers to learn the history of Canada Day. Ask employees to show their support in their own way by motivating them to come to work wearing red, orange, or a combination of the two. These are all simple initiatives that can take a long weekend and turn it into an educational opportunity and a chance to communicate your organization’s commitment to diversity! 

For more details about statutory holidays in Canada, check out our blogpost, What Canadian employers should know about holidays that fall on the weekend, and start planning your festivities now. 

Commemorating International Overdose Awareness Day at work 

When is it? Annually, on August 31 

This is an annual global campaign aimed at ending drug overdoses and reducing the stigma that surrounds them. Raise awareness about one of the most severe public health crises in the world. Encourage action and discussion about evidence-based overdose prevention and communicate how your organization supports employees facing substance use challenges. When working to address the hazards and risks associated with substance use, employers must consider all employees without stereotyping or bias. Use this day to communicate your organization’s commitment to maintaining a safe and accommodating workspace and reaffirm its openness to address addiction respectfully. 

For information on how to address substance use in the workplace, our blogposts, How to Understand and Address Opioid Risks in the Workplace and Guide for Employers on Substance Use in the Workplace, offer expert advice on preparing for this growing workplace health hazard. 

Commemorating the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at work 

When is it? Annually, on September 30 

This day is for honouring Indigenous lives lost to the residential school system, celebrating its survivors, and critically assessing the lasting effects of the residential school system on Indigenous communities. Note that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a statutory holiday in British Columbia, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Prince Edward Island, as well as federally regulated workplaces. This day offers plenty of opportunities to inform employees of local events. Preparing to commemorate this day will help your organization and its employees play a part in rebuilding relationships with Indigenous communities. 

Our blogpost, 13 Ways to Prepare for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, offers more tips to help get your planning started. 

Commemorating the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty at work 

When is it? Annually, on October 17 

In Canada, approximately 7.4% of the population lives below the poverty line; that’s around 2.8 million people, and the rising cost of living is pushing many over the edge. 

On this date, establish your organization as a local leader.. Bring attention to the social services and charities in the area that are working to eradicate poverty. Raising money for a donation or collecting items for a food bank or clothing drive are ways an organization can come together to make a meaningful and immediate contribution to poverty reduction. If you are a living wage employer, have leaders communicate its significance to employees. Above all, stress the organization’s commitment to financial wellness. 

Check out our blogpost, A Piece of the Pie: All About Minimum Wage Increases, for more information on the basics of the minimum wage in Canada. 

Commemorating Remembrance Day at work 

When is it? Annually, on November 11 

Canadians observe Remembrance Day every November 11. It honours and remember those who have served and are serving Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace. While not a statutory holiday in all provinces and territories, organizations can partake in a moment of silence or allow employees to attend local ceremonies. Organizations can also invite employees and share stories about family members who served. You can also fundraise for The Poppy Campaign. Or ask a veteran, local historian, or member of a heritage organization to be a guest speaker. These gestures may seem minor compared to a veteran’s service, but they demonstrate your organization’s commitment to Remembrance Day and positively affect the lives of Canadian veterans. 

The following guides can help determine whether Remembrance Day is a statutory or public holiday in your jurisdiction. 

If your organization operates outside these jurisdictions, consult your province or territory’s current legislation for more information on public and statutory holidays.

Commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at work

When is it? Annually, on 25 November 

The UN General Assembly designates November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Since 1981, women’s rights activists have commemorated this date as a day to unite and stand against gender-based violence (GBV): that is, violence committed against someone based on their gender, gender identity, gender expression, or perceived gender. The date commemorates the assassination of the Mirabal Sisters, widely considered national heroines of the Dominican Republic, that took place on November 25, 1960. The Sixteen Days of Activism Against GBV that follow are a time to advocate and raise awareness for the elimination of violence against women, girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals. 

Before discussing gender-based violence at work, ensure there are guidelines in place for safe and inclusive discussions. Be sure employees know how and where they can access resources and supports. Support services could be available through your organization’s employee assistance program (EAP) or local support organizations. 

Communicate your workplace’s violence and harassment policies

Use the 16-day campaign as an opportunity to communicate with all staff to ensure they know where to find the policies, who to talk to if they have questions, and where to locate support resources. This campaign is also an opportune time to schedule workplace violence and harassment training. Read our blog post for tips on implementing proactive approaches to addressing violence and harassment from our HR experts. 

Support GBV prevention organizations

Research community service organizations that work to prevent gender-based violence. Contact some that you are interested in supporting and ask whether your organization can help. It could be by raising funds, collecting needed items, or sharing awareness materials and social media posts about their services and events. 

Commemorate the victims and the campaign’s mission

Throughout the campaign, communicate the cause for commemorating this day with workers. Encourage them to wear a white ribbon on December 6 for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Host a vigil, set up informational displays, or use the tools and resources available from the non-profit organization White Ribbon

If you need help preparing discussion guidelines or outlining available GBV prevention resources, our HR Consulting service has a team of HR experts ready to help. They are available when you need them, not the other way around. Schedule a free demo at a time that fits your schedule to get started today. 

How to celebrate Human Rights Day at work 

When is it? Annually, on December 10 

Every jurisdiction in Canada has human rights legislation. Many of these were modeled after the same principles that led to the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Individuals in Canada enjoy legal protection of basic human rights like the right to be free of discrimination based on sex, race, and other prohibited grounds and the right to form and join trade unions. These rights are what connect us as workers and as a global community. The Canadian Human Rights Commission is a great resource to refer to when looking for specific information. Note that each jurisdiction has its own human rights commission. 

To commemorate this day at work, you could research and invite a human rights defender or activist who aligns with your organizational values as a guest speaker for a virtual or in-person information session. Or, recognize someone in your local community who has contributed to defending human rights. Voice your support for local movements against racism, colonialism, homophobia, transphobia, gender-based violence, ableism, and other forms of discrimination and violence. Start sending the message that your organization supports all human rights. If your organization operates in Ontario, our online training course, Understanding Human Rights Training, is a great way to introduce human rights to your workforce in an easily digestible way. 

If your organization operates outside of Ontario or across Canada, our Live HR Advice service can help tailor a training program to your organization. Book a free demo with one of our HR experts at a time that fits your schedule. 

Why should organizations recognize commemorative dates at work? 

Choosing meaningful commemorative dates for your company can seem challenging, but the rewards are worth the investment. Recognizing commemorative dates can help further DEIB goals and establish a safe and inclusive workplace. Celebrating these dates can strengthen employee relationships and build a positive workplace culture. But be mindful of dates that could cause conflicts within your organization. Use this as an opportunity to focus on respect within the workplace and to gather feedback about your efforts. With consideration, you can use commemorative dates to create a workplace that promotes diversity in an engaging way. 

Additional commemorative dates to recognize 

For additional dates, the government of Canada maintains a list of important and commemorative dates you can access online.

Have questions about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging? 

Our HR experts can help answer them. At HRdownloads, we understand the needs of progressive businesses and the importance of maintaining a productive workplace culture. We offer clients cost-effective service solutions for HR content, HR software, and HR support. With immersive online training courses, and virtual training sessions led by an HR professional, our platform supports your workforce’s development. Contact us today or request a free HR software demo! We’ll provide you with a quote that suits your needs and fits your budget.