History of Heritage Day

For years, Nova Scotians had been asking for a mid-winter break. On December 5, 2013, the province introduced legislation to make the third Monday in February a brand new statutory holiday, beginning in 2015.

The Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE) took the lead on implementing the new holiday. This responsibility included managing the bill, adding the holiday to the province’s Labour Standards Code, and determining how the holiday applies to all employees.

(For complete details about the February Holiday’s legislation and application, please visit LAE’s Nova Scotia Heritage Day information page.)

The next important step was to give the new holiday a meaningful name and theme. To do this, LAE launched a naming campaign that engaged Primary to Grade 12 classes in local schools. Students were asked to work together to create a suggestion for a holiday name that would instill pride in being Nova Scotian, as well as a suggestion for a remarkable person, place or event that have helped to make Nova Scotia what it is today.

Once all the entries were collected, a three-member panel was convened to review the students’ submissions and select 12 to use for the next 12 years. The panelists included:

Sister Dorothy Moore, one of two elders in residence for Unama'ki College at Cape Breton University. She is the first Mi'kmaw nun in Nova Scotia, and has been a teacher for more than 40 years. She served as native education co-ordinator at Cape Breton University and director of Mi'kmaq services at the Department of Education.

Sackville-Beaver Bank MLA Stephen Gough, who was an automotive technician for nearly 40 years, 15 of which he spent running Sackville Transmission. After graduation from Acadia Divinity College, he was ordained in Christian ministry and is pastor at Mount Beulah Baptist Church in Weymouth Falls.

Lucille Comeau-Livingstone, a teacher for more than 30 years. She currently teaches in the Immersion International Baccalaureate Bilingual Diploma program at Charles P. Allen High School, where she also coaches various teams. She studied at l'Université de Trois-Rivières, l'Université Sainte-Anne, l'Université de Moncton, and l'Université de Potiers in France.

Thanks to the students’ feedback and the panel’s input, the holiday was given the name “Nova Scotia Heritage Day” and a list of honourees was created, including Viola Desmond, who was selected as the holiday’s very first honouree.

(Visit the Future Honourees section of this website to learn about the people, places and events that will be celebrated during future Heritage Days.)

For many years to come, we will all have this annual opportunity to celebrate different contributions to Nova Scotia's storied past and diverse culture, and learn more about our history in the process.