Several people lined up before dawn for Black Friday deals in Toronto but the event, so far, isn’t as frenzied as scenes at shopping centres in the United States.

Canadian retailers are offering Black Friday deals for the first time this year to ensure shoppers spend their money on this side of the border during the prime shopping season.

The Friday of the American Thanksgiving weekend is called Black Friday because it’s generally the time when stores start to turn a profit and are in the black.

Several malls in the GTA opened early Friday to accommodate eager bargain hunters. There were lineups outside the Eaton Centre ahead of its 6 a.m. opening. Stores gave away gift cards and scratch cards to early-bird shoppers.

Fairview Mall, Sherway Gardens and the Shops at Don Mills opened at 7 a.m. Vaughan Mills opened at 8 a.m. and the Scarborough Town Centre opened at 9 a.m.

Several other malls opened at 7 a.m. in and around the GTA, including the Promenade mall in Thornhill, Markville shopping centre in Markham, Limeridge mall in Hamilton, Fairview Park in Kitchener and Masonville Place in London.

In New York City, more than 10,000 shoppers lined up around the Macy’s in Herald Square for its midnight opening. Other chains, including Toys R Us, Target, Walmart and Best Buy experienced huge lines across the U.S. early Friday morning.

Walmart started offering Black Friday sales Thursday night.

Minnesota’s Mall of America attracted about 217,000 shoppers by 2 a.m. — about the same amount of people as last year when it broke a record.

Not everyone in the U.S. is happy about the consumer event. As Friday morning, 372,000 people had joined an online “save Thanksgiving” petition started by California Target employee Casey St. Clair, who’s calling on the company to allow workers to spend the holiday with their family.

“I’m not complaining about being a minimum wage worker. Target, as a company, does some good and maintains a commitment to charity. Thanksgiving, though, is one of the three days retail workers get off a year, a day most spend with family. The issue is not black Friday, though it’s not exactly this country’s shining moment. Every year the opening time gets pushed up more and more,” the petition says.

And Our Walmart, a coalition of current and former Walmart employees fighting for better wages and working conditions, has staged Black Friday protests outside stores.

“Throughout the holiday season, including Black Friday, we will be standing up for an end to the retaliation against workers who speak out for what’s right for our families, our communities and our country, and we hope that you will stand with us,” the group says on its website.

Are you taking advantage of the bargains? Let us know in the comments below.

With files from Reuters