Canada Day, observed on July 1st, is a national holiday paying tribute to the anniversary of Confederation in 1867, when the British North America Act came into effect. It was initially known as Dominion Day until it was renamed in 1982.
Origins and Legal Status
The British North America Act enacted on 1 July 1867, created the country of Canada with its initial four provinces of Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In June 1868, Governor General Charles Stanley Monck called for a celebration of the anniversary of Confederation on 1 July 1868. The legal status of Dominion Day as a public holiday was uncertain with only a few celebrations. In May 1869, a bill to make Dominion Day a public holiday was considered in the House of Commons. It was withdrawn after several members of Parliament registered their objections. A more successful effort, presented by Senator Robert Carrall of British Columbia, passed through Parliament in 1879, creating Dominion Day a public holiday.
In the decades following the Second World War, several private members’ and government-sponsored bills were proposed to change the name of Dominion Day, but none succeeded. In July 1982, a private member’s bill to change the name to Canada Day was proposed by Vaudreuil MP Hal Herbert. The bill quickly passed through the House of Commons, and was ratified by the Senate in the fall.
For the first decade following Confederation, some provinces, including Ontario, Québec and Nova Scotia, observed Dominion Day as a de facto holiday. Celebrations were planned at the local or municipal level, and included a wide array of activities, including bonfires, picnics, sporting events, parades and pageants. Fireworks were often the highlight of the evening.
Dominion Day provided a chance for communities to express their visions of Canadian identity, and the place of their community within the country. Newspaper editorials published on July 1st frequently publicized the country’s history, its place in the world and its prospects for the future. They could also, as was often the case in British Columbia, express concerns about the treatment of individual provinces within Confederation. Locally organized events sometimes afforded opportunities for members of marginalized communities to demonstrate their belonging to Canada, while also asserting their community identities. In British Columbia, members of the Chinese and Japanese communities in the early 20th century contributed floats to Dominion Day parades, and members of Indigenous communities participated in sporting events and musical performances.
Celebrated overseas, Dominion Day was a way for Canadians to commenorate their national identity and assert their uniqueness within the British Empire. During the First World War, Canadian soldiers stationed in the United Kingdom took part in events such as log-rolling exhibitions and baseball games, asserting a rugged Canadian masculinity.
In the mid-1920s, members of British Columbia’s Chinese communities organized Chinese Humiliation Day as a counterpoint to Dominion Day to protest the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act that blocked most Chinese immigration to Canada. Members of the community wore badges reading “Remember the Humiliation,” organized speeches and distributed leaflets.
In the aftermath of the 1980 Québec referendum, the federal government shifted its focus and financial supports to emphasize observance of July 1st at the local level. Although still organizing concerts and formal events for Parliament Hill, the main focus was to stimulate community-based celebrations. A national committee for Canada Day (as the holiday was called after 1982) provided seed funding to communities to organize Canada Day events. It also suggested activities to link communities together, such as noonday singings of “O Canada” (adopted as the national anthem in 1980), and annual themes such as explorers, transportation or young achievers that were featured in activity books produced for children.
Source: Encyclopedia Canada
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CANADA DAY ON KRNN, 7/01: The British North America Act came into effect on 1 July 1867, creating the country of Canada. You are invited to join in the Canada Day festivities with a playlist of the best new bands from Canada on Crosscurrents, 7/01 at 8 am.
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For most Canadians, July 1 is just one day in a long weekend; a day that, when it falls on a Sunday, magically triggers a statutory holiday on Monday; a day to barbecue and to get in or on or near the water; to kick back and enjoy the start of a Canadian summer that never comes early enough and always ends too soon; a day to take the kids to the fireworks, which are happening on this day because, um, well, oh … Canada?
This is not a country that gets overly sentimental about history, or pretentious about its place in it. It’s the national day, but most of us don’t make too big a deal about the whys or the wherefores. You’re giving us the day off? We’re taking the day off.
Other countries have national holidays that mark The Big Moment they made a violent break with the past. The Americans have Independence Day, the day the Thirteen Colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, began a war to separate from Great Britain and created a new country. The French have Bastille Day, the day the French Revolution started and the monarchy started ending.
For many people, those histories seem more clear and vivid than ours. They certainly make for more dramatic TV and movie adaptations. The days the French and Americans are celebrating were the start of abrupt, radical and bloody – extremely bloody – rejections of the past. Change came through the barrel of a gun.
July 1, 1867 was nothing like that. It wasn’t a revolution, it was an evolution. It wasn’t vicious, it was peaceful. Something new was accepted without something old being rejected. A group of statesmen who differed on many things nevertheless, through compromise and cooperation, made a deal. It was an agreement about incremental change and improvement. Nobody was died. Nobody went to the guillotine and lost their head.
The Constitution created in 1867 contains no inspirational words, just a lot of sensible ideas. The American constitution begins with a impressive “We the People”; the Declaration of Independence ends with its signatories promising to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” The first word of the British North America Act? “Whereas.”
Instead of being the all-caps Day When Everything Violently Changed, July 1 was instead the day when something very Canadian happened: It was the beginning of a process. In fact, Confederation wasn’t even the beginning, since Canada already existed before 1867. And it wasn’t the end, since the process continued, and continues today.
Source: Thee Globe And Mail PUBLISHED JUNE 29, 2018 UPDATED JULY 1, 2018