Canada Day, July First, is Canada’s birthday.
Canada, as we know it today, was born on July 1, 1867, when the British North American Act was signed naming Canada as an independent Dominion of the British Commonwealth. The Articles of the Confederation were written by Canadians and accepted by the British parliament, giving Canada her independence.
In 1879, July 1st was declared a holiday and was called “Dominion Day.”
Canada’s nation status came about through a peaceful process, setting the tone for Canada’s relationship with other nations. (Note that the border between the United States and Canada is the longest unprotected border in the world.) Canada is so peaceful that few people who are not Canadians, and who have never visited Canada, know much about it.
Most Americans see Canada as a blank space on the map north of their border. They know much more about Mexico than they do about Canada. Canada just doesn’t pick fights with other nations; instead, Canada has sent troops on every Peace Keeping mission set by the United Nations. A nation at peace with the world does not call attention to itself or make the news which tends to emphasize the negative.
When the Dominion of Canada became a “confederacy” the first four provinces to join were: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. Prince Edward Island joined the confederacy in 1873.) Joining the confederacy not only gave the provinces better economic opportunities but also increased their common defense.
The last war with the United States, before the confederacy was created, was the war of 1812 which lasted only two years.
Canada’s original European immigrants came from France in the early 1600’s. By the middle of the 1700’s most of North America was part of New France. French explorers and traders settled in many parts of North America. English speaking settlers did not come to Canada in any great numbers until it came under British rule (1713-1763). Although many emigrated from Europe (predominantly from the British Isles) the major immigration came from the United States following the American War for Independence (1776-1783). These immigrants were loyal to the crown, disagreed with the principles of the revolutionary war and called themselves the United Empire of Loyalists. They migrated to Canada from 1783-1789.
Canada honors its historical roots by maintaining two separate “official” languages: French and English.
At the time of the confederation, the Northwest Territories (NWT) was under the control of The Hudson’s Bay Company stretching from the American border to the most northern reaches of the continent; bounded on the east by the Province of Ontario and on the west by the colony of British Columbia. To cross the Northwest Territories from Ontario to British Columbia one traveled by oxcart, horse and boat which took a minimum of three months.
(When the Trans Canada Railway system was completed in 1885, it reduced travel time across the prairies and Rocky Mountains to one week.)
The Hudson’s Bay Company released control over the NWT in 1870, turning the entire area over to the government of Canada. Manitoba, bordering Ontario, was the first province to be carved out of the NWT and was admitted to the confederacy in 1870. British Columbia followed suit in 1871 with Alberta and Saskatchewan admitted to the confederacy as independent provinces in 1905. Although the Yukon Territory separated itself from the NWT in 1898, it has remained a territory.
Newfoundland and Labrador, in the east, formed a single province which was not admitted to the confederacy until 1949. Nunavut was the last independent province to be admitted to the confederacy (2005).
The enormous breadth of Canada (5,000 miles) contributed to a sense of separateness and isolation, making Canadians more connected to their provinces and territories than to the confederacy. Only when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) began radio broadcasts from coast to coast on July 1, 1917, did Canadians develop a sense of nationalism.
The Diamond Jubilee of the confederation (July 1, 1927) was the first formal celebration of Dominion Day and was held in front of the Parliament Building in Ottawa with two of Queen Victoria’s grandsons in attendance: The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and his brother the Duke of Kent (later King George VI).
The Ottawa celebrations were first televised coast to coast in 1958. CBC’s first color coverage of the festivities in 1966 was just in time for the centennial celebrations in 1967, attended by Queen Elizabeth II.
Dominion Day, or the First of July events, were held only in Ottawa until 1980 when Canada decided to encourage a spirit of nationalism by providing small grants to provinces to hold celebrations of their own. Canada Day became a “national” holiday.
Other events commemorated on July 1st include the swearing in of John McDonald as Canada’s first Prime Minister together with his knighthood in1867; the proclamation by Lord Monck, the Governor General of Canada to celebrate July 1st as Dominion Day in1868; dedication of the new central block of the Parliament Building to the founding fathers of the confederacy and to the Canadian troops serving in Europe in1917; institution of the Order of Canada in1967 as the highest civilian honor Canada can bestow with honorees receiving the order on July 1st; and, finally, changing the name “Dominion Day” to “Canada Day” in1982.
Although not instituted on July 1st, Canada Day also celebrates the unfurling of the new national flag in1965, institution of “Oh Canada” as the national anthem to replace “God Save the Queen” in1982, and the anniversary of the founding of the City of Quebec.
Original European immigrants http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-2000-e.html
Canada Day http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/ceem-cced/jfa-ha/canada-eng.cfm
Dominion Day http://archives.cbc.ca/society/celebrations/clips/15434/
Monarchy in Canada http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1266245566496/1266202116409
Hudson’s bay company http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-3010.28-e.html
Canadian Broadcasting Corp http://thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0001266
Dominion Day festivities http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/ceem-cced/jfa-ha/dominion-eng.cfm
Royal visits to Canada http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1266410404620