Canada Day Has a Long and Divided History

Canada Day

Today is Canada Day. This holiday has a long, albeit divided, history. This is the day when Canadians celebrate the anniversary of Confederation, which marks the occasion of the British North America Act. That was when Canada, which consisted then of Ontario and Québec) consolidated two new provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, to form a new nation, with a strong measure of independence from the United Kingdom, even though full independence from Britain came only as late as 1982. The day mainly honors independence from Britain, although it also marks some other huge events in the nation’s history, including the first ever radio hookup by the Canadian National Railway on this day in 1927. In 1958, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) held their first broadcast across Canada, and eight years later, the first color television transmission came on this date. The Order of Canada was established on Canada Day in 1967, and “O Canada” officially was designation the national anthem on this day in 1980.

Canada Day was also formerly known as Dominion Day, and the first official celebrations took place on the occasion of the 50th anniversary in 1917. It has been celebrated ever since then, although it really only started to be celebrated in a widespread manner in 1967. It kept on growing since then, and has gotten bigger with each passing year. Canada Day only officially was made a national holiday in 1982.

Still, not every Canadian is thrilled with the idea of celebrating Canada Day. The holiday began to be recognized widely in the late sixties, right around the time that separatist sentiments were on the rise in Québec. Also, many Canadians feel that it is inappropriate to celebrate a country where racism was often a major theme throughout its history. It is a hot button issue on a sensitive and controversial issue that makes many uncomfortable, with similarities to the situation faced by aboriginal people in two other big nations – the United States and Australia. Many native cultures were forced to yield to the dominant white culture. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established, with similarities to what happened in South Africa following the downfall of apartheid. It has come up with numerous recommendations to revive aboriginal culture in Canada.

It is plain to see that Canada Day indeed has a long and divided history. But many Canadians are also suggesting that every effort needs to be made to celebrate the holiday, and to include everyone – natives and the Québecois community that has often felt less than thrilled at the prospect of being in Canada. It may be seen as a divided history, but efforts are made to make this holiday one that all Canadians can celebrate.

Furthermore, a recent poll showed that Canadians themselves might not be as aware of their own history as they perhaps should be. One in three Canadians were unable to remember the year that Confederation was achieved. A majority of Canadians did not know that the flag was adopted in 1965, and sixteen percent believed that it had been designated the official flag back in 1867, the year of Confederation.

Despite the long and divided history that Canada Day has, many Canadians will take the opportunity today to celebrate the 148th anniversary of the Confederation of their nation. Canada Day is celebrated very differently across the country. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has something called a Musical Ride, which performs drills set to music. This will be offered in various locations throughout the country. In Ottawa, the nation’s capital, there will be several ceremonies to mark the occasion on Parliament Hill. The flag will be raised, and then there will be a ceremonial changing of the guard, which will be followed by a carillon concert. Of course, there will also be speeches, and other festivities throughout the day, culminating in a firework show for the evening.

In Calgary, free pancakes will be offered on a first come, first served basis. There will be a parade, as well as various other festivities, including beer tastings and concerts. There are fireworks over the Detroit River in between Detroit on the American side, and Windsor on the Canadian side, during the International Freedom Festival, which celebrates both Canada Day and the 4th of July, America’s Independence Day.

By Charles Bordeau

Sources:

IBTimes – Canada Day 2015: History, Celebrations, Facts, Events, Free Giveaways And More

Canada Day – Canada Day History

The Star – We should face up to history and make sure Canada Day is for all: Editorial

Ottawa Citizen – Glavin: Finding the right words for Canada’s history

The Chronicle Herald – Canada Day survey said: You might not want to know

Photo courtesy of waferboard’s Flickr pageCreative Commons License

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