Happy Canada Day

Canada Day is celebrated on July 1st, and it is the official date when Canadians celebrate their unity as one country. The idea of a Canadian union, or confederation, was first discussed in 1854 in the Assembly of the province of Nova Scotia. In 1864, a conference was held on Prince Edward Island to consider uniting the Maritime provinces. A second conference was held during that same year because Upper and Lower Canada (the regions that became Ontario and Quebec) wanted to be included in the union. The people who were involved in these meetings and approved the plan for a wider federation became known as the Fathers of Confederation.

During this time, it was argued whether to call this new union the "Kingdom" or the "Dominion" of Canada. In a letter written in 1889, Sir John A. Macdonald explained that "Dominion" was chosen because the former name "would wound the sensibilites of the Yankees." It was assumed that the United States would not like to have a kingdom for it's northern neighbor after rebelling against one!

Despite their agreement to unite, the original four provinces were not all equally happy with the arrangements as the benefits to them were not equal. It was said that "Ontario was jubilant, Quebec doubtful and expectant, NewBrunswick sullen, Nova Scotia rebellious." In fact, Nova Scotia did not celebrate Dominion Day (as Canada Day was formerly called) until 1898.

At the meeting in 1864, both Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island refused to join the new confederation. Prince Edward Island came into the Confederation in 1872, but it took until 1949 for Newfoundland to agree to join. British Columbia had joined in 1871, plus the province of Manitoba was created and joined also. Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed from two territories and admitted to the Dominion in 1905.

The first Canada Day was on July 1, 1867, and was the result of a vote by the British House of Commons giving the Canadian provinces permission to unite and form the confederation.

From July 1, 1867 until 1878, Canada's national holiday was known as Confederation Day. In 1879 it was designated as Dominion Day to reflect the official name of the country. "Dominion of Canada" was the name used to describe the federation established by the British North America Act.

In 1888, Canada's 21st national day was celebrated with a banquet held in London, England. It was so successful that it became an annual tradition. In 1893, July 1st was declared "Canadian Day" at the Chicago World's Fair. Over the years, the name Dominion began to present a problem because it has no satisfactory equivalent in the French language. On October 27, 1982, by an Act of Parliament, the designation of the national holiday was changed from Dominion to Canada Day. However, even before the official act was passed, many Canadians had already adopted the name.

Today, Canada Day is more than just a day off for most Canadians. It is now the occasion for elaborate cultural and entertainment spectacles, often sponsored by the federal government to foster Canadian unity.

The ways in which Canada Day is celebrated are as diverse as it's people. Many different ethnic groups are involved, sharing their songs, sports, games, dances, crafts, and foods. The most common activities are parades, sports days, folk or film festivals, street dances and citizenship ceremonies. There are also air shows, puppet shows, lobster dinners, Inuit feasts, and, of course, fireworks. Each province, city, town, or its people, all celebrate Canada Day in ways that are unique to the area that they live in.

Those of us in the United States who have lived in cities that border Canada have reaped the benefits of our "dual" holidays. As a child, growing up in Detroit (which is separated from Windsor, Ontario by the Detroit River), having relatives in both the United States and Ontario, and spending every summer in Canada, I was fortunate enough to be able to celebrate both holidays. The International Freedom Festival was a week long extravaganza that ended with the most elaborate fireworks display from three barges in the Detroit River.

When I first started doing my Holiday Greeting web pages, I thought that finding a poem suitable for Canada Day would be an easy chore. I was very surprised that I was unable to find one. I sent off an e-mail to a few of my Canadian friends and within a few days, I had a poem that was especially written for this page. But instead of putting it on this page, I've decided it deserves a page of it's own. You'll find the link to that poem, written by B. A. Lee, below.

To my northern neighbors, my friends, and my relatives, I wish a very Happy Canada Day.

Canada Day by B. A. Lee

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