This is Canada’s big day. At noon on July 1, 1867, Confederation took effect when four former British colonies; Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia formed the Dominion of Canada. This is considered to be Canada’s 150th anniversary or birthday. However, it’s not so much an anniversary of a country, but rather an anniversary of the idea for a country.
The idea of Canada
Unlike many countries, Canada is the product of evolution, not revolution. There was no major crisis or event that propelled us into existence. In typical Canadian fashion, it was a series of conferences, meetings, and debates that led to our constitutional foundation, the British North America Act.
Our system of government is British-based with a few minor changes. We don’t really have a singular culture because so many people from every other part of the world have settled here, or in the case of indigenous people, already were here. Sure, we have beautiful scenery, winter weather that binds us in both joy and misery, and certain institutions that we share, but can a country really be defined based on blizzards, public health insurance, and the metric system? Perhaps indefinability is what defines Canada.
A big birthday party
We’re not a boldly patriotic people, but this Canada Day will be slightly different. Up to 500,000 people are expected for the festivities on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. There were only 3.4 million people in the entire country in 1867!
Terrorism and civil unrest have authorities on the defensive. Almost all of the downtown streets will be closed. The police presence will be higher than usual. Paramedics have set up a field hospital. Houses everywhere are decked out with flags, and communities large and small are preparing for larger than usual crowds at their parades, barbecues, and fireworks displays. The Canada 150 logo is on everything from ‘fridge magnets to newspaper advertisements for discount furniture.
There’s no single way to celebrate Canada Day. Enthusiasm varies across the country. For some, there will be no celebration or less celebration. Many indigenous people see it as a form of colonialism that they did not benefit from. Two days ago, activists built a teepee on Parliament Hill as a reminder of that.
For many in Quebec, where nationalism ebbs and flows, Canada Day is a popular date for apartment leases to expire and to move house. Confederation didn’t come to Manitoba until 1870, British Columbia in 1872, Prince Edward Island in 1873, Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905, and finally Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949. The three northern territories are still not full provinces. Canada Day doesn’t have the same meaning in the places that joined after 1867.
“A good idea to be part of”
Today is the anniversary of a good idea that continues to evolve. We are safe, we are free. We generally respect each other, even we don’t share the same beliefs or ways of life. We’re a big, sprawling land filled with a continually changing, complex, and diverse people. We’re not perfect, but we generally work together for improvement. Canada is a good idea to be part of.
Happy 150th anniversary Canada. May you continue to evolve for the benefit of everyone who calls you home, and for your neighbors around the world.
On Friday, I checked out the preparations for today’s big event on Parliament Hill. Here’s some of what I saw.