Today, July 1, is Canada Day, the national day of Canada. It is equivalent to Independence Day in the US. It is a celebration of the enactment of the Canadian constitution (aka the British North America Act), which occurred on July 1, 1867. CD is a federal statutory holiday in Canada. If the date happens to fall on a Sunday the holiday is celebrated on July 2.
Prior to July 1, 1867 Canada was part of the British Empire. It consisted of three colonies – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada. On that date, as a result of the passage of the British North America Act, aka the Constitution Act, those colonies became united as the Dominion of Canada. The event was marked by fireworks, military displays and other celebrations. Technically, it was not a complete separation from Great Britain. The British parliament and cabinet maintained limited control over Canada, which was reduced gradually over time until 1982 when it was eliminated entirely.
No formal holiday was established until May 15, 1879 when it was promulgated as Dominion Day. There were no formal, official annual celebrations until the golden anniversary on July 1, 1917. Average Canadians did not really embrace the holiday until the centennial in 1967. Then, in the 1980s it really caught on. The central government began to promote it aggressively, and various celebrations popped up all across the country. Furthermore, the name of the holiday was changed from Dominion Day to Canada Day as the former was viewed by many as an unpleasant reference to the colonial era. Around this time, “O Canada” became recognized as the national anthem of Canada.
Canada Day is marked by various modes of celebrations, such as parades, carnivals, festivals, barbecues, air and maritime shows and other similar activities. It is celebrated not only in Canada, but also throughout the world by Canadian “ex-pats.” For instance, celebrations of “Canada D’eh” in Hong Kong are held of June 30 at Lan Kwai Fong; in China they are held by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai; and in Afghanistan the Canadian troops celebrate it on their base. According to Jennifer Welsh, professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, “Canada Day, like the country, is endlessly decentralized.”
In the US we Americans generally do not pay much attention to this holiday, although some of us may see it designated on our calendars and wonder about its significance. I believe Americans should have at least some knowledge of this holiday. After all, the two countries have many similarities, and we share a common border of some 5,500 miles, the longest international border in the world.
Well, now you know. Happy Canada Day!