Formerly known as ‘Dominion Day’, July 1st is the anniversary of the Constitution Act of 1867. This Act joined Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the areas which at one time were Upper and Lower Canada, known now as Ontario and Quebec. Part of the Act was to distinguish this new ‘country’ as being independent from England, although total independence was not granted until 1982.
In the early days before the year 1900 most people regarded themselves as British citizens and so there was little sense of nationalism. It was not until 1917 that a small celebration in Ottawa was organized to mark Canada’s 50th birthday. Many years later in 1958, July 1st was no longer called Dominion Day and the name was changed to Canada Day.
The first widespread celebration took place in 1967 with the Centennial marking 100 years since confederation, and in the 1980s the government began funding Canada Day activities in small communities.
Canada Day also marks some significant events in Canadian history. The Canadian National Railway initiated the first radio hookup on Canada Day 1927. It was also on Canada Day that the CBC held their first coast to coast broadcast in 1958. The very first colour television transmission was held on Canada Day 1966. It was also the date when O Canada became the official national anthem in 1980.
Canada Day celebrations have come a long way since those early days and here in Ottawa in particular, celebrations go on all day long and well into the evening. Thousands of people flock to Parliament Hill to see the noon show, which always features the Prime Minister and the Governor General and often a visiting member of the British Royal family. There is always a spectacular fly-by of CF 18 aircraft as well as the Snowbirds. There are outdoor barbecues and musical acts and performers, special events at all of the museums and entertainment taking place all over the city. The day’s grand finale of fireworks at 10 p.m. goes on for almost half an hour and seems to get more and more elaborate each year.
Whether you choose a quiet day at home watching the events on television, or immerse yourself into the massive crowds of revelers on Parliament Hill, take a moment today to reflect on this country’s achievements, high standard of living and most of all, our freedom. Here’s to the ‘true north’, strong and free! Happy Canada Day!