Canada Day is celebrated on July 1, it marks the moment in history when Canada became an independent nation. It is a public statutory holiday observed by all provincial governments. When July 1 is a Sunday, Canada Day is celebrated the following day, Monday the 2nd. Most businesses are closed for the day and many people will choose to celebrate with family and friends at parties, firework displays, and picnics.
The Dominion of Canada
On March 291867Queen Victoria approved the British North America Act, and later that year on July 1 the Act came into power. The Act united the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single dominion called Canada. It also divided the province previously known as Canada into Quebec and Ontario.
The Act also formed the first Canadian federal government, which was a huge leap towards independence, however, Canada remained partially dependent on the British Empire. The act, for example, had no provision in it for foreign policy. On international affairs, Canada remained greatly dependent on Britain.
The day was celebrated all over the new 'Dominion of Canada' with picnics, military parades, and rifle salutes. At the time it was informally referred to as Dominion Day. In 1879, over a decade later, Dominion Day was approved by Parliament and became an official holiday. Public opinion was divided on the creation of Dominion Day. Many people considered themselves British and did not wish to celebrate the increasing separation from the British Empire.
Celebrating a Century of Independence
In 1967 large celebrations were held throughout the country on the centenary of the creation of The Dominion of Canada. The Centennial Flame monument was erected on Parliament Hill and lit for the first time by then-Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.
It was lit on December 31 1966 to see in the new centenary year, and to begin the year-long celebrations. Despite the monument being planned as a temporary exhibition, it was loved so much by Canadians that the Government decided to keep it permanently on show. On lighting it Lester B. Pearson said:
It is my hope and belief that we continue to work out Canada's destiny, our national spirit and our national purpose will shine - as this Centennial Flame now shines before us here - humbly but strongly before all the world as an example of what men and women working together can do to build the good society
On July 1, 1980 'O Canada' became the official national anthem, this was written into law that year in the National Anthem Act. This Act also put the words and melody of the song into the public domain so all Canadians could have the freedom to perform and record it. The song had in fact been written 100 years earlier by the French-Canadian composer Calixa Lavallée, and it was already unofficially recognized by many as their national anthem.
Dominion Day becomes Canada Day
The change from Dominion Day to Canada Day occurred in 1982. It was in this year that the UK Government wrote The Canada Act into law, and this ended the UK's right to legislate on Canada's behalf. The Canada Act also enacted The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This increased independence led to enthusiasm for a change in names among Canadian citizens. So in Canadian Parliament, the 'Act to Amend the Holidays Act' was passed which officially changed the name of the holiday to Canada Day.
A time to party
Canada Day is one long party with official and unofficial events and celebrations all over the country and across the world. Common things to do include having picnics, BBQs, attending firework displays, watching parades, and attending concerts.
There is an official timetable of events which includes a daytime party and an evening show. Across both events, famous Canadian singers and musicians perform for large crowds. The events have attracted famous people from all over the world including numerous members of the UK's royal family such as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, The Queen Mother as well as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
One of the most exciting moments of the day is the ceremony and party which has taken place on Parliament Hill for over 50 years (Due to COVID-19 and construction work it took place in LeBreton Flats in 2022). During the Ceremony the National Anthem and God Save The Queen are both sung. As well as having singers, dancers, orchestras, and other performers, the ceremony also reflects on the main events of the past year, sporting achievements, and national success stories. There are usually speeches by the Prime Minister and other important figures in Canadian society such as the Governor General.
Canada Day is a chance for Canadians to celebrate their country and its achievements, and to measure the progress made as a nation. It's also a great day to give our congratulations to our Canadian friends.
Living outside of Canada is no reason to miss out on celebrations:
If you live in America for example people have formed groups such as 'Canada Day Across America' (CDAA) to help you find places and ways to celebrate.
In London, The UK, people have gathered previously in Trafalgar Square to celebrate Canada Day, entertaining themselves with games of hockey and maple syrup pancakes.