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Home / canada / Some may avoid observing Canada Day after the 140th birthday. Here's why. – National

Some may avoid observing Canada Day after the 140th birthday. Here's why. – National

Many hail on July 1 as Canada Day, others may belong back to when the nation's birthday was marked Dominion Day, and some might want to ignore it altogether, just as those who refused to celebrate the nation's foundation for the first dozen years of its existence.

While Canada is 152 years old today, no official party took place for the first 12 years of Canadian existence. In fact, the official festival of Canada's creation is probably more controversial than many realize.

Matthew Hayday, a history professor of Guelph who has studied the celebration over the years, said that comrades over Canada's birthday were confused in some of the hottest political issues in the country's history and reflected efforts to elaborate a distinct national identity.

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"Canada Day … is part of a broader continuum of symbolic ways in which our national identity is presented," he said. "It is this slow controversy that has attracted interest, and where people care about it, they can care rather passionately."

This year marks the 140th anniversary of a holiday that honors the League, Hayday said, noting that the festivities evolved significantly from their earliest incarnations.

No official celebrations took place during the first 12 years of Canadian existence, he said, partly due to Nova Scotia politicians who thought they had been forced into Confederation against their will and believed that July 1 should be treated as "a day of complaint" ". "

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When Dominion Day was officially declared and made a public holiday in 1879, Hayday said it was over the objections to a British Columbia faction aggravated by failing to complete a cross-country railroad.

The earliest Dominion Day gatherings were grass roots, he said, noting that the federal government had no hand in the festivities.

It was not changed until 1958 when Prime Minister John Diefenbaker decided that Ottawa would play a more direct part in the country's birthday.

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By that time, Hayday had said talks had already begun to abandon the name of Dominion Day and replace it with one that better reflected Canada's growing autonomy from the British government. But while Diefenbaker may have been to honor Canada's formation, Hayday said he had no interest in worsening ties with its imperialist past.

"From the end of World War II, the Liberals had done things to subtly remove the word" dominion "from various state institutions because" ruling "was seen as … a particularly British term," he said. "Diefenbaker was very pro-British, so celebrating Dominion Day was a way to celebrate it."

The earliest government sponsored celebrations were relatively modest, Hayday said, noting events became more elaborate throughout the 1960s. The government of Lester B. Pearson began incorporating more bilingual elements into the festivities, he said.

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The tide turned back in the 1970s, he said, as the government's festivals grew more subdued and finally suspended altogether in 1976.

However, a shift in Canada's political winds made a powerful effort to celebrate Dominion's Day when Quebec's sovereign movement helped Rene Levesque into power later that year.

"There is a sense of panic going through official Ottawa about what will happen to national unity," he said. "They decided they needed to do a big, massive show."

A resulting four-hour broadcast, broadcast on nearly every television and radio station in the country, enabled some Quebecois artists to avert criticism from residents who viewed them as betraying the separatist cause, he said.

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Despite the emergence of dominance festivals, several politicians lobbyed to see their name changed to Canada Day. Hayday said many bills were only filed to be defeated or died on order paper without being the subject of debate.

It was changed in the summer of 1982, days after what would turn out to be the last dominance day celebration.

Hayday said 13 members of Parliament remained in the House of Commons on July 1 and began debating a private member list submitted by Quebec Liberal MP Hal Herbert.

"No one actually asked the President of the House to verify that it was still quorum," Hayday said. "If no one asks, it is still believed to be there. But there is some doubt as to whether there were enough parliamentarians in this House."

Many members held the first, second, and third reading in a single day. While the bill received the Senate's examination later that summer, no significant obstacles arose and became law later that year.

Public holidays can now be officially known as Canada Day, but Hayday said changes in federal festivities have been relatively subtle in recent years.

A remarkable addition is a more culturally sensitive inclusion of domestic traditions, he said.

Early performances with school-school students dressed in kilts and playing bagpipes have been replaced by artists who donate clothes they choose and perform in a number of domestic languages.

Anthony Wilson-Smith, Chief Executive of Historica Canada, said that the colorful story that has formed modern day in the Canada party has improved the country's sense of national identity.

Both he and Hayday acknowledge that many purists still prefer the Dominion Day concept, but Wilson-Smith is not among them.

"There is a virtue to simplicity," he said. "The day is what it is – it's the day we celebrate our country."

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