Did you know that Canada Day used to be called Dominion Day?

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Why was it called Dominion Day?

  1. Canada’s first official name was Dominion of Canada.
  2. Sir Leonard Tilley suggested the name. He is one of the Fathers of Confederation.
    • Tilley was inspired by Psalm 72 from the Bible. It contains the verse: “dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth”.
    • The phrase shared the founders’ vision of building a strong, united country that spanned a continent.
  3. The name Dominion of Canada was written into the Constitution.
  4. It was used officially for 100 years.

Dominion Day celebrations through the years

  1. Cities celebrated Dominion Day.
  2. They had bonfires, picnics, parades, pageants and fireworks.
  3. There was no celebration on a federal level.
  4. Dominion Day was recognized as a public holiday in 1879.
  5. The Diamond Jubilee of Dominion Day was celebrated in 1927.
  6. Its was the first federally sponsored Dominion Day event.
  7. Then Prime Minister Mackenzie King delivered an address. It was simulcast nationally.
  8. A dramatic pageant followed.
  9. Provinces had their own celebrations.
    • Some had historic floats or elaborate pageants.
    • They featured immigrant communities.
    • Others featured First Nations communities in traditional costumes.
  10. A federally sponsored Dominion Day was held on Parliament Hill (Ottawa) in 1958.
    • It emphasized the monarchy and the military.
    • The Governor General gave a speech.
    • They had a 21-gun salute, military trooping of the colour and a carillon concert.
  11. This was the celebration’s main themes for several years.
  12. Multiculturalism and bilingualism became the focus in the late ‘60s.
  13. The Centennial of Dominion Day in 1967 featured a televised variety show.
    • Performers from across the country gathered on Parliament Hill.
    • Ethnocultural communities, Quebec-based groups, and First Nations groups also performed.
    • Queen Elizabeth II cut a gigantic birthday cake.
  14. Celebrations after 1967 focused on the provinces celebrating their centennials.
  15. Dominion Day celebrations centered in the capital came back in the ‘70s. The movement for Québec sovereignty became stronger(Québec wanted to separate from Canada).
  16. Ottawa funded national and local celebrations. The national celebration was televised.
  17. The celebrations wanted to foster national unity.
  18. The government funded community-based July 1st celebrations after the 1980 Québec referendum.

When was it changed to Canada Day?

  1. Dominion Day was changed to Canada Day in 1982.
    • Bill C-201 “An Act to Amend the Holidays Act” was passed. It was made by Hal Herbert, a Liberal MP from Vaudreuil.
    • Many Canadians did not like the change.
  2. Those against the change complain that:
    • The bill was passed quickly. No debates and deliberations were done.
    • Only 13 Members of Parliament were present at the floor of the House of Commons.
    • The term Canada Day is shallow and unimaginative. It is stripped off of its historical roots.
    • The word dominion is uniquely Canadian.
    • Dominion Day is on equal standing with France’s Bastille Day or the U.S.’s Independence Day.
  3. Supporters of Canada Day say that:
    • Canada Day is a better reflection of the country’s independence.
    • The term dominion is part of Canada’s colonial past and ties with England.
    • Canada Day represents the present.
    • Canada Day expresses an occasion that honours British and French roots.
    • It also acknowledges the contribution of hundreds of other ethnic origins.

How about you? Which do you prefer- Dominion Day or Canada Day?

Sources: Canada Day, Matthew Hayday, The Canadian Encyclopedia; Discover Canada: Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, IRCC; Dominion Day, Canada.ca; and Dominion Day enthusiasts pine for the past, Robin Levinson King, The Star. Retrieved May 14, 2018.

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