Canada Day is not a Hallmark creation!

Canada Day in OttawaToday is Canada Day and being a Canadian native living in the United States I have been fielding many questions about the holiday. A lot of my friends are aware that it is Canada Day (it’s on their calendars, or Canadian friends living here in the Deep South have wished them a happy one), but none of them know why today is Canada Day, or what it’s all about. A few years ago a friend asked me if Canada Day was in fact a Hallmark creation – that is to say, made up as an excuse to celebrate and give each other greeting cards; another person wondered why we would decide to hold our national holiday so close to that of the United States – a pretty bizarre notion if you think about it (this person obviously did not think about it). Most people believe that July 1st is Canada’s Independence Day, but that’s not quite true either – Canada did not become independent on the day we celebrate as Canada Day. So what’s it all about?

The Constitution Act of 1867

On July 1, 1867, the British North America Act, 1867, or BNA Act, was signed, officially creating the Dominion of Canada. This act brought together the three provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada (which later became the provinces of Ontario and Quebec) into a Confederation.

As a federal dominion, Canada was a semi-autonomous collection of provinces under British rule, constituting a part of the British Empire and British Commonwealth. As such, while it had its own rule, it was not truly independent from Britain.

It is this day, July 1st, that Canadians celebrate their national holiday. The holiday became a Statute in 1879 called Dominion Day, and was celebrated in Canada as Dominion Day until 1982.

The Statute of Westminster 1931

On December 11, 1931, the Statute of Westminster 1931 was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to establish legislative equality for the dominions (with some exceptions, notably India) of the British Empire. The Statute marked the beginning of the legislative independence of Canada and five other British colonies; the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, Irish Free State, the Union of South Africa and the Dominion of Newfoundland (which was at this point not yet a part of Canada). From this point on Canada was under its own rule; the British Parliament no longer had the ability to legislate for Canada or the other dominions indicated within the Statute.

The Constitution Act of 1982

The final chapter in the story of Canadian independence took place in Ottawa, Ontario on April 17, 1982 as a part of the Canada Act 1982. On this day Queen Elizabeth II came to Ottawa to sign a proclamation that ended the remaining British rule over Canada, thereby patriating the country. The name of the country was officially changed from The Dominion of Canada to Canada.

While British rule over Canada ended on this day in 1982, the Queen’s position in Canada did not; she remains the Queen and Head of State of Canada to this day. The Queen’s role as monarch of Canada is separate from that of her role as monarch of Britain; Canada retains its rights as an independent country.

So as you can see, Canada did not truly become independent until 1982! Regardless, we continue to celebrate the day that Canada first became a dominion under British rule, as we have done for decades. And it was in 1982 that the name of the holiday, Dominion Day, became known as Canada Day.

Celebrating Canada Day

I lived in Ottawa for several years; while living there I attended one of the country’s oldest high schools, Lisgar Collegiate Institute, and spent several college co-op work terms working for the Government of Canada. As such, I have celebrated several Canada Days in Canada’s capital city, and have some very fond memories of those times.

On Canada Day Parliament Hill, the home of the Canadian Parliament and the center of government in Canada, is crowded with Canadians (and visitors) celebrating the holiday. There are fireworks and jet planes and plenty of flags and face paint. Afterward my friends and I would head down to the Byward Market, a four-block area of Ottawa featuring plenty of bars, restaurants and shops, and quaff down a few beers. There was, and still is, plenty to celebrate about being a citizen of such a vast, free and beautiful country so rich in heritage and full of opportunity.

Happy Canada Day!

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6 Responses to “Canada Day is not a Hallmark creation!”

  1. Very nice! Being a staunch Canadian born in Ottawa many years ago I and many others would like to get rid of the queen and monarchy in all it’s ways. Get rid of her face on our currency and coins, remove all her pictures from government offices and our embassies,no more royal on our military and no more swearing allegiance to the queen. No more sending some $50 million to Britain to pay for the G,G,’s salary etc. I am a proud Canadian and when I travel abroad I wear something Canadian or thee like and am well received. If you are indeed a proud Canadian do this and also write to your member of parliament to make those changes with a c. c. to Mr Trudeau

    • Hello Guy,

      Very interesting thoughts. I have never really thought too much about the pros and cons of having the Queen and the monarchy so prominently featured in Canadian culture. Nor have I considered the monetary aspects of maintaining the British connection – that is very interesting. To be honest I always found it kind of an interesting aspect of our culture. But I do appreciate your thoughts and reasoning behind them!

      All the best to you!

  2. Thank you for your reply. To add to my comments Canada has two founding nations and we celebrate the Italian festival,the Greek festival the German festival etc. We are all proud Canadians. It is time to sever all the apron strings from Britain and be truly independent. There is a strong movement to get rid of the monarchy in Britain. In Australia they do not plead allegiance to the queen they plead it to the country namely Australia. Lots of new Canadians are confused that they must plead allegiance to the queen. I am embarrassed about that and also if you go to a Canadian embassy abroad you see a picture of the queen. Yuk! Monarchy’s have no useful purpose and cost Brits and Canadians money to support. The queen is one of the richest persons in the world with her billions and yet when Windsor castle was damaged by fire she wanted the poor British subjects to pay for the repairs. How cold callus and greedy can you get! Makes me want to vomit! If you go to the site on “Citizens for a Canadian republic” you will find it quite interesting especially the comments from the national director Tom Freda wherein he says we pay more than the Brits to England namely some $50 million year. I am a retired business man and have travelled extensively all my life to various countries. When I do I always wear something CANADIAN to make sure I am not taken for an American because they will throw rocks at you. Americans wear something Canadian to get better service. Not very patriotic! Eventually I do believe that we will be completely independent from Britain and I hope to live to see that day. I do not drink however I will celebrate that day with waving our CANADIAN flag from the roof tops with having some maple syrup! GOD SAVE CANADA from the queen!

    • Hello Guy,

      You have obviously thought a lot about this, and completed some significant research. I will have to do a bit more myself. It does seem to make sense that as the face of Canada changes, with so many different people coming to live in Canada from all over the world and the percentage of British descendants declining, Canada might eventually drop the Monarchy-focused aspect of its culture. We will have to see.

      I also have a Canadian flag on my backpack when I travel abroad. One of the fun parts about that is meeting other Canadians who are also seeing the world. Canadians do tend to get “out and about”, traveling throughout the globe!

      Thanks again for your thoughts, and have a great day.

  3. I am pleased indeed to hear that you wear a Canadian flag on your backpack. I find it surprising that many Canadians that I met in my travels do not wear something Canadian. They should! In my many travels around the world when they see my Canadian flag on my backpack as well as my Canadian hat and Canada T shirt at times I am always greeted with a smile and welcomed unlike our friends south of the border. I am proud to be Canadian and show it. The smiles and welcomes I get make me so happy and proud to be Canadian. Canadians have a reputation of being friendly polite and and a peace loving country. I tell people all over that story of Canada in that Jacques Cartier in 1534 came from France and named Canada as a French colony. Then on September 13 1759 after the battle in the Plains of Abraham it became a British colony. Then after the battle the French and Canadians put down their guns and so did the British soldiers Then we intermarried and made love instead of having a civil war. Both sides came to the conclusion that the saying ‘Make love not war” was better for our physical and mental well being rather than shoot each other and die or feel pain! Quite an intelligent decision don’t you think? The Americans had a “civil” war. {War is not civil it is barbaric! from 1861 till 1865 with a total of about 720,000 dead. Wow isn’t it so nice {And healthier} to be CANADIAN! There is not enough love in this world we live inn today. I like to spread love where ever I go. In fact I am a song writer and write about love and show it in motion. If you go to YOU TUBE and punch in my name Guy Castonguay you will see a picture of me and the title of one of my songs HAVE A HUG TODAY. Press play and you will see me giving out hug coupons to complete strangers and getting great hugs in return including a lot of laughter and joy nobody refused;not even a soldier with a gun! In this very troubled world everybody definitely needs a hug! There is a second video HAPPY COWBOY! Let’s all spread love and happiness. You live longer if you are happy! If I may say so you are indeed a refreshing and intelligent person and outlining your article very well indeed. Keep up the good work! All the best with love and a big Canadian hug!

    • Hi Guy, you have a really great attitude. I agree that Canada is the best country in the world, and that we should be proud of Canada and what it means to be Canadian. I know that it’s not perfect, and that there are still some issues that need to be resolved, but for the most part Canada is a country accepting of people of all races, cultures, and orientations. I’m living in the United States now and I do miss Canada a lot – I am hoping to visit for an extended period next summer.

      I will check out your YouTube channel – thanks for pointing it out. All the best to you!

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About the Author

Website: Brian Crawford
I'm a Canadian and British dual citizen with an internationally-focused American MBA and an MS in International Project Management from a French business school. I am PMP, ScrumMaster, and ITIL Foundation certified. I'm particularly into travel, writing, and learning about different languages and cultures.