O, Canada! Origins of Canada Day

Earlier this week, Canadians celebrated Canada Day, which is a federal statutory holiday observed on July 1 of each year. The holiday commemorates “Canada’s birthday” — even though, technically, Canada still has a queen (currently Queen Elizabeth II) as part of the setup of Canada’s interesting governmental setup. In any case, Canada Day isn’t really about independence from anyone (as Independence Day is celebrated in the United States), it’s more about the way Canada became, well, Canada.

Canada Day was once known as Dominion Day, but that moniker is no longer used, since it hails back to the idea of British control, which is mostly ceremonial at this point.

British North America Act, 1867

Canada was “born” with the British North America Act, 1867 (now referred to as the Constitution Act). This act took three colonies, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada and turned them into the kingdom of Canada, a part of the British Empire. During the process, enacted on July 1, 1867, the Province of Canada was split into Quebec and Ontario, and there were four provinces total.

After Canada was formed, the British Parliament reserved a number of rights related to political control. However, over the following 115 years, those controls were whittled down. Canada received more rights of independent governance, culminating in 1982 with the Constitution Act, which patriated Canadian’s constitution. Canada Day is July 1, and celebrated then, even on years (like 2012) when the observed holiday is July 2 because July 1 falls on a Sunday.

Canada is still considered part of the Commonwealth of Nations, in which the participants are independent, with monarchies considered legally distinct. Because Canada’s monarch lives in the United Kingdom, most of the duties performed by her are carried out by the Governor General, considered the royal representative. It is worth noting, though, that those duties are rather limited when it comes to actual governance, with the Canadian Parliament, Prime Minister, and other officials making more of the actual decisions, since authority comes from the Canadian people and their elected representatives, per the setup as a constitutional monarchy.

Canada Day Celebrations

Canada Day is a time for celebration, and many communities put together activities, including parades, carnivals, barbecues, and more. Fireworks and music are often involved, including free shows and demonstrations. Displays of national pride involving Mounties, maritime shows, and aerial exhibitions are all included, and there are huge cultural displays are often found in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, located in the province of Ontario.

Some of the “traditional” activities that have developed over the years to recognize Canada Day including downing a six-pack of Molson Canadian lager and doing shots of maple syrup. Of course, family barbecues and get togethers are part of the festivities, and there are plenty other fun activities to enjoy.

Internationally, there are activities by the Canadian community in the United Kingdom, usually centering around Canada House at Trafalgar Square. Hong Kong sees a celebration as well. There are also celebrations in the United States, in cities that are near the border of Canada. In some cases the cities have joint celebrations of Canada Day and Independence Day.

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