Happy 30th Birthday, Canada Day!
Sunday, July 1st, 2012 will officially be the 30th Canada Day. How is this possible, you ask, my gentle readers, when 2012 is the 145th anniversary of Confederation? Is it because it's the 30th Canada Day since the passage of the revised constitution in 1982, along with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? It's not a bad guess, but you'd be wrong.
The legislation to change the official name of the national holiday celebrated on the first of July appeared in the form of a private member's bill sponsored by Liberal MP Hal Herbert. Herbert's bill (C-201 - submitted to the House on 6 May 1980) was bumped way up in the sequence of parliamentary business and brought forth for debate in the House of Commons on the hot afternoon of Friday, 9 July 1982, when most MPs were out of Ottawa. It rapidly passed through the House that afternoon, with the consent of all of the MPs that were then sitting in the House. It wasn't until early the next week that ardent partisans of the original name for the day - Dominion Day - caught wind of what had occured. The story might well have ended here. As my colleague Raymond Blake at the University of Regina has noted in a number of conference presentations, there had been many attempts since the 1940s to change the name of the holiday. Some were government bills, others private member's bills, but for some reason or another, none had managed to pass through both houses. This might well have been the fate of Herbert's bill.
Determined opponents of the name change, urged on by retired Senator Eugene Forsey and others, attempted to make a final stand in the Senate, where more detailed hearings were held on Herbert's bill. This time, however, the legislation was not blocked, and the Senate gave its assent on 25 October 1982. 1983 was thus the first time that "Canada Day" was officially observed - although the name itself had been popularly used by many Canadians and media outlets over the previous decades.
As many of you doubtless know, the name change was far from uncontroversial, and many still use the original term of Dominion Day. Whatever you call July 1st, I wish you a most enjoyable long weekend, and hope you spare a thought or two for our country which has done pretty well in holding together for the past 145 years. For my part, this year I'll be staying home for July 1st, putting out my flag (courtesy of Sheila Copps' flag initative of the mid-1990s), barbecuing Canadian-themed sausages for our friends, and perhaps catching a bit of the Parliament Hill show (the subject of my past research) on TV.
Happy Canada Day!
ETA: In case you've missed it over the past couple of years, here's a link to my article in the Canadian Historical Review about Dominion Day and Canada Day celebrations. My other published work on this tends to be in edited collections, and so is a little harder to come by online.
Updated yet again with a new link to the description and recipe for my husband's awesome Canada Day sausages! Recommend this Post