“Gentlemen, we are here to create a Nation!” declared Sir John A. Macdonald to the Fathers of Confederation in 1866. On July 1 of the following year, the British North America Act, 1867 was enacted to unite the Province of Canada (which later became Ontario and Quebec) with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into the Dominion of Canada as a self-governing dominion of the British Empire.
Dominion Day did not become a statutory holiday until 1879. There were decades of contention on whether Dominion Day should be renamed. The debates centred on whether the word “dominion” suggested subservience and domination by the British or whether it was merely an extract from the Latin version of the eight verse of Psalm 72 “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” After all, A Mari Usque Ad Mare is part of Canada’s coat of arms. With the passing of the Constitution Act in 1982, Canada became an independent nation. The same year Dominion Day was officially renamed Canada Day. One attempt to amend the Canada Day Bill was defeated 44 to 23 with two abstentions. The Bill was given Royal Assent on October 27, 1982, thus ending a long dispute on what this national holiday should be called.
On July 1 this year we celebrate Canada’s 147th anniversary. So what other significant historical events happened on this day across the country in the past 147 years?
1867 – John Alexander Macdonald is sworn in as Canada’s first Prime Minister. The new Dominion starts with just 30 civil servants.
1868 – Department of Marine and Fisheries is founded in Ottawa.
1870 – George-Etienne Cartier (1814–1873) passes Order-in-Council committing government to start building a railway to the Pacific within two years, as condition of BC’s entry into Confederation; after false starts and consolidations, construction eventually starts May 1881.
1871 – 1) Founding of the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa; 2) Parliament makes decimal currency system uniform across Canada; 3) British Columbia joins Confederation as the sixth Canadian province.
1873 – Prince Edward Island enters Confederation as the seventh Canadian province on the same terms as BC.
1878 – Canada joins the Universal Postal Union.
1890 – Canada and Bermuda are linked by telegraph cable.
1909 – Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, captain of the government steamship Arctic, places a metal plaque at Parry Rock claiming Canadian sovereignty over the entire Arctic Archipelago. “I took possession of Baffin Island for Canada in the presence of several Eskimo,” said Bernier, “and after firing nineteen shots I instructed an Eskimo to fire the twentieth, telling him that he was now a Canadian.”
1911 – Proclamation removes the words Dei Gratia, Latin for “By the Grace of God”, from Canada’s coinage. There is a public uproar over the “godless” coins.
1915 – Saskatchewan passes legislation to close all bars, clubs, and wholesale outlets selling liquor, replaced by 23 government liquor stores.
1916 – 1) World War I, the first day of the Battle of the Somme – the First Newfoundland Regiment is virtually wiped out at Beaumont Hamel. Of the 801 soldiers of the Regiment, 255 are killed, 386 are wounded and 91 go missing. 2) Prohibition begins in Alberta.
1926 – Canada restores the gold standard.
1927 – Toronto, Ontario – Law is passed requiring all drivers in Ontario to have a license.
1925 – Regina, Saskatchewan – City police and RCMP wade into crowds at Regina Exhibition Grounds rally to arrest leaders of the On-to-Ottawa Trek after they return from unsuccessful meeting with Prime Minister Bennett in Ottawa. One policeman is killed and many are injured. On-to-Ottawa Trek was a journey where thousands of unemployed men protesting the dismal condition in federal relief camps scattered in remote areas across Western Canada. The men lived and worked for 20 cents a day.
1941 – Unemployment Insurance Act comes into force; establishment of Unemployment Insurance Commission.
1942 – World War II, Wartime sugar rationing starts in Canada. Tea and coffee are added to the list in August, butter is added in December and meat the following March.
1960 – Treaty and registered Aboriginal Canadians are given the right to vote.
1962 – Saskatchewan – 90% of doctors of the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons close their offices for 23 days, providing only hospital-based emergency services. Tommy Douglas’s CCF government Medicare compulsory medical care insurance plan is delayed.
1966 – Toronto, Ontario–CTV station CFTO-TV transmits first colour television in Canada.
1968 – Canada’s Medical Care Act comes into effect, creating the nation’s Medicare system.
1980 – Ottawa, Ontario – Calixa Lavallée’s “O Canada” officially proclaimed as the national anthem of Canada; written in 1880 for St-Jean-Baptiste celebration; original words by A-B Routhier; English by Stanley Weir (1908).
Happy Canada Day!
Today in Canadian History http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php/July_1