Compiled by Deidré Heim: Canada Day is celebrated on July 1st of every year.
In the 1500’s explorers from Europe came to North America to claim lands. They realized that this land was rich in resources. Soon settlement began, with people seeking a new life in the new world. The two European countries that figured the most in North America were Britain and France. They met Aboriginal Nations that had been living for thousands of years in what is now Canada. These First Nations and Britain and France often had difficult relations. They often went to war with each other but sometimes they were friends.
At the time of the war with France most of Britain’s colonies in North America were in what we now call the United States. However, these thirteen colonies were angry at the way Britain had been treating them, so in 1775 they began a war with Britain for their independence. The Americans won the war and the British were forced to recognize the United States as its own country. Because of the war Britain lost much of its land, and had a bad relationship with the United States. The land left over was called British North America. This would become Canada almost 100 years later.
In the 1860s the British colonies were facing many different kinds of problems. One solution for all of these was for the colonies to come together to form one country.
Since America had fought Britain to gain its independence the relationship between British North America and the United States had never been stable. The relationship became even worse when Britain supported the South in the American Civil War. The North won the war and was angry at Britain for helping the South. Many Americans wanted to take over all of what is now Canada.
Meanwhile, Britain didn’t want to have to pay for the cost of defending its colonies. It decided to encourage the colonies to join together, because the United States would be less likely to attack Canada if it were a self-governing country rather than separate colonies of Britain. The fear of the United States helped to strengthen the call for Confederation.
For all of these reasons the Province of Canada began to plan for a Confederation. Leaders from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had already thought about joining together in a Maritime union and were planning a conference. The politicians from the Province of Canada asked if they could come to the meeting to propose a larger union of all the British North American colonies. The Maritime colonies agreed to let them attend, and all the leaders met at Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island. This was the first of the three conferences that led to the Confederation in 1867.
On July 1, 1867, the British government (under Queen Victoria) approved a plan which allowed Canada to become an independent country with its own government. This new nation, which remained loyal to Britain, was called the Dominion of Canada. At that time, the new Dominion of Canada had only four provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). Now there are 10 provinces and 3 territories.
The holiday became a statute in 1879 but was initially called Dominion Day. It wasn’t until 1982 that Dominion Day was officially changed to Canada Day.
Canada Day is an opportunity to gather in our communities, from coast to coast to coast, and to proudly celebrate all we have in common. It is an opportunity to celebrate our achievements, which were born in the audacious vision and shared values of our ancestors, and which are voiced in nearly all of the languages of the world through the contribution of new Canadians.
Canada Day is a time to celebrate the heritage passed down to us through the works of our authors, poets, artists and performers. It is a time to rejoice in the discoveries of our scientific researchers, in the success of our entrepreneurs, and to commemorate our history – a history in which each new chapter reveals itself to be more touching, more fascinating than the last.
As we look ahead, we have every reason to face the future with confidence and enthusiasm.
Happy Canada Day!