Confederation Day

Perhaps we should be renaming "Canada Day"


I am actually writing this column on July 1, which we used to call Dominion Day. A few of you may know that on July 9, 1982, at around 4:00 p.m., moments before the beginning of the summer recess in Parliament, and with only 13 members present in the Commons, Bill C-201 was quickly given second and third reading by unanimous consent (the Tories hadn’t yet arrived to vote against it) and the House immediately adjourned for the summer. Thus, by a vote of 13-0, Dominion Day became Canada Day.

Frankly, I don’t mind us getting rid of many of the vestiges of the British Empire (other than the Pythons, Pith Helmets, Rowan Atkinson and Pimm’s No. 1 Cup), so Dominion Day, like the old flag, was probably due for a reboot. Canada Day, however, is a bit of a smiley-faced name for a national holiday, isn’t it? Perhaps if those 13 MPs hadn’t been in such a rush to outmaneuver the opposition, they would’ve thought about better branding options for our fête national.

I prefer to call it “Confederation Day” and hopefully start a trend. “Canada” existed well before 1867 in its Upper Canadian, Lower Canadian, and Unified manifestations, so “Canada” is at least 85 years older than 1867 (and even older if you include the establishment of New France). Ironically, when Dominion Day was in use, it was called “Le Jour de la Confédération” in Quebec. I like that, in both official languages.

To me, it’s the creation of the federal state in 1867, and the subsequent addition of BC and the other chunks of British North America that we should celebrate. The fact that 148 years after Confederation, 10 provinces and three territories eventually married and stayed married without blowing up (literally and figuratively), is to be celebrated, especially when it would have been so easy (and yet so sad) to have packed it all in and joined the Excited States of America.

Look at it this way: “Independence Day in the U.S. celebrates a very messy divorce. But “Confederation Day” would celebrate a marriage! And without that marriage, Canada would be a historical footnote.

Yes, there have been marital spats along the way, (principally with Quebec), and there have been deplorable events in our history, including the treatment of the First Nations, the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, and the pathetic conditions suffered by Canadian soldiers at Kinmel Park in Wales in the months before and after the 1918 Armistice (my Great Uncle died there a week before the war ended, hence I mention it so it isn’t forgotten).

But we should be happy that Canada, despite its sins, didn’t arise from anything particularly bloody or violent, like the American, Russian, Chinese or Iranian Revolutions. Heads weren’t chopped off in Canada and put on pikes lining the streets, as they were during the French Revolution (the subject of a poem, I recall, by the great Canadian poet, WB MacDonald).

Some expats I know say that Canada is superficial, irrelevant or inconsequential. If that were the case, people wouldn’t be lining up around the block like a Keg Steakhouse in the 70s to immigrate here. Vancouver wouldn’t regularly be among the top three places on the planet to live. In a world gone mad (or insolvent, or both), Canada is safe. Canada is stable. It’s wealthy without being Trumpishly ostentatious. You can make a good life here, raise your kids and
eventually retire.

I also like the fact that our Supreme Court, devoid of crass partisanship, is a bastion of common sense and isn’t shy about speaking truth to power. Whether its permitting pot for medicinal purposes, effectively declaring Mahar Arar a child soldier, allowing death with dignity, or educating the powers-that-be about the limits to that power (à la Nadon), I’m thankful it makes the tough decisions the politicians are afraid to make, going where angels, pollsters and ideologues fear to tread.

Something to remember on next year’s “Confederation Day.”

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