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Maple syrup forever

A somewhat historically accurate look at Canada Day

Posted: 06/28/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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July 1, 2013 - 130701  - Gerry Wert flies his flag high during the Canada Day festivities at The Forks Monday, July 1, 2013. John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

July 1, 2013 - 130701 - Gerry Wert flies his flag high during the Canada Day festivities at The Forks Monday, July 1, 2013. John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press Photo Store

Some Canadians see Canada Day as just another day off in the summer. Others see the national holiday as a chance to celebrate what makes us Canadian.

Yet others take the opportunity to develop a sunburn and a hangover, which together hwave the power to transform the faces of people of any ethnic background into a semblance of the maple-red Canadian flag.

Regardless of what you do on July 1, you may not realize the holiday has a proud and fascinating history that is not the least bit sullied by the appropriation of the Maple Leaf by an accursed hockey team.

The following is a brief history of Canada Day, dating back to a time when the first Don Cherry emerged from the primordial ooze to quilt together suits made out of the skins of Stroumboulopousaurs:

 

JULY 1, 85 MILLION B.C.E.

During the late Cretaceous period, mosasaurs swimming around the shallow seas that covered southern Manitoba were entirely unaware of the calendar as they snacked on ammonites and plesiosaurs.

In remote areas of rural Quebec, meanwhile, Canada Day was celebrated just as vigorously as it is today.

 

JULY 1, 1867

Canada was created through the enactment of the Constitution Act, which united the former British colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with the former province of Canada, which covered southern Ontario and Quebec.

At the time of Confederation, two different songs vied to be the new country's national anthem: God Save the Queen, which at the time referred to Victoria, and The Maple Leaf Forever, which was written that year.

The former is now used solely to honour Canada's head of state, while the latter narrowly lost a battle to become the official national anthem a century later.

The consolation prize: the closing ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, when Michael Bublé's swinging version of Maple Leaf confused an entire planet.

 

JULY 1, 1870

The year Manitoba joined Canada, the anniversary of Confederation marked a tense time for the tiny province.

The passing of the Manitoba Act in May would bring the Red River Settlement into Confederation on July 15. In the interim, the province-in-waiting sat in limbo, led by provincial founder Louis Riel, who was probably beginning to figure out he wouldn't remain leader for long.

Riel fled the province before the arrival of the Wolseley Expedition, a military force sent out west to put down the so-called Red River Rebellion. Riel feared he would be lynched upon Wolseley's arrival.

The present-day Winnipeg neighbourhood of Wolseley commemorates this history every Canada Day by generally being violent. Don't let the organic groceries and artisanal bakeries fool you: It's a vicious place, safe for no one.

 

JULY 1, 1879

It took 22 years after the nation's birth before Ottawa made July 1 a statutory holiday. The original name was Dominion Day, which referenced the nation's official status as existing under the dominion of the British Empire.

The following year, Montreal-area musician Calixa Lavallée, a veteran of the U.S. Civil War, composed O Canada at the behest of Quebec's lieutenant-governor.

So yeah -- O Canada comes from Quebec, just like goalie masks, maple syrup and (in all likelihood) poutine, the three things that hold the nation together.

 

JULY 1, 1917

In typically understated Canadian fashion, Dominion Day was hardly celebrated in any formal way in Ottawa for the first few decades after the country was created.

This changed for the 50th anniversary of Confederation, which unfortunately occurred in the midst of the First World War. It's tough to celebrate when your husband is getting blown to bits somewhere in Europe.

 

JULY 1, 1927

For Canada's 60th birthday, railway workers connected metal wires from either side of the continent, effectively creating a national radio network and placing a foundation for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

It has taken nearly a century for successive Liberal and Conservative governments to undo this act by diminishing the CBC. Of course, this is done in typically understated Canadian fashion: death by a 1,000 cuts, as opposed to rolling in with tanks, like they do on other continents.

 

JULY 1, 1946

After the conclusion of the Second World War, MPs in Ottawa voted to rename Dominion Day, as people were calling it, Canada Day. But the Senate balked at changing the name and suggested an exciting alternative: "the National Holiday of Canada."

Even in 1946, elected officials recognized this to be ridiculously lame. Happily, the Senate never embarrassed itself again. It is now one of Canada's most respected institutions, along with the strip club and the pawn shop.

 

JULY 1, 1958

John Diefenbaker, the only Saskatchewan-born Canadian prime minister, decides it's time for Ottawa to actually celebrate Dominion Day. A party is held in Ottawa, setting the stage for a series of increasingly elaborate celebrations on Parliament Hill.

Thanks to Dief, you cannot help but notice it's a holiday on July 1 in Ottawa. The same cannot be said in the rest of Canada, especially some remote parts of rural Quebec.


JULY 1, 1965

The '60s were a decade of change, and that included Canada's official flag, which lost the old Union Jack in favour of the current red-and-white Maple Leaf motif.

In typically interminable Canadian fashion, this change was debated for years, with Conservatives arguing the Union Jack ought to be represented in some way, Liberals pushing for the new flag and some within Quebec arguing for the incorporation of the fleur-de-lis.

The first Canada Day to see Ottawa fly the simplified, modern flag was in 1965, when Lester Pearson was in power.

His name is now synonymous with the flag, United Nations peacekeeping and an annoying airport.

 

JULY 1, 1967

Canada Day really took off during the summer of the country's centennial celebrations, which served to cement the idea of a distinct Canadian cultural identity.

Not coincidentally, the summer of 1967 was regarded as the Summer of Love, a flowering of a hippie identity among baby boomers in Canada and the United States.

Nine months later, the months surrounding April 1968 came to be known as the Spring of Unwanted Childbirth.

 

JULY 1, 1980

After a full century of unofficial deliberation, O Canada beat out The Maple Leaf Forever to become the nation's official national anthem.

In Burnaby, B.C., four-year-old Michael Bublé began to plot his revenge.

 

JULY 1,1983

During Pierre Trudeau's final term as PM, Ottawa finally voted in 1982 to get rid of the Dominion Day monicker and call the holiday Canada Day.

Spontaneous celebrations broke out in the streets of... well, nowhere. Everyone already called it Canada Day.

On the first official Canada Day, in 1983, the American architect Buckminster Fuller -- the inventor of the geodesic dome -- died in Los Angeles.

Fuller designed the Montreal Biosphere, which was built for Expo 67, the 1967 World Fair, held in Montreal to serve as the centrepiece of Canada's centennial celebrations.

 

JULY 1, 2014

This year, Canadians can celebrate their national holiday by cheering on European and Latin American soccer teams in the World Cup. A pair of Round of 16 games will be held in S£o Paulo and Salvador.

Is there anything more Canadian than cheering on some other nation your parents or grandparents fled in terror? Sure there is: eating poutine, slathered with maple syrup, through your goalie mask.

Even in remote areas of rural Quebec, this is an approved Canada Day activity.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2014 ??65528

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