Tomorrow is July 1, 2017 and Canadians officially celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the beginning of our country as we know it today. 150 years ago, at noon, the Dominion of Canada was proclaimed, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec). This is a celebration worth having, I believe, even though our past has not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The Canada of today is a great country and we are trying to make amends for the errors of the past. I really do love this country and I am so proud to be Canadian. I love the people, the landscape and our welcoming attitude to other cultures.
There are big celebrations planned across the country and I am sure that the celebrations in Ottawa this year will be a sight to see! I will be celebrating as we always do, watching the local parade, listening to music and ending with a BBQ with good friends.
It makes me wonder how Canadians celebrated the beginnings of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867?
Church towers and bell towers rang out across the new country at midnight. The Queen’s proclamation was published in the news and read out loud in the major cities. Towns across the new dominion celebrated with military displays, brass bands, illuminations and fireworks.
In Toronto, there were extensive celebrations as described in this article:
At 6 o’clock a.m. an immense ox will be roasted by Capt. Woodhouse, of the barque Lord Nelson, at the foot of Church street. The animal, which was a very fine one, was purchased by subscription from Mr. Joseph Lennox, of Yorkville. The roasting will occupy a large portion of the day, and the meat will afterwards be distributed among the poor of the city. (The Globe, 1867)
There was great optimism about the new country, as this article from the Globe attests:
We firmly believe, that from this day, Canada enters on a new and happier career, and that a time of great prosperity and advancement is before us. (The Globe, 1867)
The day was memorable, as a girl in Hamilton described:
There was the dark and then there was the light of a candle … then there was the opening of the great door, and the rush of cool, fresh air, and the deep darkness. ‘Oh look,’ said a voice. The sky was suddenly full of shooting stars. There were fountains of stars, coloured red and green and blue … ‘This is the First of July in the year eighteen hundred and sixty seven,’ (my) father said, ‘always remember this day, and this night. You are a very lucky little girl, to be a child in Canada, today.’ (Unknown, 1867)
And from the perspective of Agnes MacDonald (the wife of Canada’s first prime minister):
This new Dominion of ours came noisily into existence on the 1st, and the very newspapers look hot and tired, with the weight of Announcements and Cabinet lists. Here – in this house – the atmosphere is so awfully political that sometimes I think the very flies hold Parliaments on the kitchen Tablecloths. (Agnes MacDonald, 1867)
Things did not go perfectly though. Apparently, in Ottawa, the military fired a 101 gun salute on Parliament Hill but they forgot to take the ramrods out of their rifles and the rods flew over Sparks Street! That would have been an exciting but dangerous start to our country!
Happy Canada Day! Celebrate the past, present and future of our country and the remarkable people who have lived here.