This is why we celebrate Canada Day
Why we celebrate Canada Day is not because we want an excuse to listen to Nickelback or Tragically Hip songs. Nor is July 1 every year a day of national pride filled with butter tarts and maple syrup.
So why do we celebrate Canada Day?
The answer begins on July 1, 1867.
Technically, Canada was born that day under the Constitution Act, when it was united into a single dominion (it's worth noting that "born" is used loosely here; Indigenous people were living in the country for thousands of years before European settlers arrived).
Under the Act, the country was divided into Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
One year later, Governor General Lord Monck signed a proclamation that requested all of the Queen's subjects across Canada throw epic parties on July 1 (okay, not actually, but he did say that the holiday should be "duly celebrated" on that day).
Over a decade later, a federal law officially made July 1 into a statuary holiday known as "Dominion Day."
Evidently, Dominion Day wasn't super catchy, so the name was officially updated to Canada Day in 1982.
Happy Canada Day, Canada! Here’s hand-coloured albumen print by Ottawa photographer Elihu Spencer of the first Dominion Day (Canada Day), July 1st, 1867 on Parliament Hill, Ottawa. It’s one of the only known images of Canada’s first Dominion Day. #cdnpoli #cdnhist #CanadaDay pic.twitter.com/PSp2f2c9Qm— Canadian Crown 🇨🇦 (@Canadian_Crown) July 1, 2019
According to several Canadian newspaper reports, the first few Canada Days seemed to be relatively unremarkable.
"Our citizens tore themselves away from the dust and heat of the city," the Ottawa Citizen reported on July 2, 1879. "No public demonstration was arranged."
Fortunately, there's been some pretty epic Canada Day celebrations since then, including the Peace Tower inauguration in 1927 and a visit from Kate and Will in 2011.
Fireworks — now considered to be a staple at most Canada Day celebrations — didn't begin until 1981, when they lit up the sky in 15 different cities across the country.
The government has announced that this year Canadians will celebrate Canada Day “Virtually”. I’ve got the fireworks covered! #CanadaDay #VirtualCanadaDay pic.twitter.com/mpPsiXjqQ0— Ian Black (@BlacksWeather) April 17, 2020
Over the years, Canada Day celebrations have morphed into backyard barbecues, outdoor concerts and parades.
Plenty of Canadian restaurants get involved in the festivities too, showing their national pride by selling red-and-white bagels, Nanaimo bar popsicles, and maple chilled drinks.
Some Canadians also decorate their houses with flags and coloured Christmas lights.
Get your house ready for Canada Day 🇨🇦— City of Calgary (@cityofcalgary) June 30, 2020
🍁 Decorate in red & white, display your Canada flag & show off your Canada-inspired family crafts.
🍁 Put up your Christmas or outdoor lights & be sure they are on at 10 p.m. to join the Calgary Tower in lighting up our city. #OCanadaYYC
All of that said, not everyone is looking forward to celebrating Canada Day this year; some people are calling for the event to be cancelled due to its origins in colonialism and Indigenous oppression.
Byron Louis, the chief of the Okanagan Indian Band, told CTV News that he can't remember the last time Canada Day was formally celebrated in his community.
"It's a stat holiday so we'll take it, other than that there is no celebration in our community," he said. "What exactly is there to celebrate?"
Other Canadians, however, are pointing out that while our country is far from perfect, there are still some good things about it that are worth celebrating.
I am so thankful that Canadians allowed my family and I to find refuge in this amazing country when I was 12. I am certain I would be dead or in jail without this generosity. Happy Dominion Day Canada!— Kaz Nejatian (@CanadaKaz) June 30, 2020
If you are celebrating Canada Day this year, then there's good news; the Canadian government is organizing a virtual day of celebrations that you can stream across the country.
The impressive line-up of artists and celebrities appearing at the show includes Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morissette, Serena Ryder, Sarah McLachlan and Pierre Yves-Lord.
Canada Day virtual celebrations kick off at 1 p.m. E.T.
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