July 1, 2017, the day Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Canada was settled in the early 1600’s by French and British fur traders with the first cities established being Quebec City in 1608 and Montreal in 1642. Canada remained a British colony until 1867, when the British North America Act, unifying the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec) into the Dominion of Canada, was passed by British Parliament, signed by Queen Victoria and proclaimed into law on July 1, 1867. The authors of this act drew inspiration from the desire to create a new free-trade market north of the USA and strengthen their position of independence.
And so Canada began its journey. Soon these original 4 provinces were joined by others, Manitoba and Northwest Territories in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873, Yukon in 1898, Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905 and finally Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949. In 1999, Nunavut, formerly a component of the Northwest Territories, separated to form an independent territory, bringing the current total of provinces and territories we recognize as Canada to 13.
Canada has experienced evolution and maturation over the course of its existence. The Trans-Canada Railway, promised to British Columbia when they entered confederation, was completed on November 7, 1885 when the last spike was driven. It was during this construction that Sandford Fleming , a railway surveyor who was later knighted, instigated efforts to adopt the time zones we use today. This new railway opened up the western regions of the country to settlement by the many European immigrants looking to make a new home in Canada. After both the first and second world wars, vast numbers of Europeans immigrated to Canada looking for a new start away from their war ravaged homes. From a population of 3.5 million in 1867, Canada has grown to 36.5 million at the end of 2016 and at 1.1% annually, has the highest population growth of any of the seven highly industrialized countries in the world.
Since Canada was still closely tied to Great Britain in 1867, the fathers of confederation adopted the Union Jack as the official flag of Canada and “God Save the Queen” as the national anthem. In preparation for Canada’s centennial, Lester B. Pearson, the prime minister at the time, suggested Canada adopt their own unique flag and National anthem.
A cross country contest was launched in early 1964 with the red maple leaf, fondly referred to as the “Pearson Pennant” by opposition members of parliament, being proclaimed the new Canadian Flag on February 15, 1965 by Queen Elizabeth II. Although the government recommended the adoption of “O Canada” as the National Anthem on 15 March 1967, it wasn’t official proclaimed as such until July 1, 1980.
Canada became bi-lingual in 1968 when the Official Language Act was passed making both French and English official language, recognizing the two founding cultures.
It wasn’t until 1982 that Canada actually attained sovereignty from Great Britain, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau “re-patriated” our constitution and the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms was enacted. This then prompted July 1st, previously celebrated as Dominion Day to be renamed Canada Day. Is an independent Canada 150 or really only 35?
Canada has always been one of the world’s most progressive countries. It gave women the right to vote in 1917, elected its first female member of parliament in 1921, appointed the first woman senator in 1930 and began allowing women to enlist into the armed forces in 1941. Today Canada boasts a gender balanced cabinet and 92 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons being held by women. The death penalty was abolished in 1976, mandatory retirement and discrimination against homosexuals was outlawed in 1986. Abortion was legalized in 1988 and same sex marriages became legal in 2005.
Canadians love the outdoors and Canada is a great sporting nation. We are recognized around the world as a hockey power in both the women’s and men’s game. We have hosted the Olympics 3 times. The Summer Olympics were held in Montreal in 1976 with Calgary and Vancouver hosting the Winter Olympics in 1988 & 2010 respectively.
We owe our freedom to many Canadian heroes. Canadian soldiers have participated in all the great conflicts and are now most recognized for their contribution and support of the UN peace keeping missions. UN Peacekeeping was created in 1948 when future Prime Minister Lester B Pearson was acting as its Secretary General, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize. A further 21 Canadians have also won the Nobel Prize for achievements in all recognized fields, Sciences, Medicine, Economics and Literature.
Canada is also known for producing people who are giants in the Entertainment industry. Since the early days of film, many well-known Canadian actors, directors, producers, comedians and musicians have won international acclaim and awards. Even Jack Warner, co-founder of the Warner Brothers studios, was Canadian.
This July 1, our sesquicentennial will be celebrated nationwide with unrivaled festivals, concerts, special events and fireworks displays. The Canadian government is offering free passes to all National Parks for 2017 to encourage citizens to explore more of their country. New currency and coinage, aptly named “My Canada, My Inspiration, has been designed by the Canadian Mint to immortalize this achievement.
A contest was launched by the Canadian Mint inviting Canadians to submit potential designs for the 2017 celebratory coins. After receiving over ten thousand submissions, five finalists were selected per category and all Canadian were invited to vote. The final winners pictured above.
A special commemorative $10 bill features four portraits on the front, Sir John A. Macdonald, who represented English speaking citizens, and Sir George-Etienne Cartier, who represented French speaking citizens, 2 of the fathers of confederation, Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to parliament, and James Gladstone, the first Status Indian to be appointed to the Senate. This is meant to highlight the diversity and inclusiveness of Canada. The back of the bill features images that capture the diverse landscapes of our country.
With all the myriad accomplishments Canada has achieved over the past 150 years our future is looking very bright. We have been a member country of the G7 since 1976. A group consisting of the world’s major advanced economies and wealthiest developed countries, representing 64% of the net global wealth. Our humanitarian efforts are well recognized around the world. Canada suffers no large cultural divisions based on ethnicity, gender, life style or religion. As a great melting pot, you can hear almost every language in the world spoken openly on our streets and new immigrants are welcomed with open hearts and minds.
In the words of Canadian songstress Shania Twain
“Up, up, up, there’s no way but up from here”
HAPPY 150TH BIRTHDAY CANADA! – LET’S CELEBRATE