Oh, Canada. Tomorrow is Canada Day. Not being a farmer and enjoying only a modest “harvest” from the garden beds at Smilin’ Dog, I tend to call it Thanksgiving. I give thanks for the bizarre and inexplicable confluence of circumstances and weirdnesses that brought me to Canada and kept me here for these many years.
Yet, notwithstanding this is the one and only country to deem me a citizen, there are still those who do not consider me a Real Canadian. And let’s be honest, I’ve never been able to successfully complete Pique’s Canada Day Quiz. Often it’s my indifference to hockey that trips me up, but quite frankly, there are any number of things Canadian that are too esoteric for even a staunch nationalist to remember.
So here’s a brief sample by way of my own Canada Day Quiz. Good luck.
Question 1: What were the three colonies that “united” to form Canada in 1867?
(a) Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec
(b) Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario
(c) Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario
(d) None of the above
Answer: (d) None of the above.
As you might suspect, this is a trick question. The three British North American colonies were Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada. No, seriously; that’s what the colony was called, the Province of Canada. It was later divided into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. So if you wanted to weasel you way into half credit for this question you might argue Canada was formed out of four provinces but there’s really no room to argue in a multiple choice test so suck it up, buttercup, and give yourself no points for that question.
Now, you might be wondering exactly why this most revered national holiday is called Canada Day, that being, shall we say, a bit prosaic. Well, let’s remember, especially since we’re in British Columbia, this is a country of prosaic names. In this province alone pioneers had so little imagination when it came to place names that we have a whole string of towns called things like 100 Mile House, which is, as you may guess, 30 miles up the road from 70 Mile House and 50 miles south of 150 Mile House. If you’re an American tourist reading this, I’m not making it up and, yes, Canada did switch to metric but didn’t have the heart to hold the various Mile House towns up to even more ridicule by forcing them to change their names to Kilometre House.
Canada Day didn’t start out being Canada Day any more than Canada—meaning Big Village in the language of one or another subjugated First Nations—started out being Canada. Tuponia was apparently in the running so count your blessings.
Question 2: Canada Day was initially called what?
(a) British North America Day
(b) Dominion Day
(c) Le Jour de la Confédération
(d) Kingdom Day
Answer: (b) or (c), you bilingual devil, you.
However, it was almost called Kingdom Day, hewing to the true north proclivity for prosaic names. When the BNA Act created Canada, important people in the new country lobbied Great Britain to deem the new country the Kingdom of Canada, owing to the “monarchical basis of the constitution.” As an aside—isn’t this entire column an aside?—in 1867, the monarch of Great Britain was Victoria, who we honoured just last month by celebrating Victoria Day. If Victoria was the monarch and the bigwigs of Canada wanted to cement the monarchical basis of the country, why didn’t they ask it be called the Queendom of Canada? Just askin’.
Regardless of the monarchial gender identification issues, Lord Stanley—yes, the one with the cup—who was British Foreign Secretary at the time, vetoed the idea of Canada being a kingdom, preferring instead the title Dominion. Curiously, or perhaps not, dominion can be broken down into its roots. (Do, meaning to perform or execute; to carry out, and minion, meaning an obsequious follower or dependent, a sycophant or subordinate official, especially a servile one.) I don’t want to speculate what that might have said about the esteem in which the new country of Canada was held by the old country of Great Britain but it may explain a lot about our national psyche.
For example, it may explain why Canadians were lukewarm toward Dominion Day for a number of decades, why many Canadians continued to pretend they were really British and why the Queen of England is still on our money. But I digress. On to the main event.
Question 3: Canada Day is July 1.
(c) Not always
(d) I give up; just tell me.
Answer: (b) and (c).
Stop whining; of course it was a trick question. Canada Day officially became Canada Day in 1982. Canada Day almost became Canada Day in 1946, when a Quebec MP’s private member’s bill sought to rename Dominion Day. While the bill passed the House of Commons, the Senate thought Canada Day was a dorky name and suggested The National Holiday of Canada instead, an even dorkier name. This goes a long way toward explaining the esteem in which most Canadians hold the upper chamber. The bill died and, yes, I digress.
Another private member’s bill in 1982 succeeded… sort of. It was introduced on a day when only 12 MPs were present. Even in Canadian politics, 12 MPs do not constitute a quorum. But no one called foul and under the rules, if no one objects to, say, changing the name of the national holiday without a quorum, you can get away with it. The bill passed in five minutes. The Senate objected, but, mindful of their own lack of imagination, passed the bill and the rest is history, which may explain the esteem in which most Canadians hold the lower house as well.
But it doesn’t explain why Canada Day isn’t always on July 1, does it?
Well, it’s like this. Canada Day is a federal, statutory holiday enacted under the Holidays Act. While it may exist forever in spirit on July 1, in law it only exists on July 1 in years when that date falls on a Monday through Saturday. If July 1 happens to fall on Sunday—not to say the Lord’s day—July 2 is the legal holiday. The last time this happened was 2018. Nobody noticed. The next time will be 2029. I’m sure nobody will notice then either.
But hey, no reason to let facts get in the way of a good party or the chance to celebrate the same holiday two days in a row.
Happy birthday, Canada.