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History of Canada Day


Canada Day is the time that Canadians from coast to coast celebrate our rich cultural heritage. The way that we celebrate Canada Day may vary from region to region and from city to city, but it is precisely the diversity of this great country that makes up its magnificent cultural mosaic. The important thing is that all Canadians exhibit our nationalistic pride and celebrate Canada Day.

Believe it or not official celebrations of Canada Day are really quite new in our collective conscious. In 1985 Canada Day Committees were established in each province and territory to plan, organize, and coordinate the Canada Day celebrations locally. Grants were made available by the government to the Canada Day Committees. Toronto’s Canada Day celebrations began officially in 1983. In the City of Toronto Archives there exists a file consisting of applications for seed money support for a Canada Day celebration, minutes of meetings of the Canada's Birthday Committee, a Canada Week Program for 1983, and pamphlet about general rules for displaying the Canadian flag.

It all began on June 20, 1868 with a proclamation signed by the Governor General, Lord Monck calling upon all Her Majesty's loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of Canada on July 1st. The July 1st holiday was established by statute in 1879, not under the name of Canada Day, but under the name Dominion Day. There is no record of organized ceremonies after this first anniversary, except for the 50th anniversary of Confederation in 1917. The next celebration was held in 1927, marking the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation.

Only since 1958 have there been regular observances of Canada Day. At that time the celebrations were confined to Ottawa with a Trooping of the Colours ceremony on the lawn of Parliament Hill in the afternoon and a sunset ceremony in the evening followed by a mass band concert and fireworks display. Canada Day in 1967 marked Canada’s Centennial with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in attendance at the celebrations on Parliament Hill.  In 1968 multi-cultural and professional concerts became part of the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. The festivities were televised and ran under the name Festival Canada until 1979. “Oh Canada” was proclaimed as Canada’s national anthem in 1980 and the government extended Canada Day celebrations beyond the Ottawa region by sponsoring the development of festivities on a local level. In 1981, 15 major cities offered fireworks to commemorate Canada Day. And today, Canada Day is celebrated in cities and towns from coast to coast.

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