An Explanation of Canada Day

Peace Tower, Parliament Hill, Ottawa 
[… brought forward from last year]
In brief, Canada Day is equivalent to Independence Day in the USA, except for the “independence” part.
Queen Victoria gave royal assent to the British North America Act on March 29, 1867, but the Act did not come into force until July 1 of the same year.
When the Act took effect, it united several provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario — to form the Dominion of Canada. Thus Canada Day celebrates the anniversary of Confederation on July 1, 1867.
Other provinces and territories were added to the Dominion later.
(Table adapted from Wikipedia):

Date Name
1 July 1867 Ontario   provincial flag

Quebec   provincial flag

Nova Scotia   provincial flag

New Brunswick   provincial flag

15 July 1870 Manitoba   provincial flag

Northwest Territories   territorial flag

20 July 1871 British Columbia   provincial flag
1 July 1873 Prince Edward Island  provincial flag
13 June 1898 Yukon Territory   territorial flag
 1 September 1905  Saskatchewan   provincial flag

Alberta   provincial flag

31 March 1949  Newfoundland and Labrador   provincial flag 
1 April 1999 Nunavut Territory   territorial flag

Most of the above dates represent an expansion of Canada’s territory. The sole exception is Nunavut, which was created by dividing the Northwest Territories in two.

Milestones on the road to independence

Canada was content to remain a British dominion even after Confederation in 1867.

Legislative independence was mostly achieved with the passing of the Statute of Westminister, 1931. However, our constitution (the British North America Act) could still be amended only by the British Parliament, because the provinces of Canada could not agree on a domestic amending formula.

Moreover, court decisions could still be appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. The Supreme Court of Canada did not become Canada’s highest appeal court until 1949.

Canada finally patriated its Constitution in 1982. That is, we are finally able to amend our own constitution instead of asking the imperial Crown to amend it for us! The Canada Act, 1982 provides, “No Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the Constitution Act, 1982 comes into force shall extend to Canada as part of its law.”

Even so, Canadians continue to recognize the British monarch as our sovereign. But the monarch’s role is now symbolic in nature — just as it is in Britain.

We sure followed a convoluted route to independence, eh?


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. roopster
    Jul 01, 2007 @ 11:28:42

    Happy Canada Day!!!!



  2. Jamie
    Jul 02, 2007 @ 20:44:29

    Too bad! I just left Quebec yesterday morning, not realizing it was Canada Day. I imagine Canadians probably have fun celebrations (like we do for independence day in the U.S.), and it would have been fun to see some. Ah well, maybe some other time.


  3. Bill
    Jul 04, 2007 @ 14:43:08

    I left Quebec City to drive up to Ile aux Coudres on Canada day and did not see any evidence of Canada Day either. Not a big thing in QUebec for obvious reasons and the fact that St Jean Batiste day (AKA Quebec’s Fete national) was a week before did not help much.


  4. Stephen
    Jul 04, 2007 @ 15:00:48

    It’s true: even if Jamie had been in the province of Quebec for another night, she likely wouldn’t have seen much evidence of Canada Day. Welcome to Canada’s two solitudes.


  5. Trackback: Little girl-ness « It’s Not All Mary Poppins

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