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Canada Day ( ), formerly Dominion Day ( ), is Canadamarker's national day, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the 1 July 1867 enactment of the British North America Act, which united Canada as a single country, which was in turn composed of four provinces. Canada Day observances take place throughout Canada as well as internationally.


Frequently referred to as "Canada's birthday", particularly in the popular press, the occasion marks the joining of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotiamarker, New Brunswickmarker, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontariomarker and Quebecmarker) on 1 July 1867. Although Canada is regarded as having become a kingdom in its own right on that date, the British Parliamentmarker kept limited rights of political control over the new country that were shed by stages over the years until the last vestiges were surrendered in 1982 when the Constitution Act patriated the Canadian constitution.


On 20 June 1868, then Governor General The Viscount Monck issued a royal proclamation asking for Canadians to "celebrate the anniversary of the confederation." However, the holiday was not established statutorily until 1879, when it was designated as Dominion Day, in reference to the designation of the country as a Dominion in the British North America Act. The holiday was initially not dominant in the national calendar; up to the early 20th century, Canadians thought themselves to be primarily British, being thus less interested in celebrating distinctly Canadian forms of patriotism. No official celebrations were therefore held until 1917 the golden anniversary of Confederation and then none again for a further decade.

In 1946, Philéas Côté, a Quebec member of the House of Commons, introduced a private member's bill to rename Dominion Day as Canada Day. His bill was passed quickly by the House of Commons but was stalled by the Senate, which returned the bill to the Commons with the recommendation that the holiday be renamed The National Holiday of Canada, an amendment that effectively killed the bill.

Beginning in 1958, the Canadian government began to orchestrate Dominion Day celebrations, usually consisting of Trooping the Colour ceremonies on Parliament Hillmarker in the afternoon and evening, followed by a mass band concert and fireworks display. Canada's centennial in 1967 is often seen as an important milestone in the history of Canadian patriotism, and in Canada's maturing as a distinct, independent country, after which Dominion Day became more popular with average Canadians. Into the late 1960s, nationally televised, multi-cultural concerts held in Ottawamarker were added, and the fête became known as Festival Canada; after 1980 the Canadian government began to promote the celebrating of Dominion Day beyond the national capital, giving grants and aid to cities across the country to help fund local activities.

With only twelve Members of Parliament present, eight less than a quorum, the private member's bill that proposed to change the name to Canada Day was passed in the House of Commons in five minutes, and without debate. With the granting of Royal Assent, the name was officially changed to Canada Day on 27 October 1982, a move largely inspired by the adoption of the Canada Act, earlier in the year. Although the proposal caused some controversy, many Canadians had already been informally referring to the holiday as Canada Day for a number of years before the official name change occurred. Andrew Cohen, a former Globe and Mail and current Ottawa Citizen columnist, called Canada Day a term of "crushing banality" and criticized the change from Dominion Day "a renunciation of the past, [and] a misreading of history, laden with political correctness and historical ignorance." For Cohen, the change is an example of systemic denial of Canadian history by the Canadian government.

As the anniversary of Confederation, Dominion Day, and later Canada Day, was the date set for a number of important events, such as the first (temporary) national radio network hookup by the Canadian National Railway (1927), the inauguration of the CBC's cross-country television broadcast (1958), the flooding of the Saint Lawrence Seaway (1958), the first colour television transmission in Canada (1966), the inauguration of the Order of Canada (1967), and the establishment of "O Canada" as the country's national anthem (1980). Other events fell on the same day coincidentally, such as the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 shortly after which the province of Newfoundland and Labradormarker recognized 1 July as Memorial Day to commemorate the Newfoundland Regiment's heavy losses during the battle and the enactment of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923 leading Chinese-Canadians to refer to July 1 as Humiliation Day and boycott Dominion Day celebrations, until the act was repealed in 1947.


Most communities across the country will host organized celebrations for Canada Day, usually outdoor public events, such as parades, carnivals, festivals, barbecues, air and maritime shows, fireworks, and free musical concerts, as well as citizenship ceremonies for new citizens. There is no standard mode of celebration for Canada Day; professor of International Relations at the University of Oxfordmarker Jennifer Welsh said of this: "Canada Day, like the country, is endlessly decentralized. There doesn't seem to be a central recipe for how to celebrate it chalk it up to the nature of the federation." However, the locus of the celebrations is the national capital, Ottawamarker, Ontariomarker, where large concerts, presided over by the Governor General, are held on Parliament Hillmarker, as well as other parks around the city and in Hull, Quebec. The sovereign may also be in attendance at Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa; Queen Elizabeth II was present in 1990, 1992, and 1997. The Queen also helped celebrate Canada's 100th anniversary on 1 July 1967.

Given the federal nature of the holiday, celebrating the event can be a cause of friction in the province of Quebecmarker. For example, the federal government funds events at the Old Portmarker an area run by a federal Crown corporation while the parade is a grassroots effort that has been met with pressure to cease, even from federal officials. The nature of the event has also been met with criticism from English Canadians, such as Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren, who said in 2007: "The Canada of the government-funded paper flag-waving and painted faces the 'new' Canada that is celebrated each year on what is now called 'Canada Day' has nothing controversially Canadian about it. You could wave a different flag, and choose another face paint, and nothing would be lost."

The 1 July date of Canada Day also coincides with Quebec's traditional Moving Day. Because so many apartment rentals in the province are done on fixed-lease terms extending from 1 July to 30 June of the following year, some residents of Quebec who might otherwise attend Canada Day festivities are instead occupied by moving to new apartments. Suggestions that the move was a deliberate decision by Quebec sovereignists to discourage participation in a patriotic Canadian holiday ignore that the bill changing the province's moving day from 1 May to 1 July was introduced by a federalist member of the Quebec National Assembly, Jérôme Choquette.

International celebrations

Canadian expatriates will organize Canada Day activities in their local area on or near the date of the holiday. For instance, since 30 June 2006, annual Canada Day celebrations have been held at Trafalgar Squaremarker the location of Canada Housemarker in Londonmarker, Englandmarker. Organized by the Canadian community in the United Kingdom and the Canadian High Commission, the event features Canadian performers and a demonstration of street hockey, amongst other activities. Annual celebrations in Hong Kongmarker, entitled Canada D'eh, are held on 30 June at Lan Kwai Fongmarker where an estimated attendance of 12,000 was reported in 2008. Canada Day coincides with Hong Kong's Establishment Day. Members of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistanmarker mark each Canada Day at their base. Canada Day is also celebrated In Chapala, Mexico every year at the American Legion. Also, the Canadian Club in Ajijic, Mexico holds a celebration.

Detroit, Michiganmarker, and Windsor, Ontariomarker, have, since the 1950s, celebrated Dominion Day or Canada Day and the United States' Independence Day with the International Freedom Festival. A massive fireworks display over the Detroit River, the strait separating the two cities, is held annually with hundreds of thousands of spectators attending. A similar event occurs at the Friendship Festival, a joint celebration between Fort Erie, Ontariomarker, and neighbouring Buffalo, New Yorkmarker, of Canada Day and Independence Day.


Under the federal Holidays Act, Canada Day is observed on 1 July unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case 2 July is the statutory holiday, although celebratory events generally take place on 1 July even though it is not the legal holiday. If it falls on a Saturday, the following Monday is generally also a day off for those businesses ordinarily closed on Saturdays.

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