Saturday, July 1, 2017

Much to Celebrate—Canada at 150

The official logo of the Canada sesquicentennial celebrations. 

Both the U.S. and our neighbor to the north are gearing up for our big national celebrations this weekend.  Our Independence Day isn’t until next Tuesday, but in most places a lot of the celebrating will be done over the weekend.  Here in Crystal Lake, for instance, we have out big parade on Sunday and the fireworks that evening, all connected to our outdoor community party and carnival the Lakeside Festival.  But across the border they are celebrating Canada Day this very day.  That’s the official birthday of the nation and this year it is a big one—their sesquicentennial.  Naturally there will be even more than the usual hoopla up there.

Americans are usually so consumed with ourselves that we don’t notice the party next door.  But this year a lot of us are peeking over the backyard hedge with unabashed envy.  We are in the throes of an endless national train wreck with a drunk engineer at the throttle.  We have more to be ashamed of than to gloat over.  We have the Cheeto-in-Charge and a kleptocracy in Congress.  They have Justin Trudeau, a leader so cool he greets refugees at the airport, wears rainbow Eid Mubarak socks to a Gay Pride Parade, and half of his Cabinet are women.  Enough said about that.

Without the smothering security of American Presidents, popular Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family marched in the Toronto Pride Parade and mingled freely with the crowds.

Canada Day commemorates the uniting of the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada into a federation of four provinces—the former colony of Canada being divided into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec upon Confederation.  The new entity also gained new status with in the Empire as the Dominion of Canada with expanded powers of local political control and governance.  It most definitely was not the creation of an independent nation state.  The Crown and British Parliament maintained control over foreign affairs, and had to approve constitutional changes.  An appointed Governor General, then still selected from the ranks of British nobility sat a head of the quasi state for the sovereign monarch in London.
Since then Canada has incrementally gained authority of those other areas via the Statute of Westminster which made Canada a co-equal nation united under a common Sovereign and the Constitution Act of 1982 which “patriated” the Constitution—gave Canadians full authority over it.  
Canada also has added the rest of Britain’s North American possessions—occasionally against their will.  There are now ten provinces and three Territories in the Northsparsely populated Yukon and Northwest Territories and the recently created First Nation dominated Nunavut.

Sir John A. Macdonald, architect of the Dominion of Canada and its first Prime Minister.
The creation of the Dominion of Canada fulfilled the vision of John Alexander Macdonald who became the first Prime Minister and powerful leader of the long dominant Conservative Party.  He served from 1867 to 1873 and returned to power in 1878 to lead Canada until his death in 1891, a total of 19 years as head of government.
The official inauguration of the Dominion was announced by ringing of the bells of the Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto and was marked by “bonfires, fireworks and illuminations, excursions, military displays, and musical and other entertainments.”
The following year Governor General Charles Stanley the Viscount Monck invited Canadians to celebrate the anniversary of the British North American Act.  Celebration became annual but was not made official until 1879 when June 1 was decreed Dominion Day.  The holiday was renamed Canada Daynot without controversy—in 1982 when the Constitution Act went into effect. 
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current leader, and Queen Elizabeth II sign the Constitution Act.
Celebration today will be as exuberant as the Canadian character allows.  Queen Elizabeth, who has visited several times including for formal signing of the Constitution Act, is this time represented by Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.  The Royal Couple was greeted with suitable pomp this morning on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill by Prime Minister Trudeau and Governor General David Johnston.  Large crowds were enthusiastic despite rain.  Days of hoopla are planned from coast to coast.  It will be the biggest party Canada has thrown since the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.
There are, however, dissenters.  Quebec nationalism has never gone completely away and things like a royal visit tend to rankle some feathers as symbolic of Anglophone domination.  But the biggest ruckus comes from First Nation peoples who regard Canada Day as nothing more than a celebration of settler colonialism.  On top of that the popular and liberal Trudeau after making gestures of respect and reconciliation with the native peoples declared his full support for continued tar sands exploitation and pipe line projects that encroach on un-ceded First Nations land.  Demonstrations and acts of resistance are expected across Canada. 

Indigenous protestors erected a teepee on Parliament Hill just days before the Canada Day Festivities.  Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged in his speech today.

And don’t expect effusive congratulations from the U.S. government which is headed by thin skinned megalomaniac who had his feelings hurt by the Prime Minister and is deeply jealous of his popularity on both sides of the border.  Official American recognition will be as cool and minimal as diplomatic politeness will allow. The Resident did manage to squeeze in a morning Tweet of congratulations and a shout out to “My new found friend Prime Minister Trudeau.”  This may be one of the tweets sent by staff. And don’t be surprised if the he does stage some boorish slap later.
Hey, we’re really sorry about that.  Can the rest of us come to the party?

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