Our 150th will soon be upon us
By Bruce A Stewart
Happy Canada Day! Today marks 145 years since the Dominion of Canada was proclaimed. From our Confederation Day on 1 July 1867, through the years when the Dominion grew to encompass first the Arctic shores, then the Pacific and finally the last of the Atlantic, and up to today, our national holiday has always been a time of celebration and good cheer.
We are a unique nation. There has been remarkably little blood shed on our soil, and yet we are a free people. We long ago learned that, whatever our differences, we are stronger together than we are as separate communities; that only by working with those different from ourselves are we able to do great things.
It’s a lesson each of us forgets from time to time, of course. But again and again, we overcome our insular human condition and reach out to each other, bound together across a land that, even with nearly 35,000,000 of us, still is far more “wild and savage” (as Stan Rogers sang it) than it is tamed.
We head outdoors today not just because summer has come, but because, in each of us, a little tug to go see the land remains: to see what we have built, in its majestic settings from Bonavista to Vancouver Island; from the Great Lakes to the High Arctic.
Five years from now, it will be our 150th birthday as a nation — our sesquicentennial. As with Centennial Year in 1967, this will be a major milestone. Few countries on earth can claim an unbroken constitution, an unbroken governance, an unbroken nation for anything close to that long.
But celebrations do not come out of nowhere. When we were celebrating our 95th in 1962, teams of people all across Canada were already hard at work planning the Centennial celebrations that took place from one end of the country to the other. The centrepiece — Expo 67 — had been underway by that point for several years.
There’s certainly no shortage of things to worry about today compared to those peaceful and prosperous days. But we did mark our 50th, in 1917, at the height of World War I, with the dead mounting and the dread telegrams coming home daily, even though our Parliament Buildings lay in ruins from fire.
Austerity may be the much-necessary order of the economic day, and uncertainty our watchword of the moment, but if we could remember with joy and celebration who we are and why we matter then, we can surely do so now.
Leaving it for someone else — the federal government, the provincial government, the city government, a committee of worthy others — has been our hallmark far too often in recent years.
But Canada was built one small neighbourhood after another, by people who didn’t wait to be told, or ask permission, but who simply came and got started.
There could be no greater way to honour ourselves in 2017 than to have hundreds of thousands of events that have occurred because neighbours got together with neighbours and simply made it all happen. Not waiting, not worrying, just doing together.
Today, enjoy the food, the drink, the play and the company of friends. Enjoy the fireworks tonight, the show put on.
Tomorrow, though, it’s time to roll up the shirtsleeves and start work on the future.
It’ll be here before we know it.
And “one hell of a national party” can’t be thrown together at the last minute.