Canada Day is primarily about history

Lisa Goudy
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By Lisa Goudy

Parties, activities, social outings and fireworks have been a part of Canada Day celebrations for a long time. It’s something that should rightly be associated with the day celebrating Confederation, which occurred on July 1, 1867.

But I also think we could all use a reminder of the real reason we celebrate Canada Day and that can be summed up in one word — history.

I will admit to being a bit of a history buff. I took all of the history electives at my high school and I took two history courses in university, one of which focused solely on Canadian history. I’m not an expert on the subject by any means, but I find it interesting and having a good memory, I know a fair amount of Canadian history.

So naturally I was curious when I found a Canada Day history survey online. The Angus and Reid group conducted the Dominion Institute survey in 2000. While I realize the results are more than a decade old, the results were quite startling.

The 15-question quiz revolved around Canadian history and surveyed 1,516 adults. The results found that only 23 per cent of those surveyed passed the test. Canadians over the age of 55 performed far better than those aged 18 to 34 by a ratio of three to one. The general gist of the results were that Canadians are more knowledgeable of recent events such as Vimy Ridge, the Halifax Explosion and D-Day than the events in the 18th and 19th century.

After reading those results online, I began to think about why younger people aren’t as familiar with their history.

Maybe it’s because, like Canada Day, we have become too focused on the celebrations and parties than remembering why we are celebrating in the first place. Canada Day is cause for celebration no doubt, but it is also a day of history.

I think we need to learn more about our history to remember it and to understand the world better. Canada Day as a statutory holiday dates back to 1879 when it was first called Dominion Day. Official celebrations for Canada Day began in 1958. It was officially called Dominion Day until Oct. 27, 1982 when it was changed to Canada Day.

We have a long history in this country. While Confederation is a day we should celebrate, it is only one day in 145 years of history. I think we could all learn just a little bit more about history, at least the basics. Besides, the name Canada is derived from the Iroquoian word Kanata, which means village.

It’s interesting to note that colour television was actually introduced in Canada on July 1, 1967, the hundredth anniversary of Confederation. O Canada became our official national anthem in 1980. I hope that if a survey was ever conducted asking Canadians the words to the anthem that the majority of people would pass with flying colours.

I’m not asking everyone to like history or know very much Canadian history. That would be unreasonable.

But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for people to at least remember the year of Confederation or the words to our national anthem, if not more. While having fun taking part in Canada Day, remember that it is the 145th year that Canada has officially been a country.

Our history is important, as is any history, and I think we should all bear that in mind.

Organizations: Dominion Institute

Geographic location: Canada, Vimy Ridge

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