While today it is only a vestige cited in the history books, Canada is still officially a "Dominion." As lore has it, Dominion was chosen for our nation after Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, a Father of Confederation, read it in the Bible and found it fitting: "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" (Psalm 72:8).
Sir John A. Macdonald -- always loyal to the Crown -- preferred the Kingdom of Canada, but London believed it might annoy the Americans. Macdonald also mused over other names: Province, Dependency, Colony, and Vice-Royalty, but none caught on.
In the end, Dominion won out. It was the British Prime Minister Lord Derby who made it official on the advice of Lord Carnarvon in 1866 (side note: the Carnarvons were, and still are, the residents of Highclere Castle, otherwise known as Downton Abbey. Our first prime minister spent some time at the castle during his stay in London). In 1879, the already celebrated Dominion Day became an official holiday, marking the birth of the nation on July 1.
And so began a century-long tradition of Dominion Day celebrations and the use of the word Dominion in all things Canada - the Toronto-Dominion Bank, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, and the Dominion Land Survey, and the Dominion Observatory to name a few.
That is, until Pierre Elliot Trudeau's Liberal government sabotaged it in a matter of minutes.
The day of the long knives took place July 9, 1982, the day before Parliament entered summer recess. Only 13 members were present at four o'clock -- the quorum was 20 members, the vote would never have taken place if the opposition was awake -- when Bill C-201 was presented by Liberal MP Hal Herbert, amending the Holidays Act to rename Dominion Day as Canada Day. What happened next betrayed our country's history.
Mr. Herbert and the Deputy Speaker of the House hastily pushed the legislation through as quickly as they could when one member noticed the lack of Conservatives in the House. The bill went through second reading, through committee, and through the third and final reading in a matter of seconds. Bewildered Tory MP Walter Baker aired his confusion on the whole matter: "What is going on?" This was not proper parliamentary procedure, yet the Bill passed with no debate, no accountability, and changed forever the way we celebrate our country.
Quebec senator Hartland Molson was correct to say during the Senate debate on the Bill that this was "another very small step in the process, which has continued over the last few years, of downgrading tradition and obscuring our heritage." Since the 1960s, successive governments had seen it as their duty to flush Canada's heritage down the toilet in an attempt to appease nationalist Quebecers and make Canada appear as a more inclusive society -- though it did nothing but make Canadians ignorant of their past.
The term Dominion was said to signal dignity, independence, and respect. The celebrations of Dominion Day were an ode to history and demonstrated how far our unlikely nation had come; from four very different colonies into one of the greatest developed nations on earth (though it is not politically correct to say this).
By contrast, Canada Day is a term as stale, unimaginative an uninspiring as one could possibly imagine. The only sense of duty inspired by the name is to acknowledge the Maple Leaf without a care for what it represents. Americans remember their country's history through Independence Day, the French are inspired by Bastille Day, but Canadians just don't know what they're celebrating. After the debacle in the House, Walter Baker fumed over the whole matter, stating that Canada Day was "sterile, neutral, dull and somewhat plastic." That does not truly reflect the country Canada was and has become.
Of course, Canadians should be proud of our history as a tolerant, multicultural nation. But this comes without the need to destroy the symbols that brought us to this proud point. Our heritage is not something that can be shaped and moulded to benefit the political vision of one party. Rather, we need to see ourselves as dwarfs on the shoulders of giants. For a society to survive it is important to appreciate and have a desire to learn from what was achieved by our nation's ancestors.
For this reason, Dominion Day should be brought back. Changing the name would raise the curiosities of Canadians into finding out more about their country and it would respect its traditions, rather than just passively viewing it another day off from work.
Happy Dominion Day.
This article originally appeared in the Prince Arthur Herald