Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Canada Day and a little history...


Wikipedia - Canada Day

"Canada Day celebrates the creation of the dominion of Canada through the British North America Act on July 1, 1867, uniting three British territories - the Province of Canada (southern Ontario and southern Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick - into a federation.

"A proclamation was issued by Governer General Lord Monk, on June 20, 1868, asking for "all Her Majesty's loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of Canada on July 1."

Prince Edward Island is called the Cradle of Confederation because the intial meeting discussing the federation of provinces was held here in Province House in 1864.

However, the Island refused to join until 1873 and then only joined because we had gone into debt over the building of a railroad. My great-grandfather, a member of the Legislative Assembly for PEI during that time, was dead set against the railroad. He predicted that the Island would be forced to join Confederation because of the construction costs.

He and other members of the Island govt. examined various other options including the possibility of becoming a discrete dominion, as well they entertained delegations from the New England States to discuss joining their political union. They had a strong trading partnership already in effect with those States.

Canada didn't want the Island to join the USA so they offered to buy out the Absentee Landlords (lords in England who owned much of the Island and rented the land to tenants) and they also assumed the railroad debt. The other condition that the Island govt. required was for the federal government to provide "efficient steamship service" to the mainland - ferry service for many years and now the Confederation Bridge.

So, although the Island is celebrated as the Birthplace of Confederation, we were actually very reluctant partners in the new Dominion. Not as reluctant as Newfoundland though - they didn't join until 1949.

One of their objections to joining Canada was, believe it or not, was over margerine...

"...At the time margarine was outlawed across most of North America in order to protect the continental dairy industry. But in Newfoundland, where dairy farms were scarce, people had been eating and enjoying margarine since the 19th century. When Canada and Newfoundland began working out the colony’s entry into Confederation, negotiations bogged down for a while over whether the St.Johns margarine factory would be exempt from Canadian dairy rules. The result was a special clause in the Terms of Union, Newfoundland’s constitutional rights and obligations in Canada allowing oleomargarine, as it was then called, to be manufactured in the province, but forbidding its export beyond..."

Although intially, PEI balked (are Island bred people just naturally independent??) when it came to joining with the rest of the provinces, they have now embraced Canada as their homeland. (Although truthfully Islanders are always Islanders first and then Canadians)

I remember our Centennial year, 1967. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, our Prime Minister landed in the high school field in a helicopter. I was part of a huge children's choir and we sang this song in celebration of our country's first 100 years.

(if that link doesn't work try this Canada in English (Realplayer} - you need to have Real Player.)

Does anyone else remember singing that song?

This weekend we will celebrate our country's birthday with concerts, parades and, of course, fireworks!!

Hope you've enjoyed the little history lesson!

And for my many American friends, Happy 4th of July!! If my greatgrandfather had had his way I would be celebrating with you :)