Dominion Day?

I’ve noticed a strange fascination among Conservative bloggers. They are fixated on the old name for the July 1st holiday, “Dominion Day”. The holiday has been called “Canada Day” since 1982.

Peace Tower, Parliament Hill
July 1, 2005

Here’s an excerpt from a particularly vituperous piece:

Canada became a country on July 1st, 1867. During my lifetime, the name of the national holiday was changed from Dominion Day (named after the Biblical verse “and He shall have dominion from sea to sea”) to Canada Day. This was part of a concerted effort to erase all ties between present-day Canada and its history; the effort included changing the flag from the Red Ensign … to the current Maple Leaf, changing the words of the national anthem, and completely rewriting the Constitution, among other things.

America became a country on July 4th, 1776. July 4th has since been known as Independence Day. This has not changed. It would never occur to Americans to change the name – to do so would remove all meaning from the day they became independent from Britian.

Americans stand for truth, justice, and liberty. Canada used to stand for something but has so thoroughly expunged its history that nobody remembers just what exactly Canada stood for.

Similar sentiments are expressed here:

I want to mourn Dominion Day. I’ve missed it. Canada Day? Well, I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s never really been much more than “the July long weekend” to me.

More nods to the old name are found here (scroll down to the Canadian flag) and here.

Please understand that I haven’t searched for these posts. It seems to be a core conviction of conservative bloggers.

I don’t get it. Contrary to the remarks quoted above, no one is idly erasing history. The whole western world has undergone a cultural shift in the past hundred years or so. Canada is now a multicultural, post-Christian society. If we restored the archaic title, “Dominion Day”, few would catch the biblical reference. If Canadians are erasing history, we do so purposefully; we’re being true to who we are today.

And maybe these bloggers don’t know Canadian history as well as they think they do. According to the Canadian Heritage site, Dominion Day wasn’t celebrated annually until 1958. Before that, it appears to have been celebrated only twice, in 1917 and 1927 (the 50th and 60th anniversaries of Confederation).

If we’re going to slavishly imitate history, let’s not do it by halves. I propose that we restore the old name and celebrate Dominion Day every 50 years.

Alternatively, we could just stick with Canada Day.

hundreds of people who don’t know any better
celebrating Canada Day last Friday


6 thoughts on “Dominion Day?

  1. Thanks for adding colour to the Blog Q.

    I concur with your observations.

    Conservatism should not be an excuse for intransigence.

    However, isn’t the May 24 weekend still officially Victoria Day?

  2. Canadians probably remember Queen Victoria better than they remember their Psalms.

    (He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth is Psalm 72:8.)

  3. Only one problem though the psalm had nothing to do with the title Dominion Day.

    Dominion refered to Canada’s status as a self-governing colony of Britain while still respecting existing political ties. This was a British term for the type of government used in New England.

    The use of the term a Dominion from “Sea to sea,” came from Sir John A MacDonald as he tried to sell the transcontinental railway and the so called National Policy.

    W the Corn Curer

  4. My mistake it does look like Dominion may have been a word chosen from Psalm 72:8. It seems though that the author of the “particularly vituperous piece” quoted, draws his info from Wikipedia (we have corresponded). Wikipedia states that “Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley suggested the term [dominion] to the Fathers of Confederation at their meeting after his morning devotionals, during which he read Psalm 72:8: ‘He shall have dominion from sea to sea.’ Tilley’s suggestion was adopted unanimously.” Wikipedia, is a free-content encyclopaedia that anyone can edit, and is thus by no means a reliable source. Wikipedia also states; ” The modern usage of the term Dominion first occurs in connection with the creation of the Dominion of Canada, a term preferred by the Colonial Office instead of the term ‘kingdom’ favoured by some Fathers of Confederation.”

    Accepting the above statement I’m not sure that the decision to use dominion was therefore “unanimous.” Also there is nothing in the Quebec resolutions, the BNA Act, or any subsequent act or document available online that draws any connection to the religious idea of Gods Dominion as referred to in Psalm 72:8 other than a convenient choice of a word.

    I therefore concede that there is a connection to Psalm 72:8 so my facts were not be entirely correct. Sources at the National Archives only reveal that at The London Conference, December-January 1866-67 ” It is believed that Tilley suggested Dominion as the title for the new country, after a passage he read from the Bible, Psalm 72: ‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.’ ” However there is no official written record of this.

    I suspect that the connection to the Dominion of New England was more on the minds of the Colonial Office than the Dominion of God.

    There was a large degree of lip service to religion at the time of confederation (as was the convention of the times), but as Sir John A MacDonald the prime promoter of confederation, was a known drunk with a ribald sense of humour, it is more possible that he was not so pious and that religion may have been simply useful to his political ends.

    If the creation of the Dominion was to be based on religious underpinnings, I’m not sure it would have been necessary for MacDonald, at the head of a representative delegation from Ontario and Quebec to the maritime conference on union, to stock the holds of their boats with copious bottles of alcohol, and have lavish parties on board the Canadian delegations boats to coerce the Maritime conference delegates to their point of view. I would hope that pious religious men would not sway or be swayed by champagne lunches and late night parties. (Derived from the records of the delegation, and the shipping log)

    I will have to do more research on Tilly, whom on first glance, it would seem was a very religious man, but I fear that even if he did have some religious aspirations for the nation, MacDonald and the other fathers of confederation might have twisted that dream at its conception, or at least simply used religion for a more political goal.

    Now: I will be visiting the national archives on another issue within the next month so I shall source everything I have mentioned above, and explore further the religious connections to confederation.

    Anonymous AKA W the Corn Curer

  5. Either way, “Dominion Day” doesn’t hold much appeal to me. Whatever the historic roots of the holiday may be, July 1 must be an occasion that all invites all residents of Canada to join the party.

    If the biblical connection is legitimate, then “Dominion Day” would be a celebration of God’s sovereignty over this nation. The many Canadians who do not acknowledge a Supreme Being would be excluded from the celebration.

    If instead we focus on British colonial history, then “Dominion Day” would be a celebration of our colonial origins. The many Canadians who are not of Anglo-Saxon stock would effectively be excluded. Monarchists already have a day to celebrate (Victoria Day).

    The name “Canada Day” focuses narrowly on the one thing all residents of Canada have in common: our love for and pride in this great nation. No one is excluded from the celebration (except those who despise Canada).

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