Dominion Day

Dominion Day

Dominion Day is a commemoration day of the granting of national status in various Commonwealth countries.



Dominion Day was the name of the holiday commemorating the formation of Canada as a Dominion on 1 July 1867. The holiday was renamed to Canada Day by Act of Parliament on 27 October 1982, despite the lack of quorum in the House of Commons.

Crowds on Parliament Hill celebrate Dominion Day, 1927, the 60th jubilee of confederation

On June 20, 1868, Governor General the Viscount Monck issued a royal proclamation asking for Canadians to celebrate the anniversary of the confederation.[1] However, the holiday was not established statutorily until 1879, when it was designated as Dominion Day, in reference to the designation of the country as a Dominion in the British North America Act. The holiday was initially not dominant in the national calendar; up to the early 20th century, Canadians thought themselves to be primarily British, being thus less interested in celebrating distinctly Canadian forms of patriotism. No official celebrations were therefore held until 1917—the golden anniversary of Confederation—and then none again for a further decade.[2]

In 1946, Philéas Côté, a Quebec member of the House of Commons, introduced a private member's bill to rename Dominion Day as Canada Day.[3] His bill was passed quickly by the House of Commons but was stalled by the Senate, which returned the bill to the Commons with the recommendation that the holiday be renamed The National Holiday of Canada, an amendment that effectively killed the bill.[4]

Beginning in 1958, the Canadian government began to orchestrate Dominion Day celebrations, usually consisting of Trooping the Colour ceremonies on Parliament Hill in the afternoon and evening, followed by a mass band concert and fireworks display. Canada's centennial in 1967 is often seen as an important milestone in the history of Canadian patriotism, and in Canada's maturing as a distinct, independent country, after which Dominion Day became more popular with average Canadians. Into the late 1960s, nationally televised, multi-cultural concerts held in Ottawa were added, and the fête became known as Festival Canada; after 1980 the Canadian government began to promote the celebrating of Dominion Day beyond the national capital, giving grants and aid to cities across the country to help fund local activities.

The term "Dominion" was originally coined by Sir Leonard Tilley who came up it "as a way to encapsulate the aspirations of the Confederation generation." [5] It was derived from the eighth verse of the 72nd Psalm, and was intended to denote the breadth of the country from "sea to sea," not "domination" as was sometimes later claimed. All of the Fathers of Confederation agreed to use the term as an alternative to "Kingdom" which was seen as provocative to the United States.[5] William Forsey has claimed that "Dominion" is "the only distinctive word that Canadians have contributed to political terminology." [6] Starting in the 1940s the federal government began to drop references to the "dominion government" which until then had been ubiquitous; the government of Maurice Duplessis in Quebec objected to the term, as he believed it implied subservience, so in an attempt to decrease tensions the name was gradually dropped.[5] By the 1970s the term was rarely used by the national government, and the Trudeau government was in favour of dropping the name "Dominion Day", although it did not give official backing to the proposal.

With only twelve Members of Parliament present, eight less than a quorum,[7] a private member's bill that proposed to change the name to Canada Day was passed in the House of Commons in five minutes, without debate.[8] The bill met with stronger resistance in the Senate: some Senators objected to the change of name; Ernest Manning, who argued that the rationale for the change was based on a misperception of the name, and George McIlraith, who did not agree with the manner in which the bill had been passed and urged the government to proceed in a more "dignified way."[5] With the granting of Royal Assent, the name was officially changed to Canada Day on October 27, 1982, a move largely inspired by the adoption of the Canada Act, earlier in the year.

Although the name change caused some controversy,[8] some Canadians had already been informally referring to the holiday as Canada Day for a number of years before the official name change occurred.[n 1] However, numerous politicians and journalists decried the change at the time, and some continue to maintain that it was illegitimate and an unnecessary break with tradition.[5] Proponents argued that the name Dominion Day was a holdover from the colonial era, while others asserted an alternative was needed as the term does not translate well into French.[5] Conversely, these arguments were disputed by those who claimed Dominion was widely misunderstood and conservatively inclined commenters saw the change as part of a much larger attempt by Liberals to "re-brand" or re-define Canadian history.[5][6][13] Writer Robertson Davies wrote in a letter to the Globe and Mail, shortly after passage of the new name, "What folly moved a handful of parliamentarians to trash th[e] splendid title [of Dominion Day] in favour of the wet 'Canada Day'—only one letter removed from the name of a soft drink— must remain one of the inexplicable lunacies of a democratic system temporarily running to seed."[6] Columnist Andrew Cohen called Canada Day a term of "crushing banality" and criticized the change from Dominion Day as being "a renunciation of the past [and] a misreading of history, laden with political correctness and historical ignorance".[14][15]

From the 1960s into the 1980s, Dominion Day was the date the Miss Dominion of Canada beauty pageant, held at Niagara Falls, Ontario.

New Zealand

Dominion Day is the name given to 26 September, the anniversary of the day in 1907 when New Zealand was granted dominion status within the British Empire.[16] No longer a statutory (bank) holiday, the only current official observance of the day is as a Provincial Anniversary Day in South Canterbury, and is celebrated on the fourth Monday of September.[17] There is support in some quarters for the day to be revived as an alternative New Zealand Day, instead of renaming Waitangi Day, New Zealand's current national day.


  1. ^ Department of Canadian Heritage. "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion > Canada Day". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  2. ^ Canadian Heritage. "Canada Day Background/How we got our national holiday". Canoe. Retrieved July 1, 2009. 
  3. ^ Carnegie, R.K. (April 19, 1946). "Drew Right: Provinces Have Say-So On Holidays". The Globe and Mail: p. 15. 
  4. ^ Editorial Board (August 10, 1946). "A New Low in Compromise". The Globe and Mail: p. 6. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Sibley, Robert (September 1, 2006). "The death of 'Dominion Day'". The Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Bentley, D.M.R. (1999). "Essay 11: Parading Past". Mnemographia Canadensis 1 (Muse and Recall). Retrieved July, 11 2011. 
  7. ^ Marleau, Robert; Montpetit, Camille (January 2000). "9. Sittings of the House". House of Commons Procedure and Practice. Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved June 1, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "Society > Celebrations > Celebrating Canada Day". CBC. Retrieved July 1, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Across Canada/Pro-Canada sign painter has brush with law". The Globe and Mail: p. 12. November 19, 1977. 
  10. ^ Cherry, Zena (February 20, 1978). "Protocol chiefs gather to discuss their trade". The Globe and Mail: p. 27. 
  11. ^ Stevens, Geoffrey (March 2, 1978). "With many tongues". The Globe and Mail: p. 6. 
  12. ^ Canadian Press (March 30, 1978). "Federal support for new festival". The Globe and Mail: p. 16. 
  13. ^ "We should be celebrating Dominion Day". National Post. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  14. ^ Andrew, Cohen (2007). The Unfinished Canadian. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. p. 90. ISBN 978-0771022869.,%20Cohen%20(2007).%20The%20Unfinished%20Canadian.. 
  15. ^ Cohen 2007, p. 89
  16. ^ Dominion status |, New Zealand history online.
  17. ^ NZ Public Holiday Dates 2006-2009 : Employment Relations Service.


  1. ^ Numerous references to the term Canada Day may be found in issues of The Globe and Mail published in the late 1970s.[5][9][10][11][12]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dominion Day — Do*min ion Day In Canada, a legal holiday, July lst, being the anniversary of the proclamation of the formation of the Dominion in 1867. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Dominion Day — a national holiday in Canada, in memory of the beginning of the Dominion of Canada in 1867 …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Dominion Day — n. former name for CANADA DAY …   English World dictionary

  • Dominion Day — Fête du Canada Fête du Canada Fête du Canada à Ottawa. Nom officiel (fr) Fête du Canada …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dominion Day — Canadian holiday celebrating the Dominion s formation on July 1st 1867, Canada Day …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Dominion Day — /dəˈmɪnjən deɪ/ (say duh minyuhn day) noun (in Canada) a legal holiday, 1 July, celebrating Canada s formation as a dominion on 1 July 1867 …   Australian English dictionary

  • Dominion Day — noun a legal holiday in Canada commemorating receiving Dominion status in 1867 • Syn: ↑July 1 • Regions: ↑Canada • Hypernyms: ↑legal holiday, ↑national holiday, ↑public holiday …   Useful english dictionary

  • Dominion Day — Do minion ,Day the old name for CANADA DAY, a national holiday in Canada …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Dominion Day — Domin′ion Day n. brit. former name of Canada Day • Etymology: 1890–95 …   From formal English to slang

  • Dominion Day — noun Date: 1867 Canada Day …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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