On July 1, 1867, The Globe acknowledged the role of the “Almighty Disposer of Events” in the establishment of the Dominion of Canada. It was not a reference to Sir John A. Macdonald, or even, bless his memory, George Brown, but a belief that a supernatural providence was behind the creation of this blessed nation. We live in more skeptical times, but whether it was great men and women or a greater power, something special was then, and remains, abroad in this land.
This fact has rarely been better illuminated than in 2012, this year of anniversaries, among them the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Calgary Stampede, the 100th Grey Cup, the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, and the 30th anniversary of the coming into force of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Before the War of 1812, the name “Canada” signified only the territories that are now southern Quebec and southern Ontario. But if the inhabitants of Upper Canada had greeted the U.S. Army as liberators, rather than enemy occupiers, the new nation of Canada stretching “from sea to sea” would have become highly unlikely. The Canadas emerged from the war united, proud of their empire and proud to have rebuffed republicanism.
This weekend, appropriately, also marks the start of the Canadian Football League’s schedule – reminding us of one of this country’s great against-the-odds success stories. The season will culminate in November with the 100th Grey Cup, a milestone that seemed in jeopardy back in the 1990s, when there were serious concerns about the league’s survival. Today, it is not just surviving but thriving – television ratings high, attendance high, new stadiums being built, and that Grey Cup game (in the notoriously tough market of Toronto) already sold out.
Canada Day weekend also falls just days before the start of the Calgary Stampede, another iconic Canadian institution that is celebrating 100. Deeply rooted in the cowboy traditions of the sprawling cattle ranches of southern Alberta, legendary operations such as the Bar U and the Oxley ranches, the Stampede is more than one of the world’s richest rodeos, or one of Canada’s largest festivals, or the “greatest outdoor show on earth,” it is an authentic survival of the West’s spirit and grit.
This year we also celebrate the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, who through her long reign has provided an example of selflessness, duty and constancy. More perhaps than at any time in its ancient history, the Crown, though worn by one gracious lady, has belonged to the people it serves.
Finally, it is the 30th anniversary of the Charter of 1982, a key moment in the constitutional evolution of Canada in which Canadians built upon an inherited constitution to develop a rich articulation and strengthening of our liberties, combined with a sensitive balancing of sometimes conflicting principles.
Just a few “Events” we celebrate on Canada Day 2012.