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From Dominion Day to Canada Day


By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
June 2013

A Celebration of Canada

On July 1, Canadians from coast to coast to coast celebrate the July 1, 1867 signing of the British North America Act that created Canada. The provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec came together in Confederation to form the Dominion of Canada.

The following year, the Governor General suggested that Canadians celebrate the first anniversary of the young country. Known as Dominion Day, the celebration was given legal status in 1879.

Fathers of Confederation photo.
WDM collection, WDM-1973-Y-408

Dominion Day in Watson

Ever heard of a callithumpian parade? The good folks at Watson, SK were treated to this noisy, boisterous kick-off to Dominion Day fun in 1912. Competitors vied for big prizes in a baseball tournament and an automobile race - there may not have been many competitors since the small print states “3 entries or no race.” An evening dance wound up the festivities.

Right: 1912 Dominion Day poster at the Saskatoon WDM.
WDM collection
WDM-1973-S-3971
(Click image for larger view)

Diamond Jubilee

Canada’s 50th anniversary in 1917 was a sombre affair as the country was at war. Ten years later, the Diamond Jubilee in 1927 was cause for great celebration. Canada was at peace and had experienced much growth and prosperity. A special committee was set up by the federal government to plan the country-wide celebration and to distribute the $250,000 earmarked for the purpose.

Diamond Jubilee plaque, 1927, one of thousands given
to schools across the country.
WDM collection, WDM-1973-NB-12317

In Saskatoon 6,000 school children took part in a Dominion Day pageant at the Exhibition grounds, holding up coloured cloths, which spelled out 1867 Canada 1927.

Saskatoon’s Dominion Day pageant, 1927.
WDM library, 4-E-5
(Click image for larger view)

Centennial Year

In 1967, Canada celebrated its 100th birthday. Queen Elizabeth attended the July 1 Dominion Day celebration on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. For the first time, the country hosted the world’s fair, Expo 67, in Montreal. A Centennial train travelled the country showcasing Canada’s history and culture. Bobby Gimby, well known entertainer originally from Cabri, SK, composed a song that became the refrain for hundreds of special events. The post office issued a series of centennial stamps. Modern day voyageurs paddled across Canada. The Maple Leaf tartan appeared on neckties, hats, suit jackets and the like. The centennial logo, a stylized maple leaf, graced everything from coffee cups to souvenir plates.

Ca-na-da, A Centennial Song record.
WDM collection, WDM-2005-S-344

Maple Leaf tartan jacket.
WDM collection, WDM-2003-S-1060

Souvenir plate, 1967.
WDM collection, WDM-1987-S-343

Centennial exhibit at Pion-Era, Saskatoon, 1967.
WDM library

Celebrating at Home

In Saskatchewan our licence plates declared the centennial. We waved the flag, built hockey rinks and started museums. We hosted parades and ate birthday cake. We named buildings and streets for the centennial. Some of us were even lucky enough to visit Expo in Montreal.

Centennial float, Mankota, SK, 1967.
Saskatchewan History & Folklore Society,
Everett Baker Collection, 4368

Centennial float, Mankota, SK, 1967.
Saskatchewan History & Folklore Society,
Everett Baker Collection, 4369

New Name

Dominion Day became Canada Day in 1982, the year that Canada’s constitution was repatriated from Britain. The new name shed the rather old-fashioned word dominion in favour of something more modern.

Every year, proud Canadians gather on Parliament Hill, in city parks, or around the family barbeque to celebrate. We look forward to 2017, the 150th anniversary of our great country.

Canada Day button.
WDM collection, WDM-2003-S-749

Celebrate at the WDM

Join us at the WDM on Canada Day - what better way to celebrate our Canadian heritage. If you’re in the Yorkton area, come and enjoy a Good Old Fashioned Family Picnic at the WDM.

Canada Day at the Yorkton WDM, 2005.
WDM photo, R. Bitner


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- About the WDM Collection

- How to donate an artifact