One-hundred forty-nine years ago today, the British North America Act came into effect, establishing the Dominion of Canada as, a new country within the British Empire, governed by its own federal Parliament under our shared Sovereign. At the time that Sovereign was Queen Victoria, who had signed the British North America Act into law, and the era which bears her name was a far superior one to our own, although our present Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, is as fine a Christian lady as she was. As evidence of the inferiority of the present era, I point to the fact that today all over our country people will be greeting each other with “Happy Canada Day”, many unaware that the anniversary of Confederation was known as “Dominion Day” until 1982, and an even larger number unaware of the underhanded and unconstitutional manner in which the name change was accomplished.
There was nothing wrong with the holiday’s original name. As Robertson Davies, the great Canadian novelist, essayist and educator, wrote to the Globe and Mail at the time, the old name was “splendid” whereas the new one was “wet” being “only one letter removed from the name of a soft drink” Of the change itself, Davies described it as “one of the inexplicable lunacies of a democratic system temporarily running to seed.”
There had been much of that “inexplicable lunacy” in the two decades of nearly uninterrupted Liberal government that preceded the change of the name of the national holiday. During that time the Liberals had avoided our country’s full appellation like a plague. Or, as the late Senator Eugene Forsey put it in his memoirs:
The assault on ‘Dominion’ especially was characterized by bad law, bad history, bad logic; by chopping and changing, cringing, creeping, crawling (sometimes to Americans or other ‘foreigners’, sometimes to ‘many good and loyal Canadians’ – unspecified); by dodging, ducking, wriggling, squirming, backing and filling; by confusions (notably between the ‘name’ of our country, which is Canada, and its ‘title’, which is Dominion); by untruths and fairy tales. The perpetrators of this performance did almost all their work darkly, at dead of night, the sod with their bayonets turning. They took the word ‘Dominion’ off official documents and even out of the telephone book, surreptitiously, without any legal authority. (1)
During this time and subsequently, the Liberals have maintained, that “Dominion” was a hold-over from colonial days and that it denoted the subservient status of a territorial possession of another country. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. It was the Fathers of Confederation themselves who decided upon “The Dominion of Canada” as the full title and name of our country in 1867.
Donald Creighton, Canada’s greatest historian, told how this came about in his The Road to Confederation. According to Creighton:
There was no doubt about the choice of the British Americans. They wanted to call their new nation a kingdom. At Halifax, at the time of the Charlottetown Conference, MacDonald had talked of ‘founding a great British monarchy, in connection with the British Empire’; the delegates had come to the Quebec Conference, Frances Monck reported, to create a ‘United Kingdom of Canada’. ‘There exists in Canada and I think also in the other provinces,’ Monck informed Carnarvon in September 1866, ‘a very strong desire that Her Majesty would be graciously pleased to designate the union a “Kingdom” and so give to her representative the title of “Viceroy.” (2)
This proposal met with objections in the Colonial Office, Creighton went on to relate, because of “fear of incurring the displeasure of the irascible republic” to the south of British North America, and so:
The first desire of the British Americans had been denied; they found a second-best alternative in the title ‘Dominion’. It was perhaps Tilley [Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, Father of Confederation] who discovered how appropriate to the ultimate territorial limits of confederation were the words of the Seventy-second Psalm, ‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth’. (3)
“Dominion” was chosen from the Scriptures as an equivalent of “kingdom” that would be less overt and therefore less offensive to the Yankees, a marvellous compromise embodying the evolving Canadian tradition.
So why did the Liberals hate it so much?
The Liberals who were in power from 1963 to 1984 seemed to hate everything about the Canada that had been established in 1867 and were determined to wipe it out of history and replace it with something completely different. Forsey described these efforts as “attempts to rob Canada of her history,” a process which had begun with the replacement of the national flag in 1965 during the premiership of Lester Pearson. The previous flag, the Canadian Red Ensign had served as our country’s national flag informally from Confederation until 1945, when it its status was made official by order-in-council. Pearson’s determination to replace it was a gross insult to all the Canadian soldiers who had fought and died under that flag during the Second World War but this did not seem to matter to him. Was this simply a matter of ego – a politician determined to leave his own brand on the country he governed at the expense of its roots and traditions – or was it something more sinister than that?
When Pearson changed the flag, there was a huge controversy over it in Parliament, with John Diefenbaker leading the Conservatives in opposition to the change and defence of the old symbol. The subsequent changes, such as the elimination of many “Royal” designations and most references to Canada’s being a “Dominion”, were accomplished much less openly, during the premiership of Pearson’s protégé, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. This is true of the change of the name of the national holiday of which Forsey wrote:
Finally they changed the name of ‘Dominion Day’ by Act of Parliament – put through the House of Commons by something very close to sneak-thievery, when it is pretty certain there was not even a quorum. (4)
There were only thirteen members present in the House on that day, a hot Friday in July, when the private member’s bill to change the holiday name was bumped up the queue and passed. That was indeed, insufficient for a quorum, but Parliament, in violation of its own rules and the Constitution, allowed that to slide.
Pierre Trudeau’s motivations are simple enough to figure out. He was a man who never met a Communist regime that he did not love. In 1952 Joseph Stalin had hosted an international conference of Communists in Moscow to which Trudeau was an invited Canadian delegate. (5) While in power as Prime Minister he fawned all over the Chinese Communist tyrant and mass-murderer Mao Zedong and had a bromance with Fidel Castro. Communism is even more anti-royalist than American republicanism. When it first seized control of Russia in 1917 it murdered the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, and its founding philosopher, Karl Marx, wrote his infamous Manifesto for the Communist League, an organization founded to continue the ideals of the French Revolution, which had overthrown the Bourbon monarchy in France. Is it surprising, therefore, that a man whose sympathies were so obviously with the Communist movement behaved like he was trying, in a sneaky and surreptitious way, to transform Canada from the traditional, royal, Dominion it had been founded as into a People’s Republic?
It is possible that the same dark motive guided even Lester Pearson. Pearson achieved fame in the 1950s when he won the Nobel Peace Prize – a prize that only ever seems to be awarded to subversive scoundrels – for his role in bringing about a resolution to the Suez Canal Crisis. Since Pearson favoured the American position in the crisis against that of Britain, France, and Israel, those who rightly accused him of betraying Canada’s pro-British tradition at the time, assumed that it was because he was acting in the interests of the United States. Often overlooked is the fact that the Soviets were on the same side as the United States in that crisis. Certainly, Pierre Trudeau could never have risen to the premiership of Canada, had Lester Pearson not brought him into the Liberal Party and groomed him to be his successor. Was Lester Pearson Canada’s equivalent of a Kim Philby or a Guy Burgess? (6)
Perhaps we will never know. At any rate, I for one remain a patriot of the Dominion of Canada that was founded by men like Sir John A. MacDonald during the Victorian era and refuse to recognize the New Canada of subversive scum like Pearson and Trudeau.
So I wish you all a Happy Dominion Day.
God Save the Queen!
(1) Eugene Forsey, A Life On The Fringe: The Memoirs of Eugene Forsey, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 200.
(2) Donald Grant Creighton, The Road To Confederation: The Emergence of Canada 1863-1867, (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1963), pp. 421-422.
(3) Ibid., p. 423.
(4) Forsey, p. 200.
(5) David Somerville, Trudeau Revealed: By His Actions and Words, (Richmond Hill: BMG Publishing Ltd., 1979 pp. 50-67. “In the conference report printed afterwards”, Somerville writes “Trudeau’s name is listed first in the Canadian delegations. While no delegations had designated leaders, a perusal of other countries clearly shows that the most important member of the delegation is listed first.” (p. 53)
(6) Philby and Burgess were two of the “Cambridge Five”, who had been recruited by the Communists to spy on their own country for the Soviet Union in their student days at Cambridge University in the 1930s. Philby served as a mole in MI6 for decades, rising to a high rank, before his treason was discovered and he openly defected to the Soviet Union. Burgess worked as a diplomat in the Foreign Office. The implication of the question in the text of this essay may seem ludicrous but CIA boss James Jesus Angleton certainly suspected Pearson of being a Soviet agent and warned the RCMP of such. This in itself is hardly evidence of anything, the CIA being a notoriously incompetent intelligence agency, but Elizabeth Bentley, who spied on the United States for the Soviet Union via the American Communist Party from the late 1930s until her defection in 1945, testified before a US Senate subcommittee in 1951 that Pearson knowingly passed information on to the Communists through Hazen Sise. Amy Knight, who quotes Bentley’s testimony on page 219 of her How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt For Soviet Spies (New York: Basic Books, 2005, 2007) does not appear to believe the testimony to be credible, but information both from Soviet archives that became available after the fall of the Soviet Union and from the declassification of the Venona Project files in 1995 has established Bentley’s testimony, like that of Whittaker Chambers, as being very accurate, far more so than liberal academics were willing to admit for decades.