Happy birthday, Canada! Canada Day was actually Saturday, July 1st, but this is one of those big birthdays that end in a zero: Canada is 150 years young!
I grew up in Western New York, quite close to the Canadian border. As a kid, I remember driving over the Rainbow Bridge from Niagara Falls, NY to Niagara Falls, Ontario with a lovely view of the famous falls from the car. (That's the Rainbow Bridge below, lit up at night.) Of course, lots of Americans grew up close to the Canadian border since it runs 3,000 miles across North America from sea to shining sea.
Once upon a time, Canada and the US were both part of British North America when all the colonies were pretty much separate. (Thirteen of them are now the US.) The French colony of Quebec was a different matter, but in 1763 France ceded it to Britain as a result of the Seven Years War.
America's Independence Day is tomorrow, July 4th, and most of us learned early the story of how the 13 colonies got stroppy with Britain and fought the Revolutionary War, after which those colonies became the United States of America (though really, they could have called it the United Colonies of America. UCA??)
Canada, however, continued as a number of separate colonies for some time, including Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Looking at this map (from Wikipedia), you'd think Upper Canada would be the green bit because, well, it's upper. But no, in this case upper and lower refer to the mighty St. Lawrence River and "upper" is nearer the headwaters and covered an area this is now the southern part of the Province of Ontario. "Lower Canada" is farther along the river and is the now the southeastern part of the Province of Quebec.
In 1841, Upper and Lower Canada were united into the Province of Canada, which lasted until 1867, when the Dominion of Canada was formed of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. And the 150th anniversary of this act of union is what is now being celebrated. (Picture below is one I took in a park in St. John, New Brunswick. Beavers are the national animal of Canada.)
Canada was the first Dominion within the British empire and the name indicated that it was a self-governing entity within the empire. As a side note, a while back I listened to an audiobook course on the history of the British empire, and one of the things that stuck with me was that the British statesmen decided after the American Revolution that Britain had handled the 13 colonies badly, and they needed to do better.
And they did, which is why nations like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others were comfortable staying within the big tent of the British Commonwealth.
There were good reasons for Canada uniting, not least of which was a wariness about all those people south of their border. (Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia, but much of it is so very cold that the population is only about a tenth that of the US.)
One of the hoped-for goals of some Americans in the War of 1812 was to annex Canada, which after all is much closer to the US than Britain is. Very efficient, yes? Well, Canadians were NOT on board with this, and not only because tens of thousands of America loyalists had emigrated to Canada after the American Revolution and they hadn't changed their minds about being part of the United States. (The War of 1812 ended as basically a draw without a significant exchange of territory in either direction.)
There's lots of going back and forth between the US and Canada–we Word Wenches have had two Canadian Wenches, Jo Beverley and now Susanna Kearsley, and our site manager is Melissa Beverley, who lives in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.
While Canada and the US are generally pretty good friends, there is a certain amount of caution on the Canadian side. It's rather like a mouse and an elephant sharing a bed. They may be friendly, but when the elephant turns over, the mouse had better be alert! (I'm reminded of the story of a Mexican president who once said, "Pity poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States." <G> I'm sure Canadians sometimes feel the same.)
"The Murdoch Mysteries" is a favorite tv series for me and the Mayhem Consultant. Made in Canada, it's set in Toronto around 1900 and features a scientifically inclined detective called William Murdoch. The series is great–and now and then the characters show that wariness when arrogant American authorities shows up. <G> (I believe the series is the most popular in Canada. Yes, Yannick Bisson who plays Murdoch is Very Handsome. <G> Yes, there's a very nice romance in the series. )
Canada has grown and flourished in the last 150 years. Like the US, the country has expanded westward and is now comprised of 10 provinces and 3 territories. (The 10th province, Labrador and Newfoundland didn't become part of Canada until 1949.)
Canada's global image owes much to its long history of peacekeeping missions. The world LIKES Canadians–American backpackers in Europe have been known to attach Canadian flags to their backpacks in order to be received in a friendlier fashion.
And now Canada is throwing itself a grand birthday party! Fireworks, parades, speeches–and one giant yellow rubber duck. <G> Six stories high, it was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, who thought of it as a symbol of global unity (and humor). It's hard to look at that duck without smiling. (This image is from the CBC news site and my Toronto friend Ali Cunliffe referred me to it.)
So happy birthday, Canada, and long may you be smiling. I hope the US will always be as good a neighbor to you as you are to us.