Celebrating our Freedom on Canada Day

By Valerie Diefenbacher in Places, Events, & History

We Canadians have ever been reluctant to celebrate our freedoms. Although Dominion Day was established in 1879 to celebrate the joining of Nova Scotia, New Brunswich and the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) into one Dominion of Canada, the hard-working population of the day saw no reason to pause and celebrate. Finally, in 1958, the Prime Minister John Diefenbaker told his Secretary of State to put together a party that would get the people’s attention. The budget for it was to be $14,000.

As that buys an excessive amount of balloons, Secretary of State Ellen Fairclough  decided to blow up some of the budget with a fireworks display.  She also coaxed the reluctant Mr. Diefenbaker from his duties to make an appearance at the event.

This proved to be a hard-to-ignore combination, the crowd that turned out was such a success that in future years grants were given to cities across the country to create local celebrations.

To the dismay of some, Dominion Day was nicknamed Canada Day by the casual public in the 1980s, creating a problem for parliament. After the usual polite discussion in political chambers, the bill to change the name officially slithered by twelve MPs in the House of Commons in 1982, some claim in a less than dignified manner.

We who became parents in the last twenty years take our eager-eyed one and three and ten year olds, and search for something inexpensive to do on Canada Day.  Then, in fond remembrance of the our own childhoods, we go sit on some wet grass at 8:30 and wait for two hours ‘til the pertinacious northern-hemisphere day at last gives way to dark.

And then we faithfully cheer the dispersal of our generation’s $14,000.

There are many in our nation, however, who don’t participate in the wet-backside challenge at the local park. A good portion of those will be found sitting in lawn chairs. Some will be sitting beside a tent or a camper, but many others will be beside the rusty bar-b-que on their own back porch.

In case you are mystified as to why a nation of creative, free-spirited people would limit themselves to sitting in chairs on their national holiday, here is one (optional) explanation.

We are, after all… surprisingly limited in our freedoms.

We do have cause for gratitude here in Ontario. We have no laws like in Fort Qu’Appelle in Quebec where it is illegal to walk down the main street with untied shoes. Nor are we, like in Nova Scotia, disallowed to water our lawns while it is raining.

Unlike in St. Johns, you are allowed to move your cows into the house with you.  We are also able to build snowmen greater than thirty inches high, as long as we do not move onto certain properties in P.E.I. And, unlike New Brunswick, you are allowed the excitement of wearing a snake in public.

Even here in Ontario, however, there is cause for caution. You can’t go wrong sitting in that chair, as long as staring at your unpainted garage doors does not motivate you to paint them purple. In Kanata, that would get you in trouble with the law. If you are living in Oshawa, on the other hand, you are not allowed to in any way ‘interfere with’ a tree. That includes climbing it and letting your kitten scratch it, among other things (hum… I wonder what the tree thinks of my campfire?).

Should you decide to clean up in Etobicoke, you need to know that it is illegal to have more than three and a half inches of water in the bathtub; I couldn’t determine if there are enforcement agents committed to the inspection of that or not. Also, you may not whistle or sing in Petrolia between 11 pm and 7 am, lest it disturb the peace.

Also, should your horse expire on Young Street in Toronto the week before Canada Day, you will need to remove it on your holiday Monday, as you are not allowed to do so on Sunday. Imagine, coming out to your stable and finding the beast perished on a tepid Friday morning at the end of June. You need to go to work that day, and on Saturday you have to put on your kilt and go skirl bagpipes with a bunch of third and fourth cousins. So of course by Sunday that carcass needs removing. But no, you have to wait until Monday when you litter the street with maggots as you drag him down to the processing plant. The indignity of it.

There’s another rule that does make a lot of sense to many female rulers of their domains. In all of Canada, you are not allowed to scare the queen.

If you should, however, find yourself on the way to jail for any of these infractions, do ask to be incarcerated in Alberta. According to the books, you have the right, when you are released, to demand a handgun, bullets and a horse – so you have a chance of making it out of town.

Although there are some among us who may find those particular items more hindrance than help.

And there you have it, folks, why you will see Canadians hitting the lawn chairs on Canada Day. The options on how to celebrate our freedoms are really quite limited. However, nowhere in Canada is the lawn chair illegal.  Well, as long as you don’t try to unfold it on the water side of the railing at Niagara Falls.