Canadians mark 145 years of nationhood on Canada Day


Canadians take part in Canada Day celebrations on July 1, 2011, in Ottawa, Canada.


Chris Jackson

Millions of red-and-white-clad Canadians celebrated the nation’s 145th birthday Sunday with tributes to the Queen, the Grey Cup and burning down the White House 200 years ago.

This year’s Canada Day festivities coincide with three important anniversaries.

First, it’s Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee marking 60 years ruling the British Empire, of which Canada is still a member.

Second, for the 100th year, Canadian Football League teams are vying for Grey Cup and Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa featured the enigmatic trophy prominently.

Third, it was 200 years ago that American troops battled a combined French, British and Native Canadians force – a conflict often overshadowed by the American Revolution before it, and the US Civil War after.

“Our ancestors, English, French, aboriginal – people of all backgrounds – joined in the fight for Canada,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, CBC reported. “In doing so, they created a common sense of nationality based on diversity and they laid the basis for the parliamentary federation of freedom, democracy and justice that is our inheritance.”

The war reached a crescendo when British occupiers burned down several public buildings in Washington in August 1814. Among them were the White House and the US Capitol.

The War of 1812 is the ultimate Canadian conflict: at different times in the 2 ½-year war, both sides occupied the other’s territory, so everyone can claim victory.

The biggest Canada Day party is always in Ottawa, the national capital.

There, the Grey Cup was a star attraction among musical acts such as Feist and Quebec singer Roch Voisine.

The eight-team CFL awards the cup to its winner each November; regular-season play began this weekend.

“One thing as Canadians, we don't do enough to celebrate our history and our past,” CFL commissioner Mark Cohon told Yahoo! Sports. “We're really going to use that. We're going to celebrate our history and set us up for the next 100 years. It's about putting pride back in our league.”

While Canada, like other commonwealth nations, now has a largely ceremonial connection to England, the Queen’s Jubilee is still an important milestone for many.

The Queen’s representative in Canada is Governor-General David Johnson.

“At the heart of this family resides our commitment to each other. From the moment of Confederation in 1867, this country has been a unique and challenging experiment,” he said, Sun News reported.