A compilation of Guelph’s Canada 150 celebrations

A compilation of Guelph’s Canada 150 celebrations

Understanding the performance of national pride and acknowledging ongoing tensions

The celebratory spirit of Canada’s sesquicentennial has been at the heart of countless events running up to the big day itself on July 1, but the celebration isn’t quite as universal as it seems on the surface.  

Celebrating Canada on July 1 began just after Confederation, was made an official holiday called Dominion Day in 1879, and had its name officially changed to Canada Day in 1982.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Photos by Mariah Bridgeman/The Ontarion

Whether it’s a patriotic pin at the Guelph Potters Market or garden plots bearing the Canadian flag on the University of Guelph grounds, you can’t go far in the Royal City without being reminded of Canada 150.


Photos by Mariah Bridgeman/The Ontarion

The Guelph Youth Music Centre held a Canada 150 show that included over 150 musicians on June 10.

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

A mural celebrating Canada 150 and volunteerism was unveiled on Cork Street on June 14.

Photos by Tasha Falconer

Informative banners about Canadian history line Guelph’s downtown core.  

Mirali Almaula | The Ontarion

U of G’s SummerFest on the Green celebrations also had a sprinkle of Canadian spirit with a road trip photo booth and a large Canadian flag proudly displayed on Johnston Hall.

Photos by Mirali Almaula/The Ontarion

Riverside Park’s fireworks display was advertised as the Rotary’s “biggest ever display in Guelph,” and lived up to the promise.

As luck would have it, U of G history professor Matthew Hayday just happens to be a leading expert on Canada Day.

While the celebrations are certainly wonderful fun for many Canadians, “The federal government uses these celebrations to send subtle messages to the people of Canada,” explained Hayday in an article from the University of Guelph News Service.    

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Specifically, Canada Day is used to gain public support for various policies.

“It looks like a big party on the surface, but the government and other actors and organizations are also using this time when people are focused on Canada to try to get them to think in certain ways so they will come to support certain positions. This holiday is important as it provides a window into what type of future our government officials and politicians envision for the country and how they conceive the past,” said Hayday in the article.  

He continues that this year’s message includes a focus on reconciliation with Indigenous people.

For this reason, Hayday believes it is unlikely to see the nationwide enthusiasm that marked the centennial in 1967.

As Kim Wheatley put it during the pow wow on Johnston Green in May, the Anishinaabe people are not recognizing Canada’s sesquicentennial.

“There’s not a lot to celebrate,” Wheatley explained, adding that her people were here long before 150 years.  

Mariah Bridgeman | The Ontarion

Wheatley is not alone in her view as people are protesting Canada Day celebrations; Indigenous demonstrators erected a teepee on Parliament Hill, according to Global News while others have taken to social media.

University of Guelph alumna Asia Barclay wrote a Facebook post about Canada 150 and Indigenous peoples.

The celebration of Canada Day this year is both complicated and a no-brainer,” Barclay’s post begins, she then outlines her subject position and what is positive about Canada before concentrating her critique on Canada 150.   

“We are continuously complicit in colonialism and the erasure and oppression of Indigenous peoples. We tout our strengths in ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘diversity’ while remaining silent on Indigenous suffering and on our broken promises to the people whose land we stole and which is STILL STOLEN FYI,” the Facebook post continues.

“You can go have your BBQs and see fireworks and shit, but did you know there is an Indigenous resistance happening right now in Ottawa to bring attention to issues and fight back against oppression? Why are we not out there supporting them? Why are we not prioritizing that?” Barclay’s post asks.  

Barclay’s Facebook post exemplifies Hayday’s final point in the U of G News Service’s article: “There’s a different mood about Canada’s history now … that has made Canadians realize the fractured lines in the country, and the many problems in its past and present.”

It is a wonderful thing to use Canada Day to remember our history and appreciate the good of our country, but it is also important to remember our whole history and to think critically about the values we are celebrating now so that we may all move toward a better future together.

Feature photo by Mariah Bridgeman/The Ontarion.