Queen Victoria & the Birth of British Columbia

HAPPY VICTORIA DAY!

Today in Canada, we celebrated our Queens’ birthdays – that of Queen Victoria, whose actual birthday is on 24 May, and Queen Elizabeth II, whose birthday was on 21 April. While only 28% royalists/monarchists honoured these two Diamond Jubilee Queens, the rest of the country was simply grateful to have an extra day off work.

Why the 20th and not the 24th? Victoria Day occurs on the last Monday before 25 May so this year, it fell on the 2oth. The last time Queen Victoria’s birthday fell on Victoria Day was in 2010. Royal Historian, Carolyn Harris, has written an excellent article on our uniquely Canadian holiday in the Ottawa Citizen. I was surprised to discover that only Canada, and some parts of Scotland, continue to honour Queen Victoria in May. Since 1952, Victoria Day is when Canada celebrates the Queen’s or current sovereign’s official birthday (In the UK, Trooping the Colour is held on a Saturday every year in June). I am not sure what will happen when we have a king – new monarchs change their minds, don’t they? – but I hope that we shall always get to keep Victoria Day. To learn more about when the Queen’s official birthdays are celebrated throughout the Commonwealth, head over to Ms. Harris’ blog!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOUR MAJESTY!

Queen of United Kingdom (as well as Canada, Au...

Queen of United Kingdom (as well as Canada, Australia, and other Commonwealth realms) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Name change?

Recently, there has been a petition to change the holiday’s name to “Victoria and First Peoples Day”, to honour our First Nations and their role in developing Canada. Note that there is already a National Aboriginal Day in Canada on 21 June, which honours First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. What is unfortunate is that it is only a local holiday in the Northwest Territories and somewhat forgotten about for the rest of the provinces and territories in Canada. It is no wonder a stat holiday is needed to honour our First People’s. Unlike unofficial holidays (i.e. non stat-holidays) like Valentine’s, St Patrick’s, and Halloween, National Aboriginal Day goes by half-forgotten. 21 June is Midsummer’s Day, the longest day of the year and other people’s traditions seem to capture our attention more than our own First People’s, who have so much to share. I believe a stat holiday allows everyone to have the day off to learn more about our First People’s rich history by attending various events around town, for instance. Certainly, it will be rather inconvenient when the 21st falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. The next question is, should the stat holiday occur on the Friday or Monday preceding or succeeding the 21st?

This 2013 year, there is one stat holiday every month in British Columbia (and many other provinces) except for April (Easter Monday is not a stat holiday, sadly) and June. Personally, I believe that a stat holiday a month gives us something to look forward to. It might even make us more productive because we will have returned from a well-rested weekend. Of course, what do I know; I am just a young “lazy and entitled” 20-something. Every time we have a stat holiday, we must be paid for a day’s wages! Yes, absolutely selfish and lazy of me.

So what if we can’t have National Aboriginal Day as a stat holiday? Will changing Victoria Day’s name pay homage to the monarchy AND the First People’s? While supporters of the petition think so (actor Peter Keleghan thinks it would be a “baby step”), Monarchist League spokesman, Robert Finch, thinks that the name change could alter the 168-year-old holiday’s meaning, particularly the role Queen Victoria played in Canada. He adds, however, that “we can celebrate the great relationship between the Crown and the First Nations on a day called Victoria Day. There’s nothing stopping us from celebrating that relationship.” (see article here)

Let’s say that the name change goes ahead and next year, we shall have to say, “Today is / Happy Victoria and First Peoples Day!” Seems rather long, don’t you think? In fact, you might even find half the people sticking to Victoria Day and the other half completely changing it to First People’s Day. I’ve noticed that any time we’ve had name changes or have come up with euphemisms, we are left wondering which word(s) to use. Mind you don’t insult someone! :O (For instance, I still don’t know which noun I am to use: aboriginal, indigenous, native, First Nations, First People, etc. I’ve met a few First Nations who refer to themselves as Indian!)

Of course, what do I know? I am not indigenous though I am part of the visible minority. I am not Métis though I am of mixed origin. My ancestors did not move to Canada hundreds or thousands of years ago. Oh, and to top it all off, I’m a royalist (selectively). However, may I have one request? Can we have a National Aboriginal Day stat holiday in June? They deserve a WHOLE holiday for themselves. 🙂 Forget about sharing Victoria Day and only getting half the recognition!

P.S. Quebec celebrates National Patriots’ Day on the same day as Victoria Day. Will they have to change their holiday name as well to honour the First People?

Victoria Day at Fort Langley

Today I decided to change my usual Victoria Day destination (Burnaby Village) and head further west to Fort Langley, which was over 2 hours away by transit. Fort Langley is the birthplace of British Columbia and the town is reminiscent of historical towns in Ontario, with colourful houses, some Victorian and others Georgian-style. The residents were far friendlier than our rushed and uptight City of Vancouver locals.

Every year, Fort Langley has its May Day parade near the actual fort. I missed most of it but was able to catch the end of the parade before finding my way to the fort. On the way to the entrance, a First Nations man looked at a painting and proudly mused aloud, “My great-great-grandfather helped build this fort!”

Having already been to Fort Langley for Canada Day many years ago, I took a quick look around each house again and walked along the rampart/parapet/banquette (what is the correct term?) for a view of the small fort. The last house I visited was the Big House, where British Columbia was proclaimed a colony on 19 November 1858. The current building, however, was reconstructed in 1958 though it is true to the original’s appearance and location. Inside Big House, we sat around one of the rooms to hear the James Murray Yale interpreter tell us about the Hudson’s Bay Company, Fort Langley, and the birth of British Columbia.

It was in learning about how British Columbia came to be that we realised the importance of Victoria Day and our privilege to be Canadians. We learned that at one point, Vancouver Island was its own British colony (1848-1866) and that the rest of British Columbia did not become a British crown colony until 19 November 1858. In fact, it wasn’t until 2 August 1866 when the two crown colonies merged to become the Colony of British Columbia. The very name (British Columbia) was chosen by Queen Victoria, who wanted to show that BC is the British remainder of the Columbia district and New Caledonia (administered by Hudson’s Bay Company – see photo). Yes, we’re special. 😉

Do you want to know something even more bizarre? Canada didn’t become a self-governing dominion of Great Britain until 1 July 1867 (this is why we are a ‘young’ country. We didn’t rebel like our siblings down south.) On top of that, “Canada” started off with four original provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec) and it took more than 100 years before Canada had 10 provinces and 3 territories (Nunavut being the latest addition in 1999). Insane!

Internal development of Canada's internal bord...

Internal development of Canada’s internal borders, from the formation of the dominion to the present. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So why is this important? Thanks to the gold rush and its effect on greedy people, it was essential that we wouldn’t be annexed to the Americans. Once proclaimed as a colony, we were safe…temporarily. With the end of the gold rush, BC found itself swimming in debt with a growing population. Thankfully, the Confederation League invited us to join “Canada” so long as we wouldn’t mind helping with the extension of the Canadian Pacific Railway to join our HUGE country. BC agreed and became the 6th province in Canada on 20 July 1871. Debt problem solved! phew

There you have it! Queen Victoria protected us from being turned into Americans. Let us thank everyone involved in developing our country. Thank you! applaud

Lessons learned: If you discover gold, do not, do NOT tell the Americans. Wouldn’t want all of Canada annexed to the States now, do we? :O (j/k)

P.S. If I have typed the wrong information, please forgive me but feel free to correct it so that I may go back and edit my post. Would hate to be learning and sharing the wrong information!

Victoria Day around BC

Wonder where you can go to celebrate Victoria Day next year? Here are some suggestions:

  • Burnaby Village – the lady who plays Queen Victoria bears an uncanny resemblance to her. It’s free too!
  • Victoria – The Queen’s namesake and BC’s capital. There is an annual Victoria Day parade that lasts 3 hours. While you’re in Victoria, why not have afternoon tea at The Empress? 😉