How old is Canada really?

152 years? 88? Just 37? Well, that depends on how you define it...
canada As a nation, Canada has grown up slowly. (© Vasile Bobirnac - Dreamstime.com)


Happy Canada Day!

As we get set to blow out the can-a-dles, you might be wondering how many to place on our national cake. Well, two years ago, we were deep into Canada 150 celebrations, so... 150 + 2 = 152. We hope you baked a big cake!

But wait. What if we told you that you only needed 88 candles? Or a mere 37? Could it really be that Canada is younger than most of your parents?

What happened in 1867?

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Canadian politicians met in 1866 to help put together Confederacy. (Getty Embed)

The date that gives us the national age of 152 is July 1, 1867. That was the day that the British North America Act came into effect, a.k.a. "Confederation". What was that?

A confederation is basically a union. In Canada's case, Confederation joined together Ontario and Quebec (also known then as the provinces of Canada) with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to form the Dominion of Canada. Not only were these British colonies united, as Canada they were given their own federal government to oversee all their domestic affairs.

In other words, they no longer had to check with Britain about how they ran their own space. Yay!

It sure sounds like July 1, 1867 was the day Canada was born, no?

Still tied together

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Canada was a valuable part of the Allied forces in World War I, but it was also obliged to fight. (Getty Embed)

Yes, Canada gained a ton of independence in 1867. But Britain wasn't willing to let go of its old colonies that easily.

It still controlled Canada's foreign affairs, or how it interacted with other countries around the world. One of the best examples of this? When Britain entered World War I, so did Canada. As in immediately. It had no choice.

So was Canada really its own country? Kind of, sort of? Yes, it had its own government and handled its own affairs. But to the outside world, Canada was still very much a part of the British Empire.

The case for 1931

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Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King along with King George of England and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. (Getty Embed)

It wasn't until 1931 that this changed. This was when Canada got full control over their foreign affairs, thanks to the Statute of Westminster.

This was a huge deal. Now Canada got to make all of its own choices, at home and aboard.

Proof? When Britain declared war on Germany on September 1, 1939, Canada waited to enter World War II. Sure, they only waited eight days. But the government was allowed to come to this important decision on its own.

What's the deal with 1982?

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Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau placed the final piece in the puzzle of Canadian independence. (Getty Embed)

So 1931 was the year Canada became truly independent, right? Practically speaking, yes.

But the country still had one bizarro tie to Britain. The Parliament of Canada could request that British Parliament change the Canadian Constitution. Yeah, we don't get it either.

Anyway, it wasn't until 1982 that Pierre Trudeau's government signed the Constitution Act that this British power was removed. Finally, their country had full sovereignty.

You know what else happened in 1982? The Canadian holiday Dominion Day was given its new name: Canada Day!

So how old is Canada?

Turns out that's a tough question, right? Unlike the United States — which drew a hard line of independence on July 4, 1776 — Canada has been very gently breaking its ties to Britain for over 150 years. Bit by bit by bit.

Maybe the truth behind our mysterious age is that this country's identity keeps evolving. Even now.

And, hopefully, learning and improving, too!


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  1. So Canada is both over a century and a half, younger than my great grandma, and younger than my dad? 😕

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