Centennial year, 1967, was Canada's enthusiastic celebration of the 100th anniversary of Confederation, 1867.
Centennial year, 1967, was Canada's enthusiastic celebration of the 100th anniversary of Confederation, 1867. The festivities were launched at midnight on 31 December 1966 on Parliament Hill, when Prime Minister Lester Pearson, Secretary of State Judy Lamarsh (the minister responsible for Centennial), Opposition Leader John Diefenbaker, and thousands of others participated in a ceremony that culminated in the lighting of the Centennial Flame.
A committee of businessmen, chaired by C.M. Drury, was originally instrumental in convincing Diefenbaker, then prime minister, that Canada's 100th anniversary should be a memorable occasion. One of the country's best-known publicists, John Fisher, "Mr Canada," was appointed centennial commissioner. Fisher, whose tenure continued under Pearson, was ably assisted by Georges E. Gauthier and then by Gilles Bergeron (both associate commissioners).
The year's events fell into 2 categories: those that were monumental and those that were active. In a desire to leave behind a literally concrete memory of the year, the federal and provincial governments financed a wide variety of building projects. Each province acquired a centennial memorial building, and each $1 that was spent on a centennial edifice by a municipality was matched by an equal amount from both the federal government and the respective provincial government. Such largesse encouraged the construction of facilities such as libraries, art galleries, theatres and sport complexes. The most lavish concrete monument was the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, paid for entirely by the federal government.
The Centennial Train and Caravans, which graphically depicted Canadian history and the contributions made by many different cultures, were visited by over 10 million people. Local histories were compiled and historic sites were restored. The performing arts flourished as Festival Canada commissioned plays, musicals, operas and ballets.
In a lighter vein, there were bathtub races, parades and period costume parties. One town even built a landing pad for flying saucers. As the year progressed, it became evident that the country's most spectacular event, Expo 67, was a national and international success. The year ended, as it had begun, on Parliament Hill. But the Centennial Flame that was originally to have been extinguished was left alight by popular consent. It was to become a symbol for a year that was not merely significant in and for itself, but one that marked the emergence of Canada as a mature and self-confident nation.