Press-Republican

Black

December 28, 2012

Canada: the dominion of comedy

(Continued)

He goes on to insult the beaver in the same asterisk, but the damage has already been done.

For starters, Dominion of Canada is still the official name of Canada, or at least it probably is. Let’s just say it’s complicated. The British North America Act, which created the country in 1867, makes it quite clear Canada is a dominion. No act since then, including the major constitutional reform package of 1982, has altered that.

The name may not be as fashionable as it once was — partly because it lacks a precise equivalent in French — but it has never been replaced.

How Canada came to be a dominion is somewhat apocryphal. The story goes that Scottish-born anglophile Sir John A. Macdonald, the main stick-handler of Canadian confederation, was pushing for the Kingdom of Canada. This was shouted down as possibly provocative to the United States, which was not feeling kindly to the Royal Kingdom, what with its meddling in the Civil War and all.

The person who gets the credit for coming up with the word “dominion” is New Brunswick’s Sir Leonard “Lennie” Tilley, son of American Loyalists, temperance advocate and faithful Bible-reader. The story goes that one morning during the Confederation negotiations Tilley had read Psalm 72, which reads in part, referring to you-know-who: “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.”

The psalm goes on to say: “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust,” but we don’t need to go there.

Anyway, “dominion” stuck with the Confederation delegates, and Canada has been stuck with it since — as have Australia and New Zealand, without attracting the ridicule of Vanity Fair.

So Happy New Year, from this country, where, to borrow from Dylan Thomas, comedy has dominion.

Peter Black is a radio broadcaster and writer based in Quebec City. He has worked on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in Montreal as a newspaper reporter and editor, and as a translator and freelance writer. He can be reached at pmblack@videotron.ca.

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