When we look back on Canada’s sesquicentennial year (and yes, I did look it up to make sure I spelled it correctly), what will we think of it?
There were some who felt that the events, which began somewhat sluggishly under one government (spending a lot of money on the War of 1812-14) and finished under another government, might have been a bit more exciting. There were others who felt that celebrating 150 years of this particular political entity, and not recognizing the thousands of years of habitation that preceded it, was more than it deserved.
Someday, someone will write a book like the one Pierre Berton wrote to analyze the 1967 Centennial Year, and they may perhaps come to the same conclusions that he did, in a book that first appeared in 1997, 30 years after the event. Berton was ambivalent. His original hardcover title was 1967: The Last Good Year, (Doubleday) but by the time the paperback edition came out, a year later, he had changed it to 1967: Canada’s Turning Point (Bantam-Seal).
The book is divided into seven sections, each with three to five sub-chapters. The first segment is called The Best of Times and the last is called The Worst of Times, and many things happened in between. Official reception to the idea of a 100th birthday party was lukewarm, according to Berton. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson originally didn’t want anything to do with it and kept the budget as low as possible until it began to gather steam on its own.
It grew in spite of that. There were firsts and there were lasts. It was, for instance the last half year for the NHL’s Original Six, and thus the last that the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens would face each other in the playoffs.
Among the various things that came about, or began, in that year were: Expo ’67; a royal commission on the Status of Women; the beginnings of Gay Liberation; Charles De Gaulle’s “Vive Le Quebec Libre!”; the Voyageur Canoe Pageant from the North Saskatchewan River to Montreal; the beginnings of the changing of the guard from Pearson to Pierre Elliott Trudeau; changes in the laws on divorce and abortion; the founding of the Parti Quebecois; “Can-a-da” by Bobby Gimby (The Pied Piper of Canada); a UFO Landing Pad in St. Paul, Alberta; and an attempt to mush a dog team from Tuktoyaktuk to Edmonton.
Those are just a few of the topics covered in this book. I wonder what the book about Canada 150 will cover in 2047.
Berton was involved in some of these events personally, so there are parts of this book that read like a memoir while other parts read more like a history. He was very good at doing this sort of thing and this book is well worth reading.