This Day in Canadian History: January 1
New Year’s Day a Good Time for Canadian Announcements, Policies
Prohibition and bootleggers, health care, citizenship and standard time were a few of the announcements made on the first day of the new year over the decades.
January 1st is a day with special meaning, the start of the new year, a sign of new beginnings, of fresh strategies. It has also been a day of historical events for Canadians, from Prohibition to first provincial universal health care, to Sandford Fleming’s system of time standardization and the marking of Centennial celebrations with a symbolic flame.
Prohibition, Again and Again
In 1853, the group Sons of Temperance was able to push through a bill in New Brunswick to stop the importation of alcoholic libations into the province on January 1st. Prohibition lasted over a year, until 1854.
On January 1, 1856, the New Brunswick government tackled prohibition for the second time. Unfortunately, the government was defeated on the issue and the law repealed by the next government.
Ontario voted for prohibition in 1894, and again after WWI in 1918, leading to the era of smugglers, bootleggers and rum-running across the country and into the United States, whose citizens were also variously under no-alcohol laws. Prohibition was instituted in Newfoundland in 1917.
Fleming’s International Standard Time
On the first day of January 1885, Canada was divided into seven time zones under the International Standard Time system created by Sanford Fleming. The brilliant man was frustrated with the inaccuracies of schedules for trains and devised a plan that would standardize the time. Canada’s longitudinal zones reflect a difference of 5 ½ hours from one coast to the other. Fleming was not yet 60 years old when his system was adopted around the globe. He was knighted in 1897 at age 70 by Queen Victoria for his many innovative advancements in Canada.
Health Care, Citizenship
Under Premier Tommy Douglas’s CCF Party, on January 1, 1947, Saskatchewan became the first province to offer universal public health care insurance to all of its residents. It was the beginning of the health care system that would be adopted in all provinces and territories in Canada.
Also on January 1, 1947, Canadians became Canadian citizens under the Canadian Citizenship Act. Before the Act, Canadians were considered British subjects.
Centennial Flame Lit
The year 1967 was a special one for Canadians, the first centennial of Canada as a country. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson lit the Centennial Flame fountain in front of the government buildings on Parliament Hill on January 1st to mark the great celebrations of Canada’s 100th anniversary on July 1st. The symbolic flame, situated above a water fountain with provincial crests and emblems, burns steadily today, although the fire has been extinguished on occasion for repairs and improvements to the granite structure.
Have a look at Sympatico’s On This Day for more fascinating January 1st events in Canadian history.