Dominion Day

July 1, 1998

Psalm 72:8 – He shall have dominion from sea even unto sea, and from the great river unto the ends of the earth.

In my country, today is Canada Day, which celebrates 131 years of the confederation of four British colonies into the "Dominion of Canada".

It used to be called Dominion Day, and, perhaps because it occurs after schools recess for the summer, not enough has been done to explain it in schools or at public events, so we've lost knowledge of the apparently small things which form Canada's greatness. Canada was, after all, the first country in the world to gain its independence peacefully from another, which is no small thing, but we were not taught that in school.

The marvellous story of how my country's name derives from the prayer of a politician can be found in the Canadian Encyclopedia, as told by the late Senator Eugene Forsey. At the London Conference, in 1866, "the Fathers of Confederation wanted to call the new nation the 'Kingdom of Canada', but the British government, fearing the sensitivity of Americans to references to the Crown, and anxious not to antagonize them after the American Civil War, insisted the Fathers find another title."

Sir Leonard Tilley went back to his hotel room, prayed on the matter, and took out his Bible, which opened to Psalm 72:8. He suggested "Dominion", because the verse described the country as hand fits glove: "He shall have dominion from sea even unto sea, [Atlantic to Pacific] and from the great river [St. Lawrence] unto the ends of the earth [the Arctic]." Forsey continues, "The Fathers suggested that [the name 'Dominion'] was intended to give dignity to the federation, and as a tribute to the monarchical principle. Under the Constitution Act, 1982, 'Dominion' remains Canada's official title."

Most people who hear this story are truly amazed to think that a politician would actually pray! And anyone who reads history will know that they had the same reputation, if not worse, in 1866.

We really don't do justice to the elected people who give up their privacy to serve us. The odd one is a crook — and gets caught — but we spend too much time using the infrequent bad example to demean them all, rather than using it to show how well our constitutional monarchy works to protect us from bad rulers.

Let us pray in accordance with Jesus' promise: "If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:19)

Prayer: We give thanks for the many fine people who serve in public office, in our own country and around the world. As we pray for them each Sunday in our public worship, help us remember that they, too, pray for guidance in conducting our affairs, and that our joint prayers have always been answered. Amen.

About the author:

Lorne White <lwhite@becon.org>
Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada

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