The politics of participation, a study of Canada's Centennial celebration

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Davies, Helen
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In 1967 government officials planned an ambitious program of events to mark the historic occasion of Canada's one hundredth anniversary of Confederation. Existing accounts of Centennial, however, primarily personal reflections, are largely anecdotal in tone, and, to date, there has been no comprehensive scholarly consideration of the 1967 celebration. In contrast, this study, a critical analysis of Centennial, explores how organizers designed events and programs that advanced the official objectives of the Centennial to bolster national pride and reinforce political unity. Adopting a cultural studies approach, the thesis examines "non-traditional" texts such as official reports, speeches, minutes, pamphlets, commemorative programs and public events. Also, employing a comparative model of analysis, the thesis considers contemporary films and documentaries, exploring how officials advanced the Centennial message in an attempt to generate public interest, and persuade Canadians to participate. From an organizational perspective at least, Centennial was a remarkable achievement, with public participation far exceeding official expectations. Key to this success was the fact that Canadians, encouraged to celebrate in their own personal way, were not forced to express one vision of Canada or Canadian identity. In the end, Centennial functioned as a catalyst that engendered in many Canadians a new belief in themselves and the nation, launching them into what they believed was a bright future, full of promise.