Fifty Years After

Source: Arthur Kaptainis in the Montreal Gazette, April 29

…Expo 67 was international, a World’s Fair, and happily made possible by the decision in 1962 of the U.S.S.R. to drop its bid, to which the Canadian application had initially placed second in 1960.

The final tally of 50,306,608 paid admissions greatly surpassed the ballpark prediction of 30 million. We can be sure that most of the foreign visitors (44.8 per cent of the paid admissions were American and 3.7 per cent from other countries) went home with elevated feelings about Canada and what was then its most populous and powerful city. (If they went back: I know of one miniskirted hostess at the Great Britain pavilion who married a Montreal film producer.)

But the happy coincidence of the Canadian Centennial meant that Expo 67 was designed above all for Canadians. In the first decade of aviation as a widely accessible means of transportation – which the Air Canada Pavilion duly celebrated – the fair brought citizens of the world’s second-largest country together more successfully than had any peacetime enterprise.

A Stanley Cup victory by the Canadiens or the Leafs was an expression of joy by one solitude at the expense of the other. Expo transcended the divisions by linking the dream of a united Canada with the dream – then prevalent despite, or perhaps because of, the Cold War – of a united world.

It was time for such a vision. The familiar lyric from the Bobby Gimby song that became, for better or worse, the Expo anthem – “now we are 20 million” – asserted a collectivity that was then still largely hypothetical.

Once the turnstiles were passed, all bets were off. We ceased to be from Winnipeg, Moncton, Sudbury, Burnaby or St-Lazare. We were Canadians, which meant we were citizens of the world….


2 responses to “Fifty Years After

  1. A bit over the top. I enjoyed Expo 67, but there were events before and that followed that brought us together as a nation and strengthened our common identity. Montreal was left with a debt that contributed to stunting City growth for almost two generations. Poor disproportionally paid cost. This was also the LAST year that the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. The fact that all non-Leaf fans across English Canada were forced to watch the Leafs every Saturday night on the CBC for most of the next four decades, built resentment against Toronto and divided the country.
    Featuring multiple Canadian teams Saturday Night was a relatively recent “innovation”.

  2. Now that I have my own blog on wordpress, the system identifies me (Henry Lotin) by my travel blog name.