Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley

by Ken Gehrels

Did you know that it was a last minute decision? It happened in London, England, shortly before parliament was to pass the British North America Act, declaring Canada as a united country. A group of Canadian delegates had gathered to arrange the final terms of the act. Historians tell us that, among the topics up for debate was the designation for the new nation. Should Canada be called a kingdom? How kindly would our American neighbours view that?

Samuel Leonard Tilley was leader of the New Brunswick government, and became known as one of the Fathers of Confederation. Samuel was a Christian man who spent time each day reading a portion of the Bible. The story goes that, while in London he read Psalm 72. The eighth verse jumped out at him. In the version that he probably used, the Authorized Version, it would have read, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” Based on those words, Samuel Tilley recommended the title “Dominion” for Canada.

And so it was that many of us grew up celebrating “Dominion Day” on July 1. Since then, it has been changed to “Canada Day”; but there remains a legacy from that time. The phrase on the Canadian coat of arms reads: mari usque ad mare – “from sea to sea.” Check your passport. It’s there to this day.

From its earliest days, Canadians have prayed for God’s guiding and protecting hand to hold and bless this nation we call home. And, while there are growing calls for a “firewall” to keep faith far from politics, there remains a Christian legacy in the origins of modern Canada. And there are at least some who continue to pray for God’s leading, care and blessing on our nation and its leaders.


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