Canadians highlight national diversity, independence at Canada Day celebrations

Songs and cheers as well as the sounds of indigenous drums rang out in honor of Canada Day on Saturday, as Canadians from coast to coast gathered to celebrate the diversity and freedom that they say gives the country makes it special.

Municipalities across the country marked a return to the type of celebrations that had been seen for years before they were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although for some a return to normal air quality and weather conditions The event was disrupted due to the pandemic, which forced them to cancel major events such as the fireworks show. ,

But in parades, concerts and tribute gatherings, Canadians and dignitaries alike took time to highlight the traditions of indigenous peoples and cultures around the world.

“People are coming to Canada to proudly call it home and to build their lives, our communities and our country,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a cheering crowd at a Canada Day celebration in Ottawa.

He said that the country has faced challenges like wildfires and wars in Europe by showing compassion, commitment, openness and democracy.

“Now more than ever, it’s a win-win for Canada in the world,” he said.

Several festivities in honor of the 156th anniversary of Canadian Confederation were held under hazy skies covered with haze from recent wildfires.

Air quality warnings affected much of Quebec and prompted the cancellation of fireworks displays in Montreal and several of its island suburbs. But in the downtown core itself, hundreds packed the 12-block route to take part in the city’s first Canada Day parade since 2019.

“It’s a little small, but it doesn’t matter. Look at all these people here, they’re all living together and they’re all living in harmony,” said organizer Nick Cowen.

For Adriana Shervan, who was watching the parade with her mother, it was an opportunity to celebrate Canada’s independence and diversity.

“My parents are from Iran, but I was born here. I love the fact that this place is culturally diverse and appreciates all cultures, and that is what makes this country beautiful,” she said.

Seeing people come together is what brought Keerth Sivarjah out to celebrate in Ottawa too, even though he now lives in Texas.

“It’s good to see it more diverse now,” he said, recalling the time he used to attend the festivities as a child.

Ottawa included francophone artists on the occasion and publicly administered the oath of citizenship to newcomers from France and Cameroon. The morning program where Trudeau spoke also featured Ontario-born astronaut Jeremy Hansen, who is set to travel to the moon next year as part of a NASA mission.

Governor General Mary Simon also took the stage and said she was proud to live in a country that is working on national and global challenges while striving to be better.

He said, “If we work hard, if we do this together, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

Festivities in Ottawa were later postponed due to severe weather advisories, which came hours after local Indigenous leaders spoke about the need to protect the earth and take climate change seriously.

Meanwhile, a silent celebration took place at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square under cloudy skies, with indigenous drummers spread across the area.

Members of the crowd – many dressed in red and white and wearing temporary maple leaf tattoos – applauded and waved Canadian flags during the performance.

Yeon Wai from China said the day reminds her of the freedoms she now enjoys.

“Freedom of speech, freedom of the environment,” he said. “Compared to my home country,[Canada]provides me with a better living environment and freedom, not only physically but also mentally.”

Elsewhere, festivities in the historic port city of Halifax took place under a thick blanket of fog. The conditions led to the cancellation of a performance by the Snowbirds, the Canadian Forces aerobatic flight demonstration team, as well as a fireworks display planned for the evening.

Other Halifax events, including free concerts, were developed in collaboration with indigenous communities in honor of the Mi’kmaq nation. Ashley Augustine, a member of the Sipeknekatik First Nation, said she is thrilled with the program.

“It’s wonderful that we are being recognized on Canada Day,” said Augustine, manager of the Treaty Truckhouse, which was selling handmade Mi’kmaq items on the coast. “We’ve finally come out… it’s definitely a matter of time.”

Halifax resident John Kenny said he moved his family to the city because they “didn’t want to be under house arrest, and we wanted to be included.”

His teammate, Mace Guarin, said Saturday was his second Canada Day as a Canadian.

“I am so thankful and grateful for this country because it gave me a better life,” said Guarin, who came to Canada from the Philippines seven years ago.

— With files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax, Jacob Serebrin in Montreal and Kiernan Greene in Toronto

David Fraser and Mickey Juric, The Canadian Press

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