Trudeau urges Canada Day celebrants to reclaim maple leaf as national symbol

Thousands of celebrants who flocked to the nation’s capital for Canada Day festivities heard an impassioned call for unity on Friday as the Prime Minister urged them to reclaim the maple leaf as a national symbol.

The urge from Justin Trudeau and other dignitaries came on another potentially divisive day in Ottawa, as those who had intended to mark the first in-person Canada Day celebrations since the COVID-19 pandemic 19 graced the occasion alongside protesters opposed to public health mandates and the current Liberal. government. Canadian flags became an important symbol for like-minded protesters in January and February when they staged a week-long downtown demonstration that brought much of the city to a standstill.

A member of Skyhawk glides by the Peace Tower during Canada Day events in Ottawa on Friday. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press/Associated Press)

During an early afternoon ceremony to honor the 155th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, Trudeau urged residents to remember the values ​​that the maple leaf represents, including compassion, hope and Justice.

“It represents our accomplishments and our desire to improve,” Trudeau said of the national emblem. “Let us remember that even though we are 38 million people living in six time zones from coast to coast, we have only one country to share, protect and cherish.”

Trudeau was joined by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who told the largely red-and-white crowd that he was proud to see the maple leaf widely used.

Ceremony steps on Parliament Hill

The official ceremony took place off Parliament Hill for the first time in 50 years, according to Canadian Heritage, citing ongoing construction at the Center Block. The festivities instead took place at nearby LeBreton Flats Park as well as another location across the river in Gatineau, Quebec. Among those who traveled the country to mark Canada Day in Ottawa were Donna Marzolf and her 12-year-old daughter, Alexis Livingstone, who traveled from Calgary to join in the celebration and secure front row seats. on the main stage.

Alexis, sporting a Maple Leaf t-shirt and carrying a small Canadian flag, said she was especially thrilled to see her twin sister Sophia perform O Canada at the festivities as part of the Calgary Children’s Choir.

The twins’ mother said the day was a celebration of “peace, security and freedom, although that sort of thing has a bad connotation at the moment”.

Hundreds of Freedom Convoy supporters march through downtown Ottawa on Friday. (Dave Chan/AFP/Getty Images)

An increased level of security brought locals and visitors together in the nation’s capital on Friday for the first in-person Canada Day events in Ottawa since 2019.

Police maintained a visible presence throughout downtown, with groups of officers marching through the streets and patrol cars framing the entrance to LeBreton Flats Park.

Visitors had to walk through airport-style metal detectors and have their bags searched before entering.

A relaxed atmosphere

Despite tight security, the atmosphere was relaxed, and Trudeau took time to meet and greet members of the crowd before heading to the stage for his speech.

Trudeau praised Canadians who have worked hard to improve the lives of others. He specifically quoted Terry Fox, who traveled across much of Canada raising money for cancer before his death in 1981.

Trudeau’s comments could be seen as a dig at James Topp, a Canadian soldier accused of speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Topp marched from British Columbia to Ottawa in opposition to COVID-19 vaccination mandates and arrived in the capital on Thursday.

The Prime Minister told the crowd, “Canada is about people who are constantly fighting for something rather than against it.

Similar sentiments echoed in Trudeau’s official Canada Day message released earlier Friday, in which he said the national flag was more than just a symbol.

“It’s also a promise – a promise of opportunity, a promise of safety for those fleeing violence and war, and a promise of a better life,” he said.

Trudeau speaks of “historical wrongs”

Trudeau told the Ottawa crowd on Friday that there had been “serious faults in our history” and that the discovery of unmarked graves had caused pain and grief.

In his official message, the Prime Minister spoke of Canada’s “historical mistakes”, saying that while we cannot change history, we can work to build a better future.

People lay flowers, candles and shoes during an impromptu vigil as part of the “No Pride in Genocide” rally in Toronto on Friday. (Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images)

Musicians were also present at the official ceremony, including New Brunswick trash-folk singer Lisa LeBlanc, country singer Tenille Townes and Juno Award winner DJ Shub, a Mohawk DJ known as the godfather of powwows. .

Brenda Noseworthy, who traveled to Ottawa from Newfoundland for the official celebration, described the atmosphere at LeBreton Flats as “low key.”

But she thought people were slightly more nervous than usual, citing the pandemic and the protests as possible factors, adding that she supported plans to move the festivities off Parliament Hill.

Karen MacDonald came from Ladner, British Columbia, and was attending her first Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa.

“It hurts my stomach with pride”

“It’s really exciting for me to be here in person,” she said. “So many different people in the city are all wearing red and white, with flags. It makes my stomach ache with pride.”

The Prime Minister, Governor General Mary Simon and Rodriguez participated in an Indigenous Reflection Ceremony on the banks of the Ottawa River before attending the main Canada Day event.

Stephanie Peltier of Wikwemikong First Nation in Ontario blessed the water with a sacred bundle containing tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar. She sang a song of honor as members of a circle, including the prime minister’s family, shook hands.

Simon, who also spoke at the official ceremony, praised Canadians for their hard work and perseverance during the pandemic, especially frontline workers.

WATCH | The Governor General delivers the first Canada Day message:

The Governor General delivers the first Canada Day message

Governor General of Canada Mary Simon calls on Canadians to continue working together to build an inclusive society in her maiden Canada Day speech. Simon is the first Aboriginal to hold this position.

But she said “the party spirit doesn’t extend to everyone”.

“This day can also be a reminder of what we have lost,” she said, including indigenous peoples who “can still lose their culture, their languages ​​and their lives.”

Celebrations across the country

Numerous Canada Day celebrations took place across the country throughout the day.

A series of events were planned in the Old Port of Montreal, including an outdoor concert, face painting, a giant cake and fireworks. There will be no parade in the city for the third consecutive year.

In Quebec, activities include musical performances, an official ceremony with the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Army and fireworks on the Plains of Abraham.

Kites fly overhead as people walk their dogs along Canada Day along Dallas Rd. in Victoria on Friday. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

After two years of canceled or virtual celebrations, in-person Canada Day festivities have also returned to Metro Vancouver.

The largest planned celebration was planned with Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and was renamed Canada Together. It highlighted a theme of reconciliation and provided opportunities to learn more about Indigenous and other cultures that make up Canadian society, organizers said.

Festivities were to include live music, exhibits, family activities and food trucks, but the annual nighttime fireworks show over Burrard Inlet was canceled this year due to security costs.

Toronto officials, meanwhile, had to scramble to reschedule some planned fireworks displays after the vendor who had pledged to put them on pulled out at the last minute.

The city said while a high-profile show would take place on Friday as scheduled, events at two local parks have been postponed or canceled due to the issue.

WATCH | Canada Day celebrations return in person after 3 years:

Canada Day celebrations return in person after 3 years

Thousands of people celebrated Canada Day in person in Ottawa for the first time in three years, marking Canada’s birthday with music and a reflection on reconciliation.

James V. Hayes