Revellers brave soggy, sticky weather at Canada 150 bash
Paper Maple Leaf flags soaked by an early morning downpour quickly turned into makeshift fans to ward off sticky afternoon warmth Saturday as thousands of people squelched and squished their way around Parliament Hill to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
About 25,000 people — a waterlogged rainbow coalition of rain slickers, ponchos and umbrellas — were on hand as the midday show wrapped up, but the downtown core teemed with celebrants throughout the day as the sun came out and crowds amassed anew in anticipation of the evening show.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was to return to host the second instalment, was on hand earlier Saturday alongside his family, as well as Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, for a series of performances that began with Buffy Sainte-Marie’s rousing version of “Carry On.’’
A single CF-18 streaked over the Centre Block, drowning out the final notes of O Canada, before the prime minister delivered a rousing, forceful and enthusiastic celebration of the unique power and resilience of the Canadian character.
“We don’t aspire to be a melting pot,’’ Trudeau told the cheering crowd.
“We know true strength and resilience flows through Canadian diversity. Ours is a land of original peoples and of newcomers, and our greatest pride is that you can come here from anywhere in the world, build a good life and be part of our community.’’
The week’s celebrations have been tinged with the resentment and frustration of indigenous people chafing over the country’s oppressive, colonial past — a sentiment symbolized by the teepee erected not far from the stage, and expressed overtly by protesters in Montreal.
There, a small group marched through the city’s Old Port to denounce what they called colonialist and racist policies, throwing coloured leaflets and chanted slogans as they made their way through a crowded tourist area, monitored by dozens of uniformed police officers.
“Our past is far from perfect,’’ Trudeau acknowledged in Ottawa. “For centuries, Indigenous Peoples have been victims of oppression, from the time when the first explorers celebrated their discovery of the new world.’’
He urged the crowd to acknowledge the country’s history and to confront its reality.
“We must educate ourselves and dedicate our efforts to progress,’’ he said. “It is a choice we make not because of what we did, or who we were, but because of who we are.’’
People wearing Canadian flags watch fireworks explode over the Peace Tower during the evening ceremonies of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, in Ottawa on Saturday.