Rain, sticky heat, long line­ups don’t stop rev­ellers from cel­e­brat­ing ‘not what we did … but who we are’

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHANIE LEVITZ OT­TAWA —

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.

The crowds for this year’s Canada Day cel­e­bra­tion may have been the big­gest ever.

And due to the es­pe­cially tight se­cu­rity thou­sands of peo­ple had to wait in lines — of­ten for hours — as they fun­nelled through se­cu­rity check­points to get to the party on the Hill.

It prompted plenty of grum­bling as would be rev­ellers took to so­cial me­dia to vent their frus­tra­tions.

“I used to think stand­ing qui­etly in or­derly lines was what made this coun­try great. I don’t know what to be­lieve in any­more,” tweeted Ben­jamin Woo.

Kim D. com­plained in a tweet that “Dis­or­ga­nized se­cu­rity lines caused 8 hr.+ back­log,” while some oth­ers said the ridicu­lously long wait had caused them to miss the show they’d come to see.

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 Trudeau 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,” the prime min­is­ter 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 chant­ing slo­gans as they made their way through a crowded tourist area, mon­i­tored by dozens of uni­formed po­lice.

“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.”

The speech also in­cluded one mon­u­men­tal gaffe: as he re­cited the names of the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries, he seemed to over­look Al­berta. Twit­ter and host San­dra Oh were among those who quickly called him out on the mis­take.

Re­al­iz­ing the er­ror, Trudeau jumped on the front of the stage, called out, “I love you, Al­berta,” and blew a kiss, be­fore sit­ting down and shak­ing his head. He apol­o­gized again later, cit­ing the ex­cite­ment of the oc­ca­sion.

U2 front­man Bono and gui­tarist the Edge took the stage af­ter Trudeau, ac­knowl­edg­ing the coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion for tol­er­ance and con­sen­sus-build­ing.

“This is your home, and we are grate­ful guests in it,” said Bono, whose brief re­marks al­luded to the pro­tec­tion­ist and con­fronta­tional poli­cies of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“When oth­ers build walls, you open doors,” he said be­fore a stripped-down ver­sion of U2’s 1991 hit, “One.”

“Where you lead, oth­ers fol­low, and that’s the real rea­son the Edge and I are here to­day.”

Canada’s de­ci­sion to open its doors to her fam­ily is why Lo­rana Rios, 41, de­cided to come to Ot­tawa to cel­e­brate Satur­day.

She ar­rived here from Mexico more than a decade ago, and the op­por­tu­ni­ties she’s had make her grate­ful, she said.

“I want to cel­e­brate liv­ing in Canada — it is a safe coun­try,” she said.

The teepee on Par­lia­ment Hill had been a source of some ten­sion ear­lier in the week, and while ac­tivists chanted and waved signs dur­ing Trudeau’s speech, their en­coun­ters with the crowd at large were calm.

At evening Canada Day fes­tiv­i­ties indige­nous pro­test­ers booed Trudeau and wife, Sophie Gré­goire Trudeau, as they ap­peared again on stage.

But as the pro­test­ers chanted “shame, shame,” they were drowned out by even louder cheers from the bois­ter­ous crowd.

Regina res­i­dent Rhoderic Sia, 40, a red, flag-be­decked colan­der on his head, ac­knowl­edged their cause, as did sev­eral of the day’s main speak­ers. “Ev­ery­body has their own opin­ion,” said Sia, who hails orig­i­nally from the Philip­pines.

“I re­spect it, but we still have to re­spect what Canada is now. Com­ing from an­other coun­try, be­ing here is all about your free­dom. You can have ev­ery­thing if you work hard.”

Sia had been plan­ning his trip to Ot­tawa for two years, but was beaten to the cel­e­bra­tory punch Satur­day by cel­e­bra­tions in New­found­land and Labrador, where a boat­load of 75 early ris­ers set out on the North At­lantic to be among the first to wel­come Canada Day.

Kel­lie Loder of St. John’s sang O Canada as the ves­sel pulled in front of Cape Spear. There was a mo­ment of si­lence af­ter­ward to re­mem­ber those who have fought and died in bat­tle over the last 150 years.

Prince Charles ex­pressed his grat­i­tude for Canada set­ting an ex­am­ple. “We should be clear and proud that we are cel­e­brat­ing a coun­try that oth­ers look to as an ex­am­ple — an ex­am­ple of fair­ness and in­clu­sion, of al­ways striv­ing to be bet­ter,” he said.

“Around the world, Canada is rec­og­nized as a cham­pion of hu­man rights, as a peace­keeper, as a re­spon­si­ble stew­ard of the en­vi­ron­ment and nat­u­ral re­sources, and as a con­sis­tent ex­am­ple of diversity and the power of in­clu­sion.”

Even Trump him­self got into the spirit of the oc­ca­sion, tweet­ing his congratulations on the oc­ca­sion of Canada’s birth­day and ac­knowl­edg­ing the prime min­is­ter by name, whom he de­scribed as his “new­found friend.”

Oth­ers marked the day by be­com­ing new-found Cana­di­ans at dozens of ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies across the coun­try, in­clud­ing one in Hal­i­fax where 53 peo­ple from more than 20 dif­fer­ent coun­tries cel­e­brated Canada’s 150th birth­day by tak­ing the oath of ci­ti­zen­ship in Hal­i­fax.

Back on Par­lia­ment Hill a cav­al­cade of mu­si­cians and other per­form­ers kept the mas­sive crowd en­ter­tained un­til around mid­night.

Gor­don Light­foot re­ceived huge ap­plause when he took the stage, and Trudeau, in his salute to the Canadian mu­sic icon, noted that Light­foot had also per­formed 50 years ear­lier at Canada Day fes­tiv­i­ties in 1967 when the coun­try was cel­e­brat­ing its 100th birth­day.

And when the en­ter­tain­ers fi­nally left the stage, it was then time for the main act, as the skies above the Peace Tower ex­ploded in a 20-minute, jaw drop­ping fire­works dis­play that stamped the of­fi­cial ex­cla­ma­tion mark on Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Burling­ton’s Walk Off the Earth were part of a day­long cel­e­bra­tion.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

A 20-minute fire­works show lit up Par­lia­ment Hill’s Peace Tower at mid­night to mark 150 years since Con­fed­er­a­tion. The evening’s tele­vised fes­tiv­i­ties, de­layed due to rain in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, high­lighted the ‘power of in­clu­sion.’

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