Canada Day cancelled in London, New York
LONDON’S Trafalgar Square and New York’s Central Park won’t show any Canadian love on Canada Day this year — no real-life Mounties, no street-hockey games, no performances by Canadian musicians.
A lack of sponsorships has prompted organizers to cancel the annual celebrations just five years after Canada Day International — previously run by the government — was transferred to Rainmaker GBD, a Calgary business consulting firm.
“It’s disappointing that we can’t continue,” said Chad Molleken of Regina, who first organized Canada Day in London for Rainmaker in 2009.
Molleken, who’s no longer with the company, said the free events have attracted more than 600,000 people to date. They were so popular, he said, they expanded to include New York City last year and were planned to reach Hong Kong this year.
But those plans were put on hold when two major sponsors — telecommunications giant BlackBerry and Nexen, an Alberta oil and gas company — said they would not contribute to the program this year.
Molleken’s efforts to find new sponsors to fill the void were unsuccessful.
The Canadian Tourism Commission says Canada Day International was launched by the Canadian business community in London in 2005 before the federal agency “stepped in.”
Though it eventually passed operations to Rainmaker, the commission remained involved and provided about $33,000 yearly.
The agency was among more than 25 sponsors this year, about 75 per cent of whom were still on board. But Molleken said the party cannot proceed without BlackBerry and Nexen, whose contributions comprise about one-third of last year’s $1-million budget.
BlackBerry spokesman Adam Emery confirmed the firm did not renew its funding for celebrations in London this year. A spokeswoman for Nexen said the company redirected funding to initiatives that “more directly benefit the community,” many of which are charities.
Lois Mitchell, chairwoman of Canada Day International, said lack of sponsorships was not the only reason the events were cancelled this year. She said higher insurance costs and the loss of use of part of the Canadian High Commission, which is currently under renovation, also contributed to the decision, which has angered many Canadian expats.
Canada Day International’s Facebook page for London has seen hundreds of comments on the cancellation.
“Last year, July 1, I had one of the most powerful moments of my time here in the U.K.,” Brades Thompson posted. “I was so disheartened when I heard that there will be nothing official going on this year.”
“NOOOO!!! Please do not do this, this brought me home when I’m not at home! This sucks!” Aqsa Saleem posted.
But some have also posted invitations to their own celebrations.
Mark Sultana, originally from Burlington, Ont., said he was organizing an event called Pop Up Canada Day at a bar in Trafalgar Square. The only act will be a one-man band, but he promises Canadian beer, Caesars and poutine.
— The Canadian Press TORONTO — For 85-year-old Alf Roberts, Canada’s largest gay pride festival is a chance to celebrate an identity he only felt comfortable sharing in his old age.
“At last, after all these years I don’t have to be careful when people ask me if I’m gay,” Roberts said. “I just say yes, I am.”
Roberts came out when he was 80, shortly after moving into Fudger House, a long-term care facility for seniors in Toronto.
“I was a church organist for years and a music teacher, and you are very careful in those positions,” he said. “You don’t want everybody to know.”
For most of his life, Roberts would remain vague about his identity, responding “I am who I am,” when people asked him if he was gay.
Then, relief came when he realized that Fudger House touted a gay-positive environment.
Bill Ryan, a social worker and professor at McGill University, said it’s rare to be openly gay in a seniors home.
Ryan, who has conducted research on the elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for more than a decade, said stigma persists because residents in seniors homes lived in an era when homosexuality was considered a criminal act or mental illness.
“They grew up at a time when the only coping strategy that was allowed to them was to hide and camouflage themselves,” Ryan said, adding most seniors don’t have the benefit of political activism over the last 30 years.
He added the baby boomer generation will be entirely different when they enter longterm care facilities.
“Those growing into their 50s and 60s would go to the courts and tribunals to claim their rights,” he said.
During his research on long-term care facilities, Ryan heard from one gay couple who would go into the senior centre’s bathroom to hold hands instead of showing affection in front of centre staff.
“He would visit during non-family visiting hours, and he would take his partner out of bed, help him into the bathroom and close the door behind him. Then they would hold each other for as long as they could and hug, and then he would open the bathroom door, put him back in bed, and not touch him again.
— The Canadian Press