Canada Day can­celled in Lon­don, New York

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - NEWS CANADA - By Ethan Lou

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

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