Canada turns 150

Nei­ther rain nor protests dampen birth­day spirit

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

OT­TAWA — Canada’s lon­gan­tic­i­pated 150th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions on Satur­day were marked by heavy rains and some protests, though the down­pour failed to dampen spir­its of rev­el­ers who thronged in large numbers to en­joy mu­si­cal per­for­mances and pa­rades.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau kicked off cel­e­bra­tions amid heavy se­cu­rity and some 25,000 peo­ple as­sem­bled at a large out­door cel­e­bra­tion in front of the na­tional Par­lia­ment in Ot­tawa, where Ir­ish singer Bono and other mem­bers of rock band U2 en­thralled the au­di­ence.

“When oth­ers build walls, you open doors; when oth­ers di­vide, your arms are open wide; where you lead, oth­ers fol­low,” Bono said. But the bad weather meant a fly-past fea­tur­ing Cana­dian war­planes was can­celed and later on, an evening con­cert was de­layed by an hour to al­low the rain storms to pass.

The long-an­tic­i­pated Canada Day fes­tiv­i­ties, which in­cluded other fea­tures such as ac­ro­bats, and spe­cial cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies across large cities, con­cluded with fire­works.

Trudeau, ac­com­pa­nied by Bri­tain’s Prince Charles, shook hands with some of the thou­sands of rev­el­ers who con­verged on Canada’s cap­i­tal Ot­tawa.

“Canada is a coun­try made strong not in spite of our dif­fer­ences but be­cause of them,” Trudeau told the gath­er­ing. “We don’t aspire to be a melt­ing pot — in­deed, we know true strength and re­silience flows through Cana­dian di­ver­sity.”

Some cities cel­e­brated in more un­usual ways. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, fea­tured a gi­ant rub­ber duck float­ing in its har­bor, while Cal­gary planned a “liv­ing flag” com­posed of peo­ple wear­ing red and white.

The yel­low duck, which cost C$200,000 ($154,000) in­clud­ing the rent, ac­cord­ing to the Globe and Mail, drew crit­i­cism from some who de­scribed it as a waste of tax­payer money.

Se­cu­rity was al­ready ramped up in the days ahead of the cel­e­bra­tion and par­ty­go­ers con­tended with road clo­sures and con­crete bar­ri­ers across en­trances into Par­lia­ment Hill, lo­cated in down­town Ot­tawa.

Heavy down­pours prompted Ot­tawa fire­fight­ers to pump wa­ter off the grounds on Par­lia­ment Hill and the Ot­tawa Fire Ser­vice urged cit­i­zens to fol­low safety in­struc­tions.

Na­tional and local po­lice were also out in force, with se­cu­rity top of mind for many Cana­di­ans in the wake of fatal at­tacks in Lon­don, Paris and Germany.

Satur­day marked the 150th an­niver­sary of the day Canada of­fi­cially be­came a coun­try. Bri­tain had ruled it be­fore 1867.

“Canada 150 years ago was a project, it was an idea to bring to­gether four colonies with very dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal back­grounds,” said Pierre Anc­til, his­tory pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa.

“We should cel­e­brate but we should not be com­pla­cent. It’s not a fin­ished project,” he added.

“As a so­ci­ety, we must ac­knowl­edge and apol­o­gize for past wrongs, and chart a path for­ward for the next 150 years,” Trudeau said in a state­ment ahead of the of­fi­cial kick­off.

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