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Canada Day: Big event go virtual due to coronavirus pandemic

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07:29 | 02/07/2020

Canadians are celebrating Canada Day (July 1), one of the biggest events of the year, but in a different way as under the impact of coronavirus. 

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What is Canada Day?

According to CNN, the national holiday takes place on July 1 to commemorate the joining of Canada's original three provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Canada province, which is now Ontario and Quebec) as one nation in 1867.

canada day big event go virtual due to coronavirus pandemic
People watch from their homes as a drive-by parade makes its way around town, during Canada Day celebrations in Newcastle, Ont., on July 1, 2020. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters).

However, Canada was not completely independent of England until 1982. In predominantly French-speaking Quebec, the holiday is celebrated alongside Moving Day, a totally inconvenient day when many leases end or begin and residents are relocating.

The holiday called Dominion Day was officially established in 1879, but it wasn't observed by many Canadians, who considered themselves to be British citizens.

The 100th anniversary of the nation's official creation in 1967 saw the growth of the spirit of Canadian patriotism, and Dominion Day celebrations really began to take off. Although quite a few Canadians already called the holiday Canada Day (or Fête du Canada), the new name wasn't formally adopted until October of 1982.

Canada Day’s celebration

There are many ways to celebrate Canada Day. First: What's a patriotic celebration without a parade? Typically, parades are held in cities, towns, and villages all over Canada (though many of this year's event will be virtual, due to the coronavirus pandemic), according to Mentalfloss.

canada day big event go virtual due to coronavirus pandemic
People cheer during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday, July 1, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have an established group called the RCMP Musical Ride. These 32 officers, who are rotated after three years' service, perform equestrian drills for the public throughout Canada.

Other Canada Day traditions that are gaining footholds are picnics, festivals, sporting events, and fireworks.

Many Canada Day events are planned all over the country, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Victoria (though, again, 2020 may look a bit different).

How does Canada Day take place this year?

CBC.Ca reported that Canada Day 2020 takes place amid both a global pandemic and a growing conversation about systemic racism in society. It has been almost four months since governments ordered businesses closed and urged Canadians to stay home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, with restrictions only recently being eased.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of high-profile events and large celebrations like the annual pomp and pageantry on Parliament Hill in favour of backyard barbecues and online offerings to keep crowds from gathering.

canada day big event go virtual due to coronavirus pandemic

Instead, the Ottawa show was streamed live, to be followed by virtual fireworks as part of a buffet of digital activities curated by Canadian Heritage. The 53 bells of the Peace Tower still rang, with two special recitals streamed live.

The lack of official festivities didn't stop a couple hundred anti-government and anti-lockdown protestors from gathering on the Hill to demonstrate against pandemic restrictions and the Trudeau government.

In other parts of the country, crowds were allowed to gather, including for actual fireworks displays.

"Celebrate Canada Day safely," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer, tweeted yesterday. "Wear a mask, wash your hands and stay (two metres) apart."

As of Wednesday, Canada had 104,271 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 67,746 of the cases as recovered or resolved.

Canadian Prime Minister's message

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was volunteering at a farm that grows vegetables for the Ottawa Food Bank, touched on a number of issues confronting Canadians due to the COVID-19 pandemic in a Canada Day message.

He talked about the difficulty of being separated from family members and friends and the need to ensure "every senior has a safe place to live" after reports of appalling conditions in long-term care homes subject to outbreaks.

canada day big event go virtual due to coronavirus pandemic
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks up as he harvests broccoli at the Ottawa Food Bank Farm with his family, on Canada Day, Wednesday, July 1, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

"The last few months have been hard, and on this Canada Day we need to continue to be there for each other," Trudeau said.

"The reason that our communities are resilient ... is the choices that Canadians make every single day. The nurses and doctors who protect those around them, the women and men in uniform who serve at home and overseas, and the people of every age, faith and creed, who stand by one another."

Trudeau says Canada 'a great country' but 'we need to be even better.

Calls to eliminate racism

Canada Day also comes amid loud calls to eradicate systemic racism in society sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in May.

Since then, Canadians have marched in protests across the country calling out anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and other forms of racism.

The social upheaval has brought intense scrutiny to police treatment of people of colour and led to calls to redirect funding from police departments to social and community services.

canada day big event go virtual due to coronavirus pandemic

Indigenous Canadians have long had mixed feelings about Canada Day, with many saying the holiday represents a celebration of decades of colonization that led to genocide and a loss of culture, as detailed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

There are a number of "Cancel Canada Day" protests planned by the Idle No More movement in cities including Vancouver, Hamilton, Saskatoon, Halifax, Prince Rupert and Kitchener.

In Toronto, activists are painting the words "Black Lives Matter" on a street in the city's iconic Kensington Market in solidarity with the global movement against anti-Black racism.

In his statement to Canadians, Trudeau said the country can better itself by saying no to racism, injustice and hate.

"What makes Canada special is not that we know that this is the best country in the world; it's that we know that it could be," Trudeau said.

"We know our work together is not yet done.... Not while anyone faces racism or injustice. Not while we still have so far to go on the path of reconciliation."

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