OTTAWA, Canada – Happy Canada Day! International and domestic tourists celebrate the country’s birthday and Ottawa, Canada’s Capital, was the place to be July 1 for the country’s biggest annual celebration. It’s a giant patriotic party on the lawns of Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park, at the Canadian Museum of History and on the closed streets of downtown.
Thousands gather on Parliament Hill to celebrate the country’s 149th birthday. The atmosphere was upbeat at the Parliament Hill party even though the grounds were surrounded by security checkpoints. Those who wanted to enter the area had to line up and have their bags searched by police.
The crowds started to gather on Parliament Hill early, for a 9 am flag raising ceremony and the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which was followed by the carillon concert featuring the Peace Tower bells, at 10 am. There was a thrilling performance by the Snowbirds Demonstration team, and a noon hour show filled with cultural entertainment. For families, the Canadian Museum of History hosted a variety of activities especially for children ages 3 to 12 including games, physical activities, performances and inflatable slides. For revelers of all ages there were free activities at most of the area’s national museums and institutions.
Frequently referred to as “Canada’s birthday”, particularly in the popular press, the occasion marks the joining of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario (Upper Canada) and Quebec (Lower Canada)) on July 1, 1867.
Canada became a kingdom in its own right on that date, called the Dominion of Canada, but the British parliament and Cabinet kept limited rights of political control over the new country that were shed by stages over the years until the last vestiges were surrendered in 1982, when the Constitution Act patriated the Canadian constitution.
Under the federal Holidays Act, Canada Day is observed on July 1, unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case July 2 is the statutory holiday, although celebratory events generally take place on July 1, even though it is not the legal holiday. If it falls on a Saturday, any businesses normally closed that day will generally dedicate the following Monday as a day off.
Canadian expatriates organize Canada Day activities in their local area on or near the date of the holiday.
Annual celebrations also take place in Hong Kong, titled Canada D’eh and held on June 30 at Lan Kwai Fong, where an estimated attendance of 12,000 was reported in 2008; in Afghanistan, where members of the Canadian Forces mark the holiday at their base; and in Mexico, at the Royal Canadian Legion in Chapala, and the Canadian Club in Ajijic. In China, Canada Day celebrations are held by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai at the Bund Beach.