Braving incessant rain, thousands turned out across Canada to mark its 150th birthday with outdoor concerts, massive fireworks display and a royal visit by Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accompanied by Prince Charles, kicked off the celebrations in the capital on Sunday, speaking to large crowds on Parliament Hill, BBC reported.
“Canada is a country made strong not in spite of our differences but because of them,” Trudeau said in a speech. “We don’t aspire to be a melting pot. Indeed, we know true strength and resilience flows through Canadian diversity.”
The festivities to mark the day included a concert by Canadian artists, a display from aerobatics squadron the Snowbirds, a citizenship ceremony for new Canadians and a massive fireworks display.
Musicians, including Bono and other members of Irish rock band U2 gave performances.
Canadian theatre giants Cirque du Soleil also participated in the celebrations.
Trudeau’s speech was delivered in both English and French, a tradition in Canada, which recognises both as its official languages.
“We don’t care where you’re from or what religion you practise, or whom you love — you are all welcome in Canada,” he said.
“This is as good a reason as any to reflect on our past, to cheer on today and to recommit ourselves to the future,” he said to the 25,000 partygoers who had waited hours to get past security and on to the Parliament’s lawn.
Trudeau gave a shoutout to every province and territory in his speech highlighting diversity, but he forgot to mention Alberta. Alberta was included in his prepared text but didn’t make the delivery in front of thousands of spectators in Ottawa.
The Prime Minister later took to Twitter to apologise for his goof-up. “Got too excited somewhere over the Rockies. Sorry Alberta, I love you. Happy Canada Day!”
He also took a moment to remember Canada’s indigenous people, whom he said had been “the victims of oppression”.
“As a society, we must acknowledge past mistakes,” he said, telling the audience that there was still much work to be done in order to achieve reconciliation.
Indigenous culture was represented in many ways in the festivities with a number of performances but some indigenous people refused to recognise “Canada 150”, saying it represented more than a hundred years of colonisation.
A group of indigenous protesters set up a teepee on Parliament Hill. Early on Saturday morning, protesters marched through the streets of Toronto, some holding the Canadian national flag upside down.
Across the Ottawa river in Gatineau, Quebec, crowds also lined up to see Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla open a new hall at Canada’s Museum of History.
Canada Day, held on July 1, marks the merging of four former British colonies into a single new country. The country grew in size in the years that followed and finally achieved complete autonomy from the UK in 1931.