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Celebrations, fireworks taking place in Ottawa despite air quality concerns

If weather permits, the Air Force is also planning a flyover of Parliament Hill just after noon
People swim in the frigid waters of Lake Ontario overlooking The City of Toronto’s skyline in Mississauga, Ont., Sunday, April 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canada Day celebrations are taking place in Ottawa and across the country on Saturday, although some have been scaled back due to poor air quality.

Canada’s capital city will see some festivities around Parliament Hill, but the main entertainment will be at LeBreton Flats, just west of downtown, where celebrations are expected to return to a sense of normalcy this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled events across the country for two years, including in Ottawa. Then last year, remnants of the “Freedom Convoy” protests that had clogged city streets that winter created tension that disrupted the day and caused some to be wary of heading downtown.

The federal Heritage Department has a slate of activities planned throughout the National Capital Region.

Changing of the Guard ceremonies will take place regularly between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET, and there will be piping and drumming by the Royal Canadian Air Force at Parliament Hill.

If weather permits, the Air Force is also planning a flyover of Parliament Hill just after noon.

The main daytime show at LeBreton Flats begins at 11:45 a.m. ET and features performers including Pierre Kwenders, Delhi 2 Dublin, Tyler Shaw, Josiane and Marie-Josée Dandeneau, as well as speeches from dignitaries including the Governor General and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In a video message to Canadians, Trudeau said Canada Day is an opportunity to celebrate the country and the people we share it with.

“After all, Canada is the envy of the world. People fleeing violence and persecution dream of a life here, businesses open headquarters in our cities and manufacturing plants in our towns and world leaders look to us for leadership in times of crisis,” he said. “Wherever our flag flies, it’s recognized as a symbol of democracy, of freedom and of hope.”

He said the country has withstood challenges by working hard together, including now “when we step up to help those affected by wildfires.”

In her message to Canadians, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon said Canada Day is an opportunity to reflect on what the country has accomplished and to consider what more can be done.

“While I have seen the commitment to making progress on the challenges we face, there is still so much work to do to create the country in which we want to live,” Simon said in a written statement.

“One where we walk together on the path of reconciliation; heal our planet by taking action to combat climate change; care for our mental health in the same way we do our physical health. One whose citizens are actively working to overcome obstacles to equality, fairness, justice and inclusion.”

Canada Day festivities are set to take place in the capital throughout the day. A nighttime show at LeBreton Flats features performances by Jann Arden, Roxane Bruneau and Aysanabee among others. There will also be a temporary Inuit-heritage exhibit at 100 Wellington St., a building dedicated to Indigenous Peoples across from the Hill.

Across the river in Gatineau, Que., there will be performances, including a professional wrestling match all day in Old Hull. Canada’s national museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, will be open and admission is free.

With everything going on, many downtown Ottawa streets are closed, and vehicles will only have access to the Macdonald-Cartier and Champlain bridges.

OC Transpo is offering free service all day until 12 a.m. and a special schedule is being put in place. Para Transpo is also free and accepting reservations.

Ottawa’s big pyrotechnics show is set to go ahead at 10 p.m. ET despite concerns about air quality and smoke over the last several days, but that is not the case in all of Canada’s major cities.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority cited rising costs for cancelling its fireworks display last year, and said the move is now permanent.

Around Ontario, including in Niagara Falls and Pembroke, shows are being cancelled because of the effects from ongoing wildfires.

Fresh off a firework ban during St-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations last weekend, the party will be particularly muted in Quebec, where wildfires are still raging out of control and fire bans remain in place.

Montreal and Quebec City have cancelled firework shows to stand in solidarity with northern regions of the province that continue to burn.

Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Toronto are all planning to go ahead with their shows.

There are also firework shows taking place across the Atlantic provinces, including in Halifax for the first time since 2019.

David Fraser and Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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