Blend of revelry, history on Canada's 145th birthday
Published Sunday, July 1, 2012 7:22AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 2, 2012 1:20PM EDT
Parliament Hill was awash with red-and-white Sunday as thousands of patriotic Canadians gathered in Ottawa to celebrate the country’s 145th birthday.
Celebrations took on special significance this year as the nation is also marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a decisive event that essentially set the stage for the nation’s creation.
Figuresfrom the war, including national heroine Laura Ingersoll Secord who warned British forces about an impending attack, were honoured during the festivities in Ottawa.
"It was maybe a bit more attractive to people than if someone went up and did a lecture on the war," said Andrew Moull, 24. He said that he felt the War of 1812 often goes forgotten.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the battle’s 200th anniversary is an important milestone to celebrate.
"What makes the War of 1812 so significant -- it's the first time Canadians developed a common sense of nationality and that's because English-speaking Canadians, French-speaking Canadians, Aboriginal Canadians and others all bound together to resist the American invasion," he said, before joining the celebrations.
Performances from indie rock star Feist and French crooner Roch Voisine were on the docket and crowds of revellers decked out in red-and-white joined in as Canadian songstress Jully Black belted out the national anthem.
The blaring anthem was rivaled only by the thunderous sound of the Royal Canadian Air Force's iconic Snowbirds flying overhead, performing the “maple leaf burst” formation.
Afterwards, Heritage Minister James Moore approached the podium, calling the event an opportunity “to celebrate the honour of being able to call Canada home.”
With an eye to the future, he noted the nation’s 150th birthday is now only five years away.
“Let us continue to celebrate all the things that make Canada great,” Moore said.
Harper: Canada ‘the best country in the world’
In his Canada Day message, the Governor General said that from the moment of Confederation in 1867, Canada has been a unique and challenging experiment.
“Canadians work hard every day on behalf of their families, their communities and their country,” David Johnston said.
“Having met with thousands of you, I know how hard Canadians work. I also know that, regardless of age or affiliation, Canadians desire a better country.
“Each of us aspires to create a smarter, more caring nation, where everyone can succeed and contribute,” he said.
Harper touched on Canada as a proud nation with a “strong and growing economy” and a “caring and compassionate society,” in his message.
Harper also reminded Canadians of the military struggle that made Canada possible, honouring “the bravery and devotion of our men and women in uniform.”
Harper went on: “The United States is today our good neighbour and close friend, but the border was once a place of fear and hostility.”
Canadians joined together from all backgrounds 200 years ago to fight for Canada and laid the foundations for the parliamentary federation of freedom, democracy and justice we enjoy today, Harper said.
“For the best country in the world, this is a great day.”
This year's celebrations marked the first Canada Day since 2006 without a major contingent of Canadian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, as Canada's combat mission in Kandahar ended last July.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay was in Kabul, marking the day with those still in the country training Afghan security forces.
"Our personnel serving in Afghanistan continue to make great strides in their mission. Their strength, perseverance and leadership are a source of pride and inspiration for Canadians everywhere, and remind of the greatness that our country can achieve," MacKaysaid in a statement.
Internet giant Google marked Canada Day as well with a version of its popular doodle that featured a beaver wearing a crown and holding the Canadian flag.
The doodle's creator, 32-year-old Willie Real of Mountain View, Calif., said the Google doodle has become a holiday staple and Canada Day is no different.
For some people, Canada’s birthday marked a welcome end to long years of waiting to become citizens.
For others, it was a tremendous sense of achievement, and for many more, it brought simple relief.
But amid the wide array of emotions on display at a special citizenship ceremony in Toronto, one reigned supreme -- pure, infectious, joy.
Immigrants from 38 different countries gained their citizenship ahead of the national holiday.
To Shahied Gairy, Friday’s oath-taking ceremony at Pearson International Airport was like a burden being lifted from his shoulders.
“This has been the end of a very long process for us,” said Gairy, who came to Canada from Grenada seven years ago and overcame a number of challenges before claiming his citizenship.
For one younger new Canadian, becoming a citizen underscored the liberties offered by his new country.
“It means that you have freedom of expression, and you can vote," said 13-year-old Shaharyar Khan.
With files from The Canadian Press