Canada 150 ends on a cold note for much of the country

But Heritage Minister Melanie Joly says Canadians celebrated warmly

Melanie Joly is the first to acknowledge Canada 150 had its share of ups and downs.

She doesn’t shy away from mentioning the torrential rains that flooded Parliament Hill’s Canada Day show and tries to laugh off the frosty temperatures that forced the cancellation of many New Year’s Eve events, including musical shows planned for Parliament Hill.

“We’re Canadians,” she says. “We’re used to dealing with Mother Nature.”

But Joly believes strongly the things Canadians will walk away with at the end of Canada’s big birthday bash won’t involve the weather.

“I think it was a success in terms of creating great memories for Canadians,” she said. “I really have a feeling of gratitude towards Canadians that really decided to embrace this unique occasion and unique opportunity and make it the best for themselves and for all.”

Heritage Canada budgeted $200 million for Canada 150 events and programming. Another $300 million went to a Canada 150 infrastructure project to upgrade community ice rinks and public parks. Parks Canada spent about $76 million to make national parks free for the year.

Joly said the goal was to invest in projects and “moments Canadians will remember.”

“I think that is one of the legacies is these memories Canadians will have about what they did on Canada Day, which projects went through their communities and how they celebrated,” she said.

For Joly, the story isn’t in the amount of rain or the freezing December. It’s in the numbers of people who joined in.

Heritage Canada says 87 per cent of Canadians participated in at least one Canada 150 event, with 31 million people overall.

There were 5,800 Canada 150 events across the country throughout the year, many of which drew enormous crowds. La Machine, a French theatrical performance involving giant robotic dragon and spider, attracted 750,000 people to downtown Ottawa in just four days in July, three times the expected turnout.

Free national parks and historic sites drew a record 27.3 million people through their gates. There was the 50,000-person strong Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, 1.4 million people who attended the tall ships events at ports in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, and the biggest National Acadian Day in history.

The New York Times and Lonely Planet both ranked Canada as the number one place to visit in 2017 and international and domestic tourism was up 3.1 per cent for the year. That was led by a 7.1 per cent increase in overseas visitors and 2.7 per cent increase in American tourists, making it Canada’s biggest year for international tourism ever.

Ottawa, where many of the Canada 150 events were centred, saw overnight visits increase 5.5 per cent, the biggest for any city in the country. Montreal came in a close second at 5.1 per cent.

Guy Laflamme, the head of the non-profit Ottawa 2017 agency assigned to develop a year-long celebration in the nation’s capital, said from his perspective it was a “huge success.”

“I think we’ve changed the perception people have about Ottawa,” said Laflamme.

Laflamme said it is also important to note the entire year went off without a major security incident, a threat that hung heavy over anyone planning a public event in the era of Islamic State terrorist cells.

Some Indigenous youth made known they didn’t feel like there was a reason to celebrate, erecting a teepee on Parliament Hill on the Canada Day weekend as a protest. But that helped draw attention to the issues of reconciliation and Joly says it shows Canada can have a mature conversation about our weaknesses.

“Although the past 150 years have been far from perfect for Indigenous people I think this was a pivotal moment in time and I think there was more dialogue and openness on the part of non-Indigenous communities this year,” she said.

One-quarter of Canada 150 events were aimed at the reconciliation theme.

Chief Robert Joseph, the ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, said reconciliation is not an overnight event and one year isn’t going to tell its story.

“There are going to be a million little steps but every time we take one of them it’s progress,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Advocates call safe drug supply a victory but worry about logistics in pandemic

Pandemic contributes to scarce supply, advocates worried about potential impact on the streets

Greater Victoria survey shows third of respondents did not pay, or partially paid rent for April

Survey of 70 respondents says 40 per cent expect they will not be able to pay May rent

City of Victoria looks to shift tens of millions in 2020 budget due to COVID-19

Mayor Lisa Helps offers her daily municipal, provincial and federal updates

Nanaimo, Royal Jubilee to be Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 frontline hospitals

Other Island hospitals will be admitting COVID-19 patients and will be used in a support role

BC Transit extends free fare, installs vinyl barriers in some buses

Free fare will now be offered until April 30

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

75-year-old woman rescued from Cowichan Lake

Victim taken to hospital, but expected to recover

Not to become bored the game plan for COVID-19

Board game with an Island map developed by Island family just the remedy for filling time at home

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read