The 150th anniversary of its Confederation will be celebrated all year.
The stages are being constructed. The props are being designed. The performers are rehearsing. And the people are beginning to gather to rejoice in their rich past and look toward their bright future. The curtain has been pulled back on one of the biggest, boldest birthday bashes in the world, and Canada, the country of honor, wants you to join in the celebration.
On July 1, 1867, Canada was officially born when the British North America Act of 1867 (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867) was put into effect, uniting the British North American colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada (consisting of Québec and Ontario) under the single banner of a new nation. Notwithstanding the Rebellions of 1837 in then-Upper and Lower Canada, the Confederation of Canada was brought about not by a succession of bloody battles but by what is commonly described, for the most part, as a series of well-ordered conferences and negotiations, planting the seeds that would ultimately grow the country over the next century-and-a-half into the vast, diverse nation—comprising 10 provinces and three territories—that it is today.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, and to honor this milestone, Canada is welcoming the world to its yearlong, countrywide celebration featuring a slew of special events and unique attractions. The federal government has announced 38 Signature Projects that will showcase Canada’s history and heritage, while scores of smaller local celebrations will ring throughout Canadian communities from coast to coast. There’s never been a better time than now to pay a visit to our friendly next-door neighbors.
A major draw of the celebration for visitors and residents alike is free admission throughout 2017 to Canada’s national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada, as well as no lockage fees for Parks Canada’s historic canals and waterways. From Atlantic Canada, Québec, and Ontario to the Canadian Prairies, Western Canada, and North Canada, every region of Parks Canada will be brimming with activity, from camping, paddling, and hiking to learning about history, archaeology, and indigenous cultures.
Wherever you find your fun, look for the ubiquitous Red Chairs, red Adirondack chairs selectively placed in the parks, inviting you to relax and absorb the postcard-perfect landscape in more than 100 of the country’s most dramatic locations.
Kids can also get in on the action by becoming Xplorers as they participate in activities tailored to highlight the must-see, must-do features of nearly 100 sites.
For a small fee, you can enhance your visit by immersing yourself in a Signature Experience such as the ever-popular Soldier for a Day (offered May through October) at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site in Nova Scotia. Here, you’ll suit up in uniform to join the 78th Highlanders and the Third Brigade Royal Artillery as you guard the fort, participate in practice drills, and dine in a mess hall.
Another favorite experience welcomes you to embark on a professionally guided hike to Burgess Shale locations—world-renowned animal fossil sites—in Yoho or Kootenay National Parks in the Canadian Rockies, where you can hold fossils estimated to be 505 million years old. Simply staying overnight in a Parks Canada campground (standard fees apply) is an adventure in itself when you glamp in a new oTENTik, a hybrid of a tent and a rustic cabin that comes with comfy beds and a campsite already prepped and ready to enjoy Canada’s wide-open spaces.
Celebrations will also echo throughout Canada’s cities and cultural centers. The country’s capital of Ottawa in Ontario will be a major hub of activity, billing itself as “the” place to celebrate the 150th anniversary. From May 20 to September 4, the Inspiration Village, an artistic installation erected out of sea containers, takes center stage in historic Byward Market as the premier venue for special exhibits and performing arts events that put each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories in the spotlight.
Sports fans will want to celebrate a hat trick of hockey history as Canada marks the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup, the centennial of the National Hockey League and the 25th season of the Ottawa Senators. Join in the fun on select dates in March with a gala, meet-and-greets, a tribute concert and more.
From March 10 to Oct. 9, the Canadian Museum of History will present an exhibition exploring this beloved national sport, and come December, a monument commemorating the birth of the Stanley Cup will be unveiled on Sparks Street, just steps from the place where Frederick Stanley, the sixth Governor General of Canada, first publicly announced the concept of a national hockey cup; here, along this pedestrian mall, the monument will soon become a permanent fixture.
This summer, Signature Events will permeate the city with a Canada Day (July 1) celebration at the Shaw Centre, complete with fireworks, food and entertainment; the first-ever interprovincial picnic on the Alexandra Bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau on July 2; and a Sky Lounge, where 22 patrons at a time can strap into their seats to dine on a platform hoisted via crane 150 feet in the air for a bird’s-eye view of the capital (available from July 15 to 22). Also on the slate sometime this summer, the capital will host a multimedia show projected on the walls of a Light Rail Transit station that is currently under construction; a major street performance featuring over-the-top machines; and a two-day outdoor music concert, YOWttawa. Also keep watch for Ignite 150, a lineup of 17 impromptu events that will pop up in unexpected places throughout the city (think everything from dance performances in city fountains to fire juggling in public squares), and sample the best of farm-to-fork cuisine during Agri 150, featuring more than 20 one-day outdoor events, including rural fairs, winery and storytelling tours, and cycling eco-tours, throughout the year.
While the capital is a prime venue for the big bash, it’s not the only must-experience destination in 2017, of course. From Toronto, Montréal, Québec City, and Halifax in the East, to Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, and Edmonton in the West—and everywhere in between—Canadian cities will pull out all the stops with a showcase of anniversary festivities that capture the spirit of the country’s past and present and put you smack-dab in the middle of the excitement.
Among the most-anticipated projects is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Canada Mosaic, a series of creative collaborations that cut across all music genres that will be performed in dozens of shows across the country by not only the Toronto orchestra, which is organizing the series, but by other city orchestras and ensembles as well.
The celebrations will also extend beyond land when Rendez-vous 2017 sets sail. Throughout the year, more than 40 tall ships will ply the waters and make stops at host ports in Ontario, Québec, and the Canadian Maritimes (comprising of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), where they’ll welcome visitors onboard for tours and serve as the epicenter of port parties punctuated with fireworks, parades, and street performances. Québec City will be the main rallying point on this tour of Canadian waters. The fleet, along with its over 3,000 crew members, will be in the Port of Québec for a grand celebration from July 18 to 23, 2017. A host of free activities is planned for families and visitors.
Any city is a good place and any time during 2017 is a good time to discover the fascinating history and diverse culture of Canada, especially during the Celebrate Canada period, June 21 to July 1, says Geneviève Dubois-Richard, a spokesperson for the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Celebrate Canada kicks off with National Aboriginal Day (a celebration of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada) on June 21, follows with Saint-Jean Baptiste Day (the feast day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist) and La Fête nationale du Québec (a festival of French Canadian culture) in Québec on June 24, continues with Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27, and culminates with Canada Day on July 1.
“The 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation marks an important milestone for our nation and provides a unique opportunity to strengthen our sense of what it means to be Canadian,” says Dubois-Richard.
The party is already starting, and the gracious hosts live right next door. So grab your passport and head out to visit Our Neighbors to the North in 2017. It promises to be a party to remember.
Stacy Tillilie is contributing editor of AAA World magazine.
March/April 2017 Issue
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