Canada turned 157 years old today. 

To mark the holiday, Parliament Hill and LeBreton Flats became a sea of red and white as thousands gathered in downtown Ottawa to celebrate Confederation under sunny blue skies, basking in hot temperatures.  

LeBreton Flats was the centre of the festivities once again this year because Parliament Hill is under construction. The day at LeBreton featured a free concert featuring Quebec star Marie-Mai, Bedouin SoundClash, hip hop pioneer Maestro Fresh Wes, Metric, Neon Dreams and Chromeo. Activities included ESports, a fighter jet simulator, and an Indigenous Medicine Wheel bracelet making. 

The crowd gathered in front of the main stage on Lebreton Flats for a free concert. [Photo @ Victor Vigas Alvarez]

On the Hill, thousands gathered to watch and listen to the sound of bagpipes filling the air from a military marching band. Some took the opportunity to display their political opinions, brandishing messages ranging from “Every Child Matters” to anti-immigration and anti-vaccine opinions. 

As usual much of downtown was blocked off to traffic to allow the crowds to move about with OC Transpo offering free bus and OTrain transports for the holiday. 

In the skies, the Royal Canadian Air Force gave a spectacular show to mark the centennial of the service, with the famous Snowbirds flying low above downtown along with fly pasts by a diverse number of more than 40 military aircraft old and more modern including two F-35 fighter jets, Challengers, Hercules, Spitfires, Mustangs, Hurricanes, Lancasters and Chipmunks.

Not be out-done, the SkyHawks Parachute Team stunned the crowd on Wellington Street with a demonstration above LeBreton Flats that saw three members float down into the crowd using parachutes that combined to make the Canadian flag. 

Of course there was plenty of food to go around including Beavertails to help people enjoy the variety of activities on offer. 

People moved from Parliament Hill down Wellington Street to the festivities on LeBreton Flats. [Photo @ Victor Vigas Alvarez]

And there were messages from dignitaries including Gov. Gen. Mary Simon who said in a statement:

“I encourage Canadians to embrace and celebrate all our voices and all our stories. Lead with empathy, curiosity and dialogue. Advance reconciliation at every opportunity. … This is a lifelong journey, and one that is a shared responsibility.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his own video message, which was taped in British Columbia, praising Canadian values of pluralism, inclusion and fairness.

“Those are the values that hold us together as Canadians. It’s the reason so many people around the world save up everything they have and leave behind everything they know to be part of our story.”

For 11 year old Ella, Canada Day each year on Parliament Hill or LeBreton Flats with her family is all about spirit, freedom and equality. 

“Just spending time with friends and enjoying the day,” she said. “There’s gonna be a lot of planes flying around and it’s going to be really interesting to see.”

Ottawan Darlene Hilz was at LeBreton Flats to celebrate the nation’s birthday and acknowledge the importance of what it means to be a Canadian.

“It’s a celebration of our great nation. It means you get to live in freedom.”

The Precigout family was taking part in Canada’s national day during their visit to Canada from Nantes, France. 

Boris and Ambre Precigout said they were looking forward to the fireworks the most.

Dominick Kfoury is a permanent resident and soon-to-be Canadian citizen. He hails from Lebanon and was celebrating Canada Day on Parliament Hill with his wife and young son.

“It’s really good to be in Canada. It’s a very beautiful country. It means a lot to be here. Freedom is one thing that comes to mind. It’s a day for freedom.”

Kfoury is grateful to live in Canada and is optimistic about the future. 

“It’s a very good country for the future, for us and for our children,” he said. “It’s good to see my son wearing the Canadian flag.”