Canada has some big news this year, and if you haven’t heard yet, it’s time to get excited… 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday! This year, Canada celebrates 150 years since the creation of its confederation. In celebration, hundreds of events are being held across the country throughout the year. If you’re already clued up on our article introducing Canada 150+ last summer, there’s even more to look forward to. With July 1 approaching – the official date of the confederation and the national holiday, Canada Day – it’s time to share some of the top celebrations to take part in if you are enjoying a holiday to Canada this season. So, here is our handy guide to some of the biggest and most unique events and activities to enjoy for Canada 150+ this summer!
Music and theatre
13 – 17 September, Ottawa
CityFolk Festival is not an event specifically created for Canada 150, but it makes for the perfect way to celebrate if popular music is your thing.
This year, CityFolk Festival features big-name acts such as Vance Joy, James Bay and Vanilla Fudge, meaning that there is a performance to please every taste. Spread over four days at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, this festival features not just music, but dance, artisan vendors, a craft beer fair and much more. If you’re planning a family holiday to Canada, you’ll be pleased to hear that there is also a BSOMA KidZone offering special children’s and family performances on Saturday & Sunday 1-6pm.
The festival founders say: “We are family-friendly, community-focused, culturally diverse and committed to sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives” – very fitting with Canada’s forward-thinking ethics!
Ottawa is a great destination to visit for the 150+ anniversary, as the capital boasts the biggest celebrations in the country, with big parties and a buzzing atmosphere. If you’re looking for even more fantastic musical events to enjoy in the capital this year, head to one of the activities hosted by Ignite 150. This impressive series of stunts will astound visitors in every corner of the city, with events including the Scavenger Hunt – a Canadiana themed city-wide hunt using current affairs and 150 years of our country’s iconic history, to the Oyster Garden – an oyster feast in a multimedia garden on the roof of the Canadian War Museum.
The organisers tell us:
“Ignite 150 uses innovation and surprise to elicit an emotional connection with participants and create cherished, unforgettable moments for them as we celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial,” says Guy Laflamme, Executive Director of the Ottawa 2017 Bureau. “These unique events, held in scenic locations, present a very vibrant and dynamic side of Ottawa, with breathtaking visuals that visitors will want to share around the globe on social media.”
Montreal Jazz Festival
28 June – 8 July, Montreal
Montreal Jazz Festival is another of Canada’s landmark festivals, bringing the best of international jazz music to Quebec for almost forty years. Right in the heart of the city centre, the festival hosts over 600 concerts with 3,000 musicians from across 30 countries. In addition, 130 animation artists create dazzling displays, and 400 activities entertain guests in every way imaginable.
This year, Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite and Lucky Peterson will wow in a triple bill of major-league blues in the Place des Arts, while other star performers include Charlotte Cardin and many others. An iconic event in the Canadian music calendar, there could be no better way to celebrate Canada’s 150th year of confederation.
Jacques-André Dupont, festival CEO, says: “As the forthcoming 38th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal gradually reveals itself, we are delighted to see how deeply the Festival is now woven into the very fabric of the city. This 38-year love affair between Montreal and its festival means 38 years of music in the streets, of emotion, excitement, surprises and shared moments.
“Every year, the Festival brings in the world’s greatest artists, revealing unknown treasures and keeping the flame of a vibrant music scene alive. The story continues this year, and we take great pleasure in presenting this complete indoor program, a confluence of genres, styles, influences and generations; a program in which legends cross paths with new artists on the rise, where a delicious nostalgia meets a forward-looking future. So if you want to experience the biggest, wildest and most dazzling jazz festival on the planet, it couldn’t be easier… join us!”
30 June- 3 July, Toronto
A city-wide celebration, Canada Days presents more than 130 performances by emerging and established artists from across Canada with international guest artists at four locations across Toronto, including a four-day festival at Nathan Phillips Square from June 30 to July 3, and one-day events at Mel Lastman Square, Humber Bay Park West and Scarborough Civic Centre on July 1st.
Shane Gerard from the City of Toronto tells us: “Canada Days will bring Canada’s rich cultural fabric to life through its diverse mix of music, dance, circus, street arts, fireworks, and food and beverage. Canada Days headliners include Barenaked Ladies, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ron Sexsmith and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) with special guest Rose Cousins, dvsn and Belly at Nathan Phillips Square, as well as Basia Bulat and DakhaBrakha at Humber Bay Park West, Busty and the Bass at Mel Lastman Square and Deen Squad and Horsepowar at Scarborough Civic Centre.”
The Canada Show at Vancouver Fringe Festival
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7 – 17 September, Vancouver
If theatre is your calling, you will absolutely love the Vancouver Fringe Festival. On the other side of Canada in Vancouver, B.C., this celebration of theatre features more than 800 performances by over 90 artists across 11 days. In a true example of Canadian diplomacy, the mainstage acts for the festival are drawn out of a hat, giving every artist the chance to participate.
The Vancouver Fringe Festival also offers the chance to experience unique site-specific theatre where artists stage their work in the most picturesque spots of Granville Island.
One of the most popular shows for Vancouver Fringe Presents this year is The Canada Show. Originally created in 2001 by Monster Theatre Company, The Canada Show toured non-stop for a decade and, for Canada’s 150th Anniversary, is back for the party! The festival explains that, “Featuring brand new updated material, re-cast with one First Nations actor, one female actor and one Francophone actor, this new version promises inclusivity and diversity to go along with its irreverence and hilarity.”
Debby from the Fringe tells us, “The Canada Show is a great way to celebrate Canada! It uses Canadian references to tell Canadian stories. Just imagine Bob and Doug MacKenzie explaining the Cold War or Justin ‘Beaver’ telling you about the Fur Trade. History has never been this much fun!”
If you want to understand 15,000 years of Canadian history in a fun and light-hearted way, this is the perfect show to watch for Canada 150+. Three comedic historians will also try to jam 15,000 years of Canadian history into just one hour! The show takes you from the Bering Strait to Justin Trudeau in 60 side-splitting minutes!
Canada 150 Drumming
1 July, across Canada
If you’re a real music lover and want to get involved in the action for Canada 150+, you’re in luck. This year, the Canada 150 Drumming programme brings multicultural drumming events to eight cities across the country. On July 1st, these celebrations will feature simultaneous percussion workshops to celebrate unity, create understanding and embrace diversity.
Richard Wong, National Chair of The Legacy 150 Celebrations Society who created the event, comments: “We believe it is one of the biggest celebrations from coast to coast to coast.
“We are very glad to be joined by the Committee Chairs from Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax today. It is a historic moment and we invite the public to join in the celebration.”
So why not head to the event if you’re visiting one of these prime locations? You can participate in this first-ever nationwide drumming event in a number of ways, including a Guinness World Record attempt, , where participants will aim to set the record for “Most Nationalities in a Drum Circle” of a recognized orchestral piece of music lasting at least five minutes. The event will also feature several multicultural drumming performances, and simultaneous drumming across 8 cities. Even if you’re not a percussionist by trade, witnessing this attempt will be a sight (and sound!) to behold.
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The Call for Submissions for ART EXPRESS'D/EXPRIMÉ has been extended until this Friday, October 14 at 5pm.⠀ ⠀ ART EXPRESS'D is a #Canada150 signature project that will see three shipping containers converted into mobile art studios and travel across Canada. See wag.ca for details. ⠀ #Canada150 #WAG150 #cbc2017 #callforsubmissions⠀
The 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation has provoked many artists across the country to develop their own conceptual pieces celebrating the nation’s history. One of these is Art Express’d, an installation developed by the Winnipeg Art Gallery. This project will involve three artists – Jessie Buchanan, Evin Collis and Becky Thiessen – travelling around the nation with four 20-foot metal shipping containers transformed into mobile art studios.
Three of the containers will set out from Canada’s three coasts – journeying from Inuvik, St. John’s, and Alert Bay and stopping in at least 16 different locations en route to Winnipeg. At each destination, these talented artists will work with local galleries and partners to create interactive installations that visitors can truly engage with. The fourth container will be located at The Forks National Historic Site in Winnipeg, and will feature art-making activities for the public.
Dr Stephen Borys, Director and CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, says: “What better way to unite the country during Canada’s 150th year than by bringing art to communities as part of this historic journey? We can’t wait to see how artists connect with Canadians along the way as we highlight the country’s unique natural geography and cultural diversity.”
Canada 150 Mosaic
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Year-round, across Canada
The spirit of Canada 150+ is rooted in collaboration, so it is no surprise that many of the projects launched to mark the occasion are based around participatory crafts. One of the biggest of these is the Canada 150 Mosaic.
Here, around 80,000 to 100,000 Canadians will be painting small tiles with their own unique creations to represent their lives and what Canada means to them. In each province, the tiles are then joined together to form a unified gigantic mural.
The organisers comment: “The mural will represent a cultural mosaic, a time capsule, a visual portrayal of history, an art masterpiece from the soul of the nation. An art piece that fifty years from now, may inspire another generation, who will in turn be able to celebrate through the mural, and maybe take it upon themselves to add to this memory.”
Phil Alain from the festival tells us that the great thing about the Canada 150 Mosaic project is that, “for years after this legacy project is complete, Canadians can tour the country stopping in different cities and see all the different murals created by proud Canadians.” So, wherever you are visiting in Canada this year, look out for these tile-painting workshops and the finished murals to see, in the form of art, just what makes Canadians who they are.
Points of View portrait exhibition
From 23 June, Winnipeg
In recent years, Canada has emerged as a global example of civil and human rights progress, from taking in refugees to passing equality laws with enthusiasm. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a testament to this progress, as is their project for Canada 150+.
The question they posed was ‘How can you capture human rights through the lens of a camera?’ They put this question to the nation’s creatives, and between September and December 31, 2016, received 984 submissions of photographs around four themes: diversity and inclusion; the environment; reconciliation; and freedom of expression.
A jury from a variety of backgrounds in areas such as visual art, literature, law, media studies, journalism and human rights reviewed each submission and selected 70 images to be featured in the Museum’s Level 1 Gallery in their Points of View exhibition.
Visit the museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba to see photos such as ‘While She Waits for Raif’ by Caroline Custeau, which depicts Ensaf Haidar waiting courageously for the release of her husband, Raif Badawi, who was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia after being sentenced to 10 years and 1000 lashes for material contained on his blog. These powerful stories honour the incredible citizens of Canada and the importance of liberty the country upholds.
The Indigenous Arts Festival and National Aboriginal Day
21-25 June, Fort York and Toronto
The Indigenous Arts Festival will be celebrating the long history of First Nations communities in Canada in a festival from June 21 to 25 at Fort York National Historic Site. The Indigenous Arts Festival celebrates traditional and contemporary music, dance, theatre, literature, storytelling, visual arts, crafts and food created by indigenous artists from across Canada. Highlights of the festival include a free outdoor screening on June 22 of the acclaimed National Film Board musical documentary The Road Forward, evening performances by Crystal Shawanda and Nick Sherman on June 24, and a day performance by Twin Flames and the Red Spirit Singers on June 25.
In celebration of National Aboriginal History Month in June, Toronto will also see performances from Juno-Award-winning artists William Prince and Susan Aglukark as part of National Aboriginal Day on June 21. Their shows will be followed by Aboriginal Day Live, an eight-city event and live concert broadcast by Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) featuring notable indigenous artists.
Throughout summer, Ottawa
If you are visiting Ottawa, a trip to see the impressive architecture of the Parliamentary buildings is sure to be on your itinerary. However, for Canada 150+, you can get an even greater insight into the workings of Canada’s political history with a guided tour featuring the special exhibit ‘Foundations: The Words that Shaped Canada’. Here, a selection of Canada’s foundational documents are on display in a new exhibit in the Library of Parliament spanning from the birth of the confederation in 1867 up to 1982.
Tanya Sirois from the Library of Parliament explains: “This exhibit at the Library of Parliament brings together six of the most important documents in Canadian history – from the British North America Act (which created Canada) to the Proclamation of the Constitution Act (which gave it full independence). Visitors will discover how Parliament has helped shape Canada from 1867 to the present day. The exhibit can be seen as part of a guided tour of Parliament.”
Powwows and races in dinosaur country
1 July, Drumheller Alberta
The Canada 150+ project is not solely based on the celebration of the confederation but also aims to recognise the much longer history of the land we now know as Canada. Both in terms of geography and human settlement, Canada stretches back thousands of years.
For an alternative history of Canada, one brilliant location to visit is Drumheller, an ancient area in the Badlands of Alberta. Often referred to as Dinosaur Valley, head to Drumheller to discover the world’s largest collection of dinosaur fossils and explore the prehistoric lands these fantastic creatures roamed.
Drumheller is also a fantastic day out for those wishing to learn more about the First Nations history of Canada. On Canada Day, the 1 of July, the Badlands Community Facility will be hosting a powwow of Soksika dancers and drummers, displaying their sacred traditions to foster understanding among visitors.
Alternatively, the Dinosaur Downs Speedway will be celebrating Canada Day with an antique tractor pull, race car displays, games and other surprises. Between all of this excitement, be sure to take a hike around the Badlands to witness the curious rock formations and hoodoos that have been standing for millions of years.
Canada: Day 1
At The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, a series truly meaningful and fun events have been taking place to celebrate Canada 150+. Jennifer Sutherland explains the history of the museum, saying, “Pier 21 is a former gateway to Canada where from between 1928-1971 almost one million immigrants first arrived in Canada. During the second world war, the majority of troops serving overseas departed from Pier 21. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians have a connection to this former immigration shed on the Halifax waterfront. Now a national museum and national historic site, as a museum of stories, we not only interpret the Pier 21 years but also Canada’s larger immigration story from the first contact to contemporary times.”
This year, the museum is running its Canada: Day 1 project, which has been travelling across the country in one form or another since 2014. But, on July 1st this year, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of History will see a full version of the event, where newcomers’ unique and shared experiences — across time and cultures — are highlighted through oral histories, archival images, original artworks, objects and visitor participation. Jennifer explains, “Organized into themes of Transitions, Arrival, Encounters, Finding Your Way and Reflections, these personal stories allow visitors to see the country through an immigrant’s eyes — or relive their own first day in Canada.”
Calgary Stampede TransAlta Grandstand Show
7 – 16 July, Calgary
The mythology of the Canadian West is a huge part of the country’s history, so it makes sense that this is acknowledged for Canada 150+.
If you are visiting Calgary, the Calgary Stampede should always be on your ‘to-do’ list, as you can witness skilled cowboys and cowgirls perform breath-taking rodeos, chuckwagon shows and much more.
However, this year there’s even more reason to visit as the centre’s show, ‘Together’ marks Canada’s milestone birthday with spectacular stunts, grand imagery and the breath-taking performances from the TransAlta Grandstand Show.
Some of the incredible acts participating in this variety show include The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede, Alberta Ballet and many others. The whole thing is produced by Dave Pierce, an Emmy Award-winning producer who won the Outstanding Music Direction award in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics opening and closing ceremonies.
He says: “The Olympic ceremonies set a benchmark for showcasing Canada. Together will be the biggest, most visually spectacular show yet, an extravaganza not to be missed — made right here at home just for the Calgary Stampede.”
Whistler Cultural Connector
If you’re heading to Canada’s natural playground, Whistler, there are plenty of activities to celebrate Canada 150+ from the ancient mountains themselves. The Whistler Cultural Connector programme is one perfect way to explore the beautiful landscape of Whistler, visiting some of the area’s top Canadian institutions along the way, to learn about the history and culture of the area.
Discover attractions such as the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, a museum proudly presenting the cultures of the local First Nations peoples, the Maury Young Arts Centre, a community art gallery, theatre and vibrant hub of youth culture, and the Lost Lake PassivHaus park, which was the home base of Team Austria during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and boasts sandy beaches and pristine lakes for swimming and canoeing, plus almost 100 kilometres of hiking and biking trails to enjoy in the summer sun.
Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, the Mayor of Whistler, comments:
“With a backdrop of Whistler’s majestic mountains, pristine river, and vibrant pedestrian-oriented Village, the Cultural Connector links six significant cultural institutions in Whistler and identifies stories that enrich Whistler’s culture and our achievements as a community.
“Whistler’s Cultural Connector is a marvellous way of exploring Whistler’s culture and history while taking a scenic stroll or bike in Whistler Village. The route is marked with signs and banners.”
Image credits: CityFolk Festival / City of Toronto / Ottawa 2017 / Benoit Rousseau (Montreal Jazz Festival) / Canada 150 Drumming / Canadian Museum for Human Rights / Canadian Tulip Festival / Mike Crane (Tourism Whistler)