July 1st celebrations will be postponed to August
Park Extension usually fondly celebrates Canada Day. With many immigrants as well as long-time Canadians, people want to celebrate the country that has both welcomed them and been their home for many years.
Although vaccination efforts are moving forward smoothly and new COVID-19 cases continue to drop, Canada Day celebrations will not be as ostentatious as they usually are.
In Park Extension, the usual celebrations organized by the National Bangladeshi-Canadian Council (NBCC) will be postponed until August due to concerns over COVID-19.
Normally taking place at Parc Metro in front of Provigo, the NBCC announced last Monday that they would be waiting until Aug. 13 to celebrate at the same place.
Canada Day festivities are an annual and longstanding tradition in Park Extension, attended by residents, visitors and even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The event has been taking place for over 20 years and usually comprises live music, free barbeque, face painting and children’s activities.
It allows people to celebrate Canada and being Canadian by gathering and making the most of the national holiday. But with COVID-19, traditions were changed significantly to keep people safe.
Monir Hossain, the President of the National Bangladeshi-Canadian Council who organize the event, said although it was regrettable that the celebration had to be postponed, he felt it was the safest decision.
“The Government of Quebec has procedures and still tough measures in place,” said Hossain, after he had submitted an event request for 150 people. “Especially for a small even like ours, the measures were too heavy for us,” he added.
Health regulations stipulated that there would have to be a perimeter fence, dedicated entry and exit points and early guest registration. These requirements seemed too complicated so the NBCC decided to reschedule.
“It would be very hectic for us to control that many things,” explained Hossain, adding that “it was too much regulation for a small event.”
Hossain is still confident that the situation will normalize by August and that some health restrictions will be lifted. “Last year we did it in September, so this year we are still thinking that things will be normal,” he said.
“Eventually we want more people to come in, so I think it will be okay for us,” said Hossain of the decision to host the event on Aug. 13.
As other outdoor festivals, such as the Montreal Jazz Festival, are rescheduling their dates for later in the summer, the NBCC is confident in their decision.
“I’m just focusing on my community event for Canada Day in Park Ex,” added Hossain.
Even though the normal event will not be going forward on Jul. 1, Hossain underlined that they would be doing their part to encourage residents to celebrate the holiday safely with their families.
“We still will go on July 1,” said Hossain – “we’ll distribute flags, pins and tattoos in different parks.” He explained that they would also tell residents about the postponement and invite people to come and celebrate in August.
Organizers are urging residents to celebrate individually by having barbeques or picnics with their families and following health guidelines to stay safe. “We will make sure July 1st doesn’t escape without a flag,” joked Hossainé.
Proud to be Canadian
Canada Day is an important celebration across the country, but it rings a special chord in Park Extension, a neighbourhood made up of immigrants and new Canadians from all over the world.
Hossain said that many Park Extension residents eagerly await the opportunity to celebrate Canada Day. “That makes us so proud that they carry the flags and put on the tattoos,” explained Hossain.
“They love it and the parents love it, and that is the most important thing for Park Ex,” said Hossain, explaining that it is “the most multicultural place and the new arrival station in Canada.”
“When they come and grab the flag for the first time in their hand, they feel so strong and proud,” said Hossain emotionally.
Official Canada Day celebrations will nonetheless be going forward in a virtual format this year. A variety of Canadian musicians will be taking part in a series of online concerts happening across the country.
Artists this year include Jann Arden, Les Trois Accords, Fouki and even Yukon-based Bhangra dancer Gurdeep Pandher. Canadians can tune into the Lights on Canada Day celebration on CBC Television and Radio-Canada, or by visiting Canadian Heritage’s YouTube channel.
That will be complemented by an augmented reality fireworks show that can be viewed through any smartphone. At 10 pm, a 3D fireworks show will be broadcast with accompanying music, allowing Canadians to look up at the sky and watch from their homes.