Reconciliation the focus as Victoria prepares to celebrate Canada Day in-person for first time since 2019

Reconciliation the focus as Victoria prepares to celebrate Canada Day in-person for first time since 2019

Canada Day fireworks will light up the night sky in downtown Victoria for the first time in three years Friday, but this year, celebrations will be through the lens of Indigenous reconciliation.

The City of Victoria announced that this year’s in-person Canada Day celebrations, the first since the start of the pandemic, will begin with a ceremonial canoe trip honouring the Lekwungen people of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

At 10:30 a.m., Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps will cross the Inner Harbour in a canoe before asking for the First Nations’ permission to come ashore at Protocol Corner, the southeast corner of the harbour.

“This year’s Victoria Canada Day has been created in the spirit of honouring the Lekwungen people and their lands and culture and to offer a fun, family-friendly and inclusive event that reflects the diversity of our community and our country,” said Helps in a statement.

“Asking for permission to come ashore aligns with traditional protocols of visitors to Indigenous lands and is a very meaningful way to honour the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.”

Esquimalt Nation Chief Rob Thomas and Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam will be present for the event as well as councillors, city staff and representatives from event sponsor Central Walk.

It’s the first time the traditional protocol will take place on Canada Day in Victoria, but it’s not all that will take place Friday to honour ongoing reconciliation efforts .

A soundtrack set to Canadian Indigenous artists will accompany this year’s fireworks display, set to take place in the Inner Harbour at 10:30 p.m., instead of the usual broadcast of the national anthem.

Council decided to make the change earlier this year after deciding on whether or not to even include fireworks in the 2022 programming.

On this year’s main stage, which has moved to Ship Point from the B.C. Legislature grounds, Indigenous blues artist Garret T. Willie will perform, and Hungry Babba’s Indigenous food truck will be present.

Opening ceremonies will begin on the main stage at noon and a food court, kids’ zone and multicultural street market will also be open from noon to 10:30 p.m.

Ship Point will close to most traffic for the day, and Wharf Street will closer later in the day between Fort and Humboldt streets. Belleville and Government streets may also be shut down depending on crowd size, according to the city.

Earlier this year, a planning committee nixed the traditional “living flag” event, in part because it’s “a lot of work” to organize and there are concerns about people squeezing together during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, including a full schedule of events and a map, visit Victoria’s Canada Day website.


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