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2014-07-01 at 15:45

National celebration

Prime Minister Stephen Harper smiles as has his picture taken with a Canada Day celebrant on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday July 1, 2014.
Fred Chartrand, The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Stephen Harper smiles as has his picture taken with a Canada Day celebrant on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday July 1, 2014.
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By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston are marking key moments in the country's history as part of this year's Canada Day celebrations.

It was 150 years ago that politicians from Canada East (Quebec), Canada West (Ontario), and the Maritime provinces met at two key conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec City. They hammered out the foundation of a political consensus that led to Confederation in 1867.

"As we mark the 147th anniversary of Confederation, we can proudly say that their great national dream has indeed come to fruition," Harper said in his Canada Day statement.

"Today, as we celebrate with family and loved ones, let's remember what makes our Canada the best country in the world. It's the moms and dads who pass on to their children Canadian values: working hard, doing what's right, and determination to be our best."

Johnston and Harper warmly greeted one on Parliament Hill at noon on a steamy summer's day before the governor general inspected the ceremonial guard, sweltering in their heavy red coats and tall fur hats.

The Snowbirds, trailing red vapour in honour of Canada Day, roared in formation overhead to the delight of the crowd.

The city of Charlottetown, meantime, is celebrating Canada Day this year with a major festival, featuring musical performances by the Barenaked Ladies and Tegan and Sara, among others. Some of the activities are taking place at Confederation Landing Park, the spot where some of the fathers of Confederation arrived by boat to begin their historic talks.

In his Canada Day message, Johnston noted that Canada's big 150th birthday is only three years away.

"Now is the time to decide who we want to be on that auspicious day," Johnston said. "Will we be a compassionate nation? Will we look beyond our borders to create a better world? Will our country set the global bar for kindness and caring, or will the bar be set for us?

"What kind of country will your Canada be?"

Tens of thousands of revellers began flowing onto Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning for the annual Canada Day show. Ottawa's downtown core takes on a carnival atmosphere, with every corner jammed with buskers, food trucks and revellers dressed in funky wigs and hats.

Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield was to fly over Parliament Hill later in the day with the Snowbirds aerobatic team, and then sign autographs at the Canadian Aviation Museum.

Hadfield recalled the moment in his life he felt most Canadian — a 2001 spacewalk outside the International Space Station. He had been helping to assemble the Canadarm robotic device, and as he finished, his colleagues played the national anthem for him.

"There I was, floating weightless in space, crossing the east coast of Canada, listening to 'O Canada' be sung for the whole world to hear," Hadfield said in an interview.

"I actually tried to straighten out my spacesuit as much as I could, and stand at attention to honour that song. I've always been a proud Canadian, but to have the Canada flag on my shoulder at the time as Canada's first space walker, that made me as proudly Canadian as any moment in my whole life."

The Canadian Press
© The Canadian Press, 2014

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