OTTAWA — Tens of thousands of Canadians — and more than a few wannabe Canadians — are expected to descend on the national capital this weekend to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. Here are five things you should know:
1.Security will be tight. An unprecedented security perimeter has been erected around the main staging area on Parliament Hill. Large white tents have been set up west and east of the parliamentary precinct where partygoers are subjected to searches and screened with metal detectors. Ottawa police say every officer not on a pre-arranged leave has been ordered to work the July 1 weekend. The Mounties have also enlisted volunteers from their Ottawa headquarters to complement their regular force on duty.
2.The lineup is already tight. A host of musical performers and entertainers are scheduled to join in the celebrations, including country singer Dean Brody, Walk Off The Earth, folk musician Gordon Lightfoot, pop artist Alessia Cara and Cirque du Soleil. While Canada Day in Ottawa is typically an all-Canadian affair, U2 members Bono and the Edge are expected to give the Canada 150 celebrations an international flavour, with plans to perform a single number.
3.The crowds will be enormous — and probably damp. Security officials said they are preparing for crowds that could reach 450,000 in number throughout Ottawa over the weekend. However, with the forecast calling for a significant chance of rain, and even severe thunder and lightning, those estimates may dwindle as revellers seek shelter.
4. Indigenous protesters are welcome. Aboriginal activists have erected a teepee on Parliament Hill — after having initially been denied access — to raise awareness of what they call Canada's "dark chapter" in the treatment of Indigenous Peoples by successive past governments, and to raise awareness of the fact that the lands on which the national Canada Day celebrations are held are unceded Algonquin territory.
5. The day will end with a bang — weather permitting. There's no better place in the country to watch a fireworks display than on Parliament Hill. This year, however, event organizers are billing the show as "the largest pyrotechnic show ever presented in the capital region." Fireworks are to be launched from five different locations, including 15,000 individual fireworks and 150 aerial shells of calibres up to 300 millimetres, all synchronized to music. The show, barring rain, is expected to last 20 minutes, beginning at 11 p.m. ET.