History Slam Episode 153: Canada Day in the Capital During Covid

By Sean Graham

In a normal year, July 1 has a very distinct feeling in Ottawa. In the same way that Fridays can have a feeling, you don’t need a calendar to know that it’s Canada Day in the capital. Streets downtown are closed, thousands of people flood Parliament Hill, and the city is awash in red and white. There are live musical performances, national museums offer free admission, and the crush of people leaving after the evening fireworks is a sight to behold.

In the midst of the pandemic, however, all that changed. There were no live performances, no fireworks, and the museums haven’t been open for months. In the final weeks of June, people in the city were wondering how the holiday would feel without the typical activities – and tourists – that mark July 1.

In this episode of the History Slam, I explore Ottawa on July 1. I talk with Aaron Boyes, Megan Reilly-Boyes, and Sarah E.K. Smith about Canada Day traditions before walking around the city to get a feel for a truly unique Canada Day. I visit Parliament Hill, Major Hill Park, the Rideau Canal, and the Museum of Nature and discuss what was different in the city this year.

Sean Graham is a historian with Parks Canada, an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University, and the host/producer of the History Slam.

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