It is important that we as a city have discussions about how and why we celebrate Canada. The City of Calgary’s Arts and Culture team recently made the decision to hold a lower-altitude pyrotechnic show at Fort Calgary on Canada Day in response to several challenges. This news came to the public and Council as a surprise, as neither the public nor Council had been involved in the decision-making process.
Many Calgarians, myself included, travel from across the city to our many beautiful lookouts to celebrate our own hopes and beliefs for what Canada is and can be. Traditionally, Canada Day has not been a day of learning, but rather a day of celebration. As we honour our histories in full, how Canadians commemorate this day is growing and changing, and Calgarians want to be involved in this discussion. There are some great questions that have arisen from this discussion. However, the decision to hold a smaller event has been met with frustration because of a lack of public input.
City Administration has been receiving a great deal of feedback from Calgarians over the last few days, and I support Administration’s decision to add an aerial fireworks display to this year's Canada Day celebrations.
Many have expressed interest in more detail about some of the challenges that were considered. I can offer a few points of reflection:
In the past, Calgary has used the Centre Street Bridge for Canada Day fireworks. Centre Street bridge is adorned with Chinese Cultural symbols as it ushers Calgarians into Chinatown. After some consultation, this location was inappropriate, especially considering our recent efforts regarding the Chinatown cultural plan, and the newly renamed Harmony Park.
Municipal Plaza as a location for the fireworks presented the City with some challenges as well. Underneath any set of high-altitude fireworks is an area cordoned off due to debris, smoke, and ash falling from the fireworks display.
On City Hall steps, in the debris zone, is the residential school memorial. Last year's Canada fireworks actually rained down ash on the memorial while the City celebrated Canada day. Indigenous community members stood in the debris zone trying to protect the memorial. Raining smouldering debris onto a memorial for residential school victims is not an appropriate way of celebrating Canada.
Some Indigenous community members have called for pausing the fireworks. This call is not unanimous. It is always important to never treat any ethno-cultural group as a monolith. We are all diverse, and all deserving of being heard and seen.
Other locations were sought, however, many locations were unable to accommodate the fireworks due to their own celebrations and preparations for future events. Environmentally, there are several commitments to preserve the natural landscape that were also considered given the potential locations for fireworks. As we continue to shift locations, new risks are posed.