Watch Canada Day special coverage from CBC News

By | July 1, 2020

A different kind of Canada Day dawned this morning, with large celebrations in many parts of the country replaced with backyard barbecues and digital events.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of high-profile events like the annual pomp and pageantry on Parliament Hill in favour of online offerings to keep crowds from gathering.

The Ottawa shows will be streamed at midday and in the evening and will be followed by virtual fireworks, all part of a buffet of digital activities Canadian Heritage has curated.

The 53 bells of the Peace Tower will still ring today, with two special recitals streamed live.

CBC News is streaming a live Canada Day special, centred on the theme of celebrating those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and at the forefront of protests against anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. Coverage begins Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET and can be streamed in the player above.

“The last few months have been difficult for all Canadians, but throughout this pandemic, we have been there for one another,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. 

“Canada’s success is because of its people. People who strive to live up to our shared values of peace, equality, and compassion, and know that diversity is our strength.”

In some parts of the country, crowds may be able to gather for actual fireworks displays, including in Alberta.

On Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer, said that up to 200 people could gather for audience-type outdoor community events such as fireworks and festivals.

“Celebrate Canada Day safely,” she tweeted. “Wear a mask, wash your hands and stay (two metres) apart.”

As of 7 a.m. ET on Canada Day, the country had 104,204 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 67,592 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,639.

WATCHRespirologist talks about COVID-19 on Canada Day:

‘I won’t be physically meeting with friends or family for Canada Day,’ says Dr. Samir Gupta. He remains concerned about how fast the coronavirus can spread.   3:03

A group of medical workers in B.C. received a Canada Day video call from Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, on Wednesday morning. Kensington Palace said the royals spoke to front-line workers at Surrey Memorial Hospital about their experiences treating patients with COVID-19 and the mental health impacts of the pandemic.

“Catherine and I are proud of all of you and of everyone on the front line who has led the way very stoically and very bravely, and put patient care right at the top of the list,” William said. “You’ve done a fantastic job.”

Governor General honours ‘remarkable Canadians’

Governor General Julie Payette is recognizing 123 Canadians for their skills, courage or dedication to service with a decoration for bravery, a meritorious service decoration, or the volunteer medal.

The list of “remarkable Canadians” is in place of the traditional Canada Day announcement of new Order of Canada members.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented members of the Order of Canada advisory panel from meeting.

Among those honoured for their bravery are five people who tried to stop a gunman who opened fire inside a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, 2017, killing six people.

Azzedine Soufiane, who died trying to stop the attacker, is being posthumously awarded the Star of Courage, the second-highest award for bravery in Canada after the Cross of Valour. Four survivors of the attack — Said Akjour, Hakim Chambaz, Aymen Derbali and Mohamed Khabar — are among 13 people receiving the Medal of Bravery.

Construction was ongoing on the front lawn of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa on Tuesday. Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill were cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Another 21 people are receiving the Meritorious Service Cross, including Jonathan Pitre, the 17-year-old known as the “Butterfly Boy.” He’s being recognized for raising awareness about his life with a rare debilitating skin disorder before he died in April 2018.

Pitre’s mother, Tina Boileau, is among 40 being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

Eighty-two-year-old Ralph Thomas is being award the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

Since 1997, Thomas has been president of a New Brunswick advocacy and service group called Pride and Race, Unity and Dignity through Education, is the co-founder of the New Brunswick Black History Society and has served as an ambassador for the province’s Sports Hall of Fame.

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