Ottawa

Smudging ceremony, 'pyromusical' fireworks among new highlights of Canada Day 2016

There are some new twists to the traditional Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill this year, including musical fireworks and presentations putting the spotlight on Indigenous culture.

First Canada Day for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will see a few new twists, organizers say

Fireworks explode behind the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill during Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa on July 1, 2015. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

There are some new twists to the traditional Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill this year, including musical fireworks and presentations putting the spotlight on Indigenous culture.

The Canadian Heritage department says this year's fireworks are a "pyromusical" spectacle featuring a Canadian soundtrack that will play in synch with dazzling explosions.

"If you're on our official sites — either Parliament Hill, Major's Hill Park or at the Canadian Museum of History — you can sit back and enjoy the fireworks and just listen to the music," said department spokesperson Katherine Cyr.

Opportunity to see Indigenous culture

A woman cleanses herself during a smudging ceremony in 2008, a similar ceremony will take place on Parliament Hill to mark Canada Day. (Canadian Press)

Indigenous culture will be in the spotlight during the opening of the Canada Day celebrations. For the first time, there will be a traditional smudging ceremony to start the event. 

"It's a great opportunity to see some Aboriginal culture," Cyr said. "They're going to be purifying the land here and they're going to set us up for a great Canada Day in the capital."

Cuban-born musician Alex Cuba will honour the Indigenous culture of his home province of British Columbia. The Grammy Award-winner will perform a verse of his song "Directo," translated into Wet'suwet'in.

"I feel that I'm standing up for the whole nation" said Cuba, who lives near Wet'suwet'in territory in Smithers, B.C. "They deserve to be heard. Their language is rapidly disappearing, dying. Only about 70 people speak it, so I hope that a lot of people get to hear that."

Cuba said he received help from the Wet'suwet'in community to translate his song, which was originally written in Spanish.

Music on the Hill

This is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly's first Canada Day as part of the government, and they're expected to appear during the midday show.

Cuba said he's a fan of the prime minister and hopes they might meet on stage.

"I'm expecting for him to show up and maybe dance a little bit to my Latin-Cuban roots and sounds," Cuba said. "That would be amazing!"

Joining Cuba in the Parliament Hill main stage lineup are indie rock band Metric, Quebec singer-songwriter Coeur de pirate, Thunder Bay, Ont., electronic artist Coleman Hell, indigenous pop-rock group Indian City, and French-language acts Les Hay Babies and Alex Nevsky.

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      Beyond Parliament Hill

      Mayor Jim Watson said Rideau Street will be open to pedestrians as a way to welcome visitors to the capital, but he also encouraged people to explore what Ottawa has to offer on Canada Day outside the core. 

      "What's great about Ottawa is there are dozens of small rural communities and villages and suburban communities that have their own Canada Day celebrations," Watson said.

      Here are some of the other city venues hosting Canada Day events:

      • Mayor's Canada Day Breakfast at Aberdeen Pavilion.
      • Billings Estate National Historic Site.
      • Cumberland Heritage Village Museum.
      • Pinhey's Point Historic Site.
      • Canada Day in Kanata (Walter Baker Park).
      • Mattamy Homes Canada Day in Barrhaven (Clarke Fields Park).

      As for Friday night's fireworks on Parliament Hill, they're expected to get underway at 10 p.m., weather permitting.

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