Ponchos, umbrellas abound on Parliament Hill


OTTAWA – Red and white rain slickers, ponchos and umbrellas are the fashion accessories of choice today on Parliament Hill as determined revellers prepare to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.

Persistent rain — a recurring feature of summer in Ottawa so far this year — has been pelting the parliamentary district as the keenest of celebrants gather at the foot of the massive main stage.

But the steady downpour and rain-soaked grounds weren’t discouraging scores of people from queuing up for blocks on Wellington Street in order to get through a steely security gauntlet.

The Canada Day agenda in the national capital includes a visit from Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and a speech from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will reveal the names of Canada’s newest astronauts.

Trudeau and the prince sat down for a meeting this morning at Rideau Hall, where the two commiserated briefly about the conditions outside.

“We’re Canadians,” Trudeau was heard to say over the din of camera shutters. “We can handle a little weather.”

Even U.S. President Donald Trump got in on the action, tweeting his congratulations on the occasion of Canada’s birthday and acknowledging the prime minister by name, whom he described as his “newfound friend.”

In his speech, Trudeau is expected to acknowledge the tensions with Indigenous Peoples in Canada, many of whom have expressed their disdain for today’s sesquicentennial as a celebration of the country’s colonial past.

“As we mark Canada 150, we also recognize that for many, today is not an occasion for celebration; Indigenous Peoples in this country have faced oppression for centuries,” he said in the prime minister’s traditional Canada Day statement, issued early Saturday.

“As a society, we must acknowledge and apologize for past wrongs, and chart a path forward for the next 150 years — one in which we continue to build our nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown and government-to-government relationship with the First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation.”

A teepee set up by indigenous activists not far from the stage, a source of some tension earlier in the week, has turned into an exhibit of sorts as visitors stop by to express their support or chat with the so-called “reoccupiers” of unceded Algonquin territory.

Canada 150 celebrations are taking place across the country throughout the day — and even off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador.

A boatload of 75 early risers headed out on the North Atlantic to be among the first to welcome Canada Day as dawn broke over the country’s most eastern point. They cheered and danced to music onboard the Iceberg Quest vessel as they celebrated the occasion.