Canada 150 in Ottawa, Ontario

My friends Katrina, Scott and Rose came to Ottawa for Canada 150, and riverboarding was near the top of their to-do list. I had posted pictures on Instagram from my riverboarding trip with my friend Natasha last summer, and Katrina and Rose were especially keen to try it. Our friend Sarah from high school also joined us for the day’s adventure.

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Sarah, Scott, Rose, me and Katrina in front of the rapids

Last year, Natasha and I floated down the Ottawa on a raft, and jumped into the water with our boards every time we came across a rapid. This year, since the water levels were different, we stayed in a key spot that featured one set of gentle rapids and one set of roller coaster-level rapids.

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Katrina, Sarah, some dork with a GoPro, Rose

The gentler rapids had a place where we could all surf. The guides from the Horizon X rafting company helped us catch the wave. Once we had steadied ourselves, we were able to kneel on our boards and try other little tricks. It was so awesome!

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Surfing a wave

I went through the more extreme rapids a total of three times. The first time, I managed by some miracle to stay on my board the whole time. The second and third times, I flew off it as soon as I hit the biggest rapid. The three guides stationed themselves in the rapids, and they steered us all back toward the shore. I posted a video on Instagram from a guide’s perspective. The video below is a different trip through the rapids from my own perspective. I think it gives a real sense of the intensity!

On July 1, Canada celebrated the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and Ottawa was at the heart of the festivities. My Ukrainian dance group Svitanok was invited to perform in Gatineau at the Museum of History’s Canadian History Hall. The idea was to have different cultural groups that form the mosaic of Canada help open the newly-renovated hall. Each group did its own choreography to upbeat Celtic-style music. As a grand finale, all the groups came on stage and danced in unison. It was such an honour to be part of the show, and the atmosphere was amazing. I included the clip I posted on Instagram below, but you can find a full version of the performance at this link.

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My colleague Ariana snapped this photo of our group performing alongside the Afro-Caribbean group

When the show was over, I changed into my Canada Day outfit, then joined my fan club family in the main hall. My parents had come to see me perform, along with my Strýček (uncle) Petr and his granddaughter Adelka, who were visiting from Czech Republic.

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Adelka, Strýček Petr, Dad, Mum, my colleague Ariana, me. Thank you Ariana for the photo!

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were at the museum for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. They were given a tour through the hall by museum staff, and every so often they would stop to interact with the public. My dance group friends and I happened to be standing around when security barricaded off a section of the hall. We waited patiently behind the rope, and eventually the Prince and the Duchess came along and shook everyone’s hand. I have always been a huge royal fan, so the whole experience made me impossibly giddy.

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Me and Solomiya waiting for the royals
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The Duchess of Cornwall came through first
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Prince Charles came by next

That afternoon, my friend Cassia’s father Joseph (who was in town from Australia) advertised on Facebook that he would be at Elgin and Laurier between 2 pm and 3 pm if anyone wanted to see him on Canada Day. That intersection was henceforth known as “Joe’s Corner”. I thought it was a brilliant idea, so I suggested to Scott, Katrina, Rose and her boyfriend Lauren that we meet there too.

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Joe took this photo of our gang and two of his friends at the designated corner

After saying goodbye to Joe, we decided to try to get on the Hill. For the 150th, they really cranked up security. In the old days, you could wander freely on and off the Hill, and there weren’t even any bag checks. Later on, they started doing cursory bag searches at the entrance gates. This year, they set up two checkpoints on Elgin Street and Wellington Street. They scanned every single person with a metal detector, and thoroughly searched all the bags, which created ridiculous backlogs. People were waiting up to five hours! We gave up, and headed down to Sandy Hill where friends of ours were having barbecues. It seemed like a much more pleasant option than standing in line under the intermittent rain.

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Katrina took this photo at the Elgin street checkpoint. We couldn’t even figure out how to join the line to get in the security line!

We stopped at a bar in Sandy Hill to escape a massive rainstorm that drenched the city. We stayed there for a few hours eating and drinking, and genuinely enjoying being warm and dry.

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Group shot at the bar. I love this photo mostly for how terrible it is. I look like some sort of demon. And let’s all take a minute to admire Katrina’s beaver tattoo. I wish I had a close-up of it!

Our last item on the agenda for the day was the fireworks. One of the best places to see them is at Major’s Hill Park, as long as you aren’t stuck behind a tree. The initial spot we picked out was a complete bust (Katrina gave a witty description of the incident on her blog). We eventually found a decent viewpoint, since we weren’t fussy about wading into the mud field created by the rainstorm. We could even hear the music that went along with the fireworks, so that was an added bonus. It was a fabulous end to a wonderful day. I said before the day began that I really didn’t care whether we ended up on the Hill or somewhere else downtown. All that mattered was that I was with my friends (awwwwwwww).

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View of the fireworks at Major’s Hill Park

The party didn’t end on Canada Day. On July 2, WE Day was held on Parliament Hill. Despite being completely wiped out from the previous day’s shenanigans, Rose and I went to the Hill for some more Canada 150 fun. The rest of the gang left that day to return to Australia (Katrina and Scott) and Vancouver (Lauren).

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with WE Day founders Craig and Marc Kielburger, Ojibwe activists Daisy and Pearl Wenjack, and Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie

WE Day usually takes place in a stadium, and people need to earn their ticket to the show through volunteer work. WE Day Canada on the Hill was a special version of the event, and it was open to everybody. All afternoon and evening, highly accomplished young people, activists and celebrities from across the country gave short speeches describing their area of expertise, and they issued challenges to everyone. For example, Olympic gold medal swimmer Penny Oleksiak urged us to do 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Another speaker encouraged us to use only cold water for laundry to help save the environment. It was all very motivating, and the youth were incredibly inspirational.

Side note: Oh dear. Since when am I old enough to be “inspired by youth”?! This calls for an existential crisis. I suppose that I officially left youthhood behind the day I stopped qualifying for the 29-and-under package on my travel insurance, and my rates shot right up. Anyway, I’m still young though. Right? Right??? Young at heart for life, regardless 🙂

The event was how I believe Canada Day should have been, and how Canada Day has been every other year, i.e. everyone relaxing on Parliament Hill and enjoying fine entertainment in decent weather. The security system was the same as the day before, but there were far fewer people. I managed to get through the whole process in less than five minutes. Actually, there was even one major improvement over a regular Canada Day. Since the airport-style bag checks meant you couldn’t bring anything on the Hill, for once I wasn’t being jostled around by drunks or inhaling the ever-present smell of dope!

My main reason for coming to WE Day was the chance to see the Barenaked Ladies. Their concerts are always loads of fun. They played an excellent short set that got everyone up and dancing. The best part was when Commander Chris Hadfield joined them on stage to sing If I Had a Million Dollars. Our astronauts are the coolest!

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Rose and me basking in the awesomeness that is a Barkenaked Ladies performance (Rose’s photo)

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