Summer officially arrived last weekend, and in a few days our calendars will flip to July 1, Canada Day, a day when we Canadians gather in large numbers for a day of celebrating this fine country and our good fortune to call it home – but not this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the coronavirus first started making the news shortly after the new year, it was a world away, and though there was concern that the virus would spread to other nations, we didn't really know what to expect. Before long the virus was battering parts of Europe on its way to our own shores.
In the months that followed we have lived under a national, provincial, and municipal state of emergency that has seen our movements restricted, businesses shuttered, and economies ruined, not to mention the millions infected by the virus (more than nine million worldwide as I write this), and the hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world due to the virus.
And now, with Canada Day approaching, the next victim of the virus here in Canada will be our own nation-wide party.
With gatherings in Ontario still limited to a maximum of ten, our traditional celebration in our downtown core and at our harbour, which can draw thousands, is obviously out of the question. Even Bognor's much smaller celebration would still be far too large given the current situation. So this year, we will see many small celebrations, likely backyard barbeques along with some backyard fireworks.
Earlier this week I had asked the municipality for an update on how Meaford would observe this special day given all of the restrictions, and I was told that the municipality will be lighting up the water tower with our beloved red and white, and they are encouraging residents to haul out their Christmas lights in order to give our neighbourhoods a festive feel for Canada Day.
Given the current restrictions, I think that residents in this municipality would welcome something as simple and perhaps silly as Christmas lights in July. We have all endured much in the first half of this year, and many are itching to celebrate something, anything, to get our minds off of the damage this virus has caused around the world.
While they will certainly add some sparkle to our community, those Christmas lights might just be the most appropriate symbol for this special occasion, as the last bit of normal life we've experienced was not long after most of those festive lights were taken down and tucked away for the next holiday season.
In addition to some festive lights, residents could also hang some flags (or have the kids and grandkids make their own to hang), and perhaps we could sweet-talk our fire department into blaring some sirens at a specified time to further mark this special though strange occasion.
What will be most important this Canada Day is that we all stay safe and avoid the temptation to ignore the current restrictions by gathering in large numbers. I am sure that most of us after these long months of social distancing and stay at home orders are itching to break free and to do whatever the heck we want, it is a free country after all. But the reality is, that we here in Ontario along with many places around the globe are still dealing with this pandemic, and while there will be plenty of time later to debate the measures that have been taken, for the moment, I think we should respect the restrictions, and keep our gatherings small, and to maintain distance between those with which we do gather.
Phase three of Ontario's re-opening plan is just around the corner for us, and when we reach that stage we will see many more businesses and services return along with our ability to gather in larger numbers. Let's not delay our reaching phase three by thumbing our nose at the provincial restrictions – whether we agree with them or not.
We are all fortunate to live in this country, and a quick look around the world makes that clear, and while I'm not one to get overly patriotic, as I have watched the spread of this nasty virus around the globe, I can't say that I would have preferred to have endured this crisis anywhere else. Here in Canada I think we've largely avoided politicizing this crisis, and our leaders, national, provincial, and municipal, no matter their party affiliation, have worked together to help get us through – not something we have seen in some other nations, particularly our neighbours to the south of us.
Happy Canada Day to all of our readers. Be safe, be smart, and keep your celebrations small for this year, and hopefully next year we will see the return of our traditional Canada Day celebrations.