City to go ahead with big Canada Day fireworks in Calgary after saying it wouldn't

Last week, the City of Calgary said it was rolling out a pilot program that would forgo the usual closing fireworks on Canada Day.   (CBC - image credit)
Last week, the City of Calgary said it was rolling out a pilot program that would forgo the usual closing fireworks on Canada Day. (CBC - image credit)

The City of Calgary has reversed course and says it will keep fireworks as part of Canada Day celebrations this year — after previously saying it would replace the traditional display with a pyrotechnic show.

Last week, the city said it was rolling out a pilot program that would forgo the usual closing fireworks in favour of a pyrotechnic show launched from the main stage at Fort Calgary.

Reasons cited for discontinuing the tradition included sensitivities related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Immigration Act, late-night traffic and noise, and upsetting the city's animals and wildlife.

On Thursday, in a media release, city manager David Duckworth said the city heard from Calgarians and councillors that "they would also appreciate an aerial fireworks display to celebrate on July 1."

"These and other considerations, such as concerns about late-night traffic, noise, overcrowding, wildlife and the environment will be factored into the decision on a final location for the aerial fireworks display," Duckworth wrote in the release.

Duckworth said those concerns will be factored into choosing the location where the aerial fireworks display will be launched from.

The city previously said it recognizes the cultural sensitivities around fireworks displays in relation to truth and reconciliation.

This year, July 1 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Immigration Act.

On July 1, 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act, or "Chinese Exclusion Act," was passed. The law stopped all Chinese immigration to Canada and divided hundreds of families for years. It wasn't repealed until 1946.

The city previously said not having a traditional fireworks show would allow people who do not feel like celebrating the opportunity to not take part in the celebration if they choose.

The response from some Calgarians was frustration. As of Wednesday, an online petition by the group Common Sense Calgary had garnered more than 9,000 signatures to bring back the fireworks.

Coun. Jasmine Mian told CBC News on Thursday that she doesn't see how pyrotechnics are more culturally sensitive than fireworks.

"We shouldn't take away the fireworks because I don't really think that that actually goes very far in solving any of those issues," said the Ward 3 representative.

Anis Heydari/CBC
Anis Heydari/CBC

Michelle Robinson, host of the Native Calgarian podcast and a Sahtu Dene Indigenous activist, said that when the city first announced it wouldn't be doing a big fireworks show, it didn't explain why it was linked to reconciliation, or what that meant.

"It just shows that there's not an understanding of the Indigenous community and the truth and the reconciliation part," she said.

"I don't really care if they have fireworks or not. What I care about is that they see Canada Day as a day of celebration, when it's really a day to talk about reconciliation."

She said the city should be talking about homelessness or the drug crisis.

"Instead, we're talking about fireworks. So it's quite demeaning to me as an Indigenous person."

City to offer educational programming

The city said that as part of Canada Day 2023, it will offer diverse, educational and inclusive programming for Calgarians to celebrate culture and community.

The previously planned pyrotechnic show will still proceed.

"Programming will be a mix of participatory, celebratory and reflective experiences," said Jeff Chase, director of partnerships with the City of Calgary.

"Calgarians will have a variety of options to observe July 1 in a way most meaningful to them."