Canada Day continues to bring Prince Albert together despite pandemic

Jarrid Lee of the band Chief & Council performs for the Prince Albert Multicultural Council’s virtual Canada Day celebration. (Prince Albert Multicultural Council/Screenshot)

Prince Albert residents may not have been able to gather in person for Canada Day because of COVID-19, but dozens of local organizations and artists still made it a memorable celebration.

While the Prince Albert Multicultural Council (PAMC) hosted an approximately nine-hour live streamed event, the Prince Albert Legion satisfied everyone’s food cravings with a drive-in fish fry.

Michelle Hassler of the PAMC and Sylvie Charpentier of the Prince Albert French Canadian Society emceed the broadcasted celebration on the PAMC’s Facebook page.

Celebrate Canada Day 2020

Happy Canada Day from the Prince Albert Multicultural Council!

Posted by Prince Albert Multicultural Council on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

“COVID-19 restrictions and the rain won’t stop us from celebrating Canada Day safely together,” said Hassler.

“It’s a wonderful Canada Day celebration with everybody here. I’m so honoured and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

The event kicked off with an opening prayer from Marjorie Beaucage, who said the pandemic has halted many human actions that are hurting the earth, such as travelling. Beaucage then drummed facing each of the four directions.

Amanda Goller sang O’Canada, followed by a brief presentation from Prince Albert Historical Society President Fred Payton.

“July is a special month for those of us who live here in Prince Albert,” he said.

“Today, July 1, we commemorate the birth of our nation. In three weeks time, on July 26, we’ll think back to the arrival of the Nisbet Party and the establishment of what has become to be known as Prince Albert. And in two weeks, on July 15, we will commemorate the 150th anniversary of our community becoming a part of Canada.”

Payton explained that First Nations groups have been in Prince Albert for centuries. They called it Kistapinanihk. Being an ideal location to meet, James Nisbet—who named the area Prince Albert after British royalty—chose the spot for his mission. 

Emcees Sylvie Charpentier (left) of the Prince Albert French Canadian Society and Michelle Hassler (centre) of the Prince Albert Multicultural Council listen as Prince Albert Historical Society President Fred Payton (right) gives a brief history of Canada. (Prince Albert Multicultural Council/Screenshot)

MP Randy Hoback said the pandemic has shown how strong the nation truly is. He expressed thanks to frontline workers across the country, and especially in Prince Albert, for their sacrifices in this challenging time.

Continuing to celebrate Canada Day virtually “shows the spirit of Canada, who we are and how we’re able to adapt and make the best of everything,” he said.

“I also want to look forward and say ‘Prince Albert, I’m excited.’ When I see what’s on the horizon here in Prince Albert, as we go through COVID-19, I strongly believe there will be a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Hoback, pointing to the announcement of the city’s land purchase for a new recreation centre.

Northcote MLA Nicole Rancourt also shed light on the country’s frontline workers throughout the pandemic. She wore a red shirt reading the last names of Canada’s female medical health officers.

“In other countries, we wouldn’t have women in these leadership roles that would be able to help us through what’s been a real challenging time this year,” said Rancourt.

“As a female leader as well, in politics, that wouldn’t be possible in other countries. One major thing about Canada is that we have these opportunities, and we get to celebrate that.”

The virtual Canada Day celebration featured an array of local artists, including Dara Schindelka, the Amundson Family, Ponteix, Oscar’s Hollow, Monika Gerow & Holden Blue, Ray Elliott Band and The Bush Pies.

The Prince Albert Grand Council also hosted a reconciliation and learning ceremony called “Believing in our Youth.”

The virtual celebration took place from about noon to 9 p.m. 

The legion held their drive-in event from 4 to 7 p.m., serving fish and burgers. 

President Rick Hodgson said he was happy with the turnout of the event, which caused cars to line up around the block.

The legion served well over 300 people, and sold about 75 pounds of fish.

“Having to cancel our big event on the hill, seeing the cars and the people out front here coming out to get the fish and chips that we’re putting out is unbelievable,” he said.

Hodgson estimated they sold over 2,000 tickets for this year’s Canada Day draw even though they weren’t able to sell them in stores. The first place ticket won $3,000, second won $2,000 and third won $1,000.

Prince Albert Legion President Rick Hodgson (right) estimates that members sold over 2,000 tickets for this year’s Canada Day draw. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

“Everybody kind of stepped forward, all of our members were good at getting their tickets back in, it looks like it’s going to be a success for our Canada Day as far as people getting something and doing something for it.”

Hodgson said the legion is looking at reopening its lounge in August or September. In the meantime, he said, it’s helpful that the province is allowing limited gatherings so members can put on fundraisers.