John Nelson, a World War II and Korean War veteran, couldn’t be more proud to lead the Canada Day parade through downtown Montreal.
“I am lucky to be here,” the 93-year-old said. “Every year I meet new friends and it is just fantastic.”
For the past 26 years, Nelson has been at every red-and-white clad parade in the city. As the country celebrates its 152nd birthday, floats weaved their way along Ste-Catherine Street on Monday.
“Canada is the best country in the world and when you look at all the problems that are happening in all the different countries in the world, this is the best one,” said Nelson.
“I’m very proud to be a Canadian and very proud to say all the time that I come from Canada.”
The Canada Day festivities are in full swing in Montreal, where jovial crowds usually make their way to the Old Port for the afternoon. There is a citizenship ceremony for new Canadians and a cake-cutting event in the afternoon, before a concert and fireworks in the evening. A full list of events can be found online.
In Montreal’s West Island, there are plenty of activities underway for Canada Day. In Pierrefonds, residents are taking part in a full-day program that includes a parade, line dancing, food trucks and fireworks.
The country’s birthday also brings pizza, beer and sweat as it marks moving day in the province, where thousands of Quebecers migrate to their new homes. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante took to social media to send her best wishes on a busy day.
“On this 1st of July, I would like to wish a happy Canada Day to all Montrealers, as well as good luck to those of you who are moving into their new home today,” she wrote.
Giovanni Paoletti, who has attended Canada Day festivities for the past 20 years, joked that Canada Day gets him out of housework. He often gives out pins and flags to those who attend the annual parade.
As his parents are both immigrants, Paoletti says he enjoys greeting newcomers at the celebrations every year.
“It just reinforces we are a melting pot. I myself am the son of two Italian immigrants and we all live together in harmony,” he said.
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— With files from Global News’ Brayden Jagger Haines