Ottawa’s Canada Day celebrations cancelled due to coronavirus, virtual program planned

The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced the shutdown of the federal government's Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa. File photo. (Photo by Mark Horton/Getty Images)

The federal government officially canned its annual Canada Day celebrations on Friday, opting to instead take the party online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault confirmed Friday that Canada Day celebrations in the nation’s capital and across the country will not move ahead in person due to the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, Canadian Heritage is planning a virtual show that will see Canadians tune in remotely to performances and other programming on July 1.

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“For Canada Day 2020, we are working with Canadian artists and artisans to put together a virtual program, reflecting our diversity and values, and showcasing the immense talent our country has to offer,” Guilbeault wrote in a statement.

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Ottawa’s annual Canada Day party was already set to be moved off Parliament Hill this year in light of construction work taking place on Centre Block.

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Mayor Jim Watson had cast doubt in recent weeks about the likelihood of any public event to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa amid physical-distancing guidelines to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Ontario government has outlawed any gatherings of more than five people and the City of Ottawa has banned any public events until at least June 30.

City of Ottawa staff told Global News on Thursday that the timeline for barring public events could be reconsidered in the coming weeks, putting popular annual events such as RBC Bluesfest in jeopardy should the ban stretch through the rest of the summer.

Ottawa Tourism CEO Michael Crockatt, whose organization helps to market the city as a destination for travellers and businesspeople, told Global News that July is the single most important month of the summer festival season for Ottawa’s tourism industry, factoring in annual events such as Canada Day and Bluesfest.

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