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Saint John celebrates unique Canada Day as a result of COVID-19

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It’s been a Canada Day like no other in Canada’s first incorporated city.

Formal celebrations were cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but residents found their own ways to mark the occasion.

Betty Ann Maloney and her husband, Gerry Kindred, covered much of their front yard and deck in Fundy Heights in Canadian flags of various sizes.

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Maloney said they’re used to volunteering on Canada Day, often at Market Square. She said they love to hand out flags and meet other people, especially new Canadians, so this year has been very different.

“I always dress up the home for Canada Day because I love living in Canada,” Maloney said.

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“I think it’s a great country. I think it’s the greatest country in the world, actually.”

Kindred said they will likely visit friends around the region, people they have not seen since the pandemic began.

Farther west, Greg Goguen spent much of the day painting a new garage he’s building for his shiny, red Corvette.

He was decked out in a Team Canada hockey t-shirt with Pittsburgh Penguins star and Nova Scotian Sidney Crosby’s name and number on the back, although he claimed wearing the shirt on Canada Day was a “total coincidence.”

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He said Canada Day is special to him.

“We’re lucky to live in the country we live in and have the freedoms that we have, some of which we probably take for granted and don’t release that other countries don’t have the same luxuries that we do,” he said.

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Market Square’s toned-down celebration this year did feature live entertainment on a big stage, but other Canada Day staples like the giant birthday cake, face-painting, bouncy castles and evening fireworks were all cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

That made for a noticeably lighter crowd, although people were still showing off their Canadian pride.

Bokula Abiodundisu and her family are new Canadians, relocating from Nigeria more than two years ago.

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She said it was important for her and her four children to celebrate this year, even in a pandemic environment.

“In everything we have to be grateful, even for the fact that we’re going through all this,” Abiodundisu said. “We know that we are going to come out of this COVID-19 soon. So this morning, I just told my family, ‘Let’s get dressed and come out and celebrate Canada Day.'”

Elizabeth Rosky celebrated with her family, just months after she was forced to cut short a trip to Honduras where she had taught for 14 years.

Rosky said she came back to Canada aboard one of the country’s COVID-19 repatriation planes.

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Despite the lower crowd numbers and lack of formal ceremonies, Rosky said she enjoyed the atmosphere.

“I’m very patriotic,” Rosky smiled. “When I travel I wear a flag on my shirt or on my backpack or whatever. It’s a very special day. We are the true north, strong and free. And we need to stay strong and free.”