Calgary nixes Canada Day fireworks in favour of 'enhanced pyrotechnic show'
In response to a number of concerns that came from its 2022 Canada Day celebration, the City of Calgary will pilot a different event this July 1.
"We're always trying to change the show, improve the show so that it's more reflective and inclusive of Calgarians," said Ben Brackett, team lead for festival and event planning at the City of Calgary.
Instead, this year, the city will hold an enhanced pyrotechnic show that will involve lights and sounds from the main stage at Fort Calgary.
The departure from the traditional fireworks display comes after officials analyzed the cultural, community and environmental impacts from previous years.
They say the way many Calgarians view Canada Day has evolved recently and this is an attempt at adapting the event to meet those changes.
"It won't be viewed from the surrounding community, so if you want to approach Canada Day in a way that isn't celebrating with us at Fort Calgary or one of our other sites, you're not having it forced on you," said Brackett.
He says Canada Day for many can be a sombre day of reflection or even mourning, as July 1 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Immigration Act.
As well, he adds, the city wants to recognize cultural sensitivities pertaining to Indigenous people, around truth and reconciliation.
Brackett says the new program will minimize crowds that have typically gathered in neighbourhoods like Crescent Heights and Ramsay.
BANFF DID IT FIRST
Banff has been igniting lower-altitude pyrotechnics for three out of the past five years on Canada Day and New Year's Eve.
However, this July, there will be no pyrotechnic component as town and Parks Canada officials study the effects of smoke.
A town spokesperson says in 2018, council considered environmental and wildlife concerns in the national park.
"Reducing those explosions and the bangs of fireworks really lessens the impact on wildlife. We also did hear from pet owners that secondarily they really love the move away from those explosions," said Jason Darrah, communications director.
He adds town and parks officials are particularly cognizant of the high wildfire risk in the park this season.
Scientists at Mount Royal University (MRU) say the negative impact of fireworks and the smoke they create can be detected for days after a show, sometimes up to one month.
"There are metals (used to) produce those beautiful colours but they must fall from the sky as well and they can impact soil, the groundwater and surface water," said Gwen O'Sullivan, department chair of earth and environmental science at MRU.
One Indigenous advocate says the move away from fireworks is just a mere flash in efforts for truth and reconciliation.
"To me, Canada Day is a day that everybody celebrates the oppression, genocide of Indigenous people and land theft," said Michelle Robinson, Sahtu Dene Indigenous activist.
"If we're going to be honest about what Canada Day is, that would be a day to be putting a little more effort toward reconciliation with education for all people."
Additional programming is being planned for Calgary's Canada Day 2023 events.
Full details are expected to be released next month.