Canada 150: ways to celebrate Canada in Toronto

June 13, 2017

by Jeff Cottrill

It’s been one hundred and fifty years since our glorious rebels declared independence before defeating the British redcoats under the heroic command of General Washingt  – wait, wrong country. But it’s true: Canada is observing its sesquicentennial this year. Although most of the celebrations are set for July 1, you don’t have to wait until then to take pride in your Canuck heritage, and you don’t have to stop on Canada Day either. Toronto is blessed with lots of events, things to do, places to eat and ways to celebrate being Canadian. Whether it’s history, food, culture or just partying with other Canadians that you’re after, here are some great ways to think, act and be Canadian in the nation’s biggest city. [Image credit: Del Ashkewe, November Frost Moon, 1975. Nawash (Cape Croker) First Nation, Ontario 975.139 © Royal Ontario Museum]

Canada 150: ways to celebrate Canada in Toronto

Anishinaabeg: Art & Power
Canadian history didn’t start with Confederation, or even with Jacques Cartier; First Nations people were living here centuries before. This ROM exhibition displays art by the Anishinaabeg, who have lived in Ontario and parts of Quebec and Alberta. Paintings, drawings, sculptures and beaded regalia trace the social and cultural history of these people and their relationships with European settlers.

Our Journey: An Art Map of Canadian Identity
Toronto artist Xenia Gonzalez invites Canadians of all ages and backgrounds to contribute to this collaborative project at the Spadina Museum. Just show up and share your stories to become part of an art map that displays the different cultural identities that have contributed to Canadian society. The project particularly recognizes this country as Indigenous land that many of us are occupying.

  • When: Now until December 31, Tuesday to Sunday and holiday Mondays from 12 pm to 5 pm until Labour Day; closes at 4 pm Tuesday to Friday after Labour Day
  • Where: Spadina Museum
  • Price: $7.96 adults, $5.75 seniors and youths 13 to 18, $4.87 children 6 to 12, free for children under 6
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Freedom Tours
Here’s a different way to explore Canadian identity: artists Cheryl L’Hirondelle and Camille Turner take guests on a walking tour of Rouge Park, to check out little-known landmarks and celebrate the park’s (and Canada’s) diversity in species and nature. The tour follows an art workshop in which participants create protest banners and clothing. Part of the nationwide Landmarks 2017 project.

Beer Lovers’ Tour Company
This is a real beauty, eh? But you don’t have to be Bob or Doug Mackenzie to love Canadian beer, whether it’s Labatt, Molson or Rochefort 10. This company has three guided tours exploring the city’s brewing history – one of which also has a chocolate tasting in the Distillery. Tour the Steam Whistle, Mill Street and Amsterdam Breweries and others, while sightseeing and tasting freshly crafted beers.

  • When: Old Toronto Beer Tour, Saturdays at 11 am; Toronto Rail & Ale Tour, Sundays at 1 pm; Toronto Beer & Chocolate Tour, Fridays
  • Where: Old Toronto and Rail & Ale meet at the Steam Whistle Brewery
  • Price: $149 (plus $50 for optional dinner) Old Toronto Beer Tour; $99 Toronto Rail & Ale Tour; $64.95 Toronto Beer & Chocolate Tour
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Fort York National Historic Site
The War of 1812 was a turning point in the formation of our nation; without its outcome, Upper and Lower Canada might have been absorbed into the United States. And a major battle happened right here at Fort York in April 1813. Today, the fort (mostly rebuilt after the battle) still stands and offers guided tours by guards in period uniform, exhibits and educational programming.

Rebel Afternoons and Rebellious Women
Another pivotal event in Canada’s early history, the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 may have failed as an uprising, but it led to union between the future Ontario and Quebec. Gibson House recreates this brief turmoil during weekend afternoon teas with actors playing rebel David Gibson, his wife and other contemporaries, with Victorian refreshments served. Not recommended for kids under twelve.

Canadian cuisine? Yes, there is such a thing, and several Hogtown high-class restaurants make it their specialty. The highest one, elevation-wise, is Canoe on the fifty-fourth floor of the TD Centre. From Great Lakes pickerel and cured Arctic char to Newfoundland cod, Quebec venison and coastal oysters with Ontario sake mignonette, browsing the menu here feels like a cross-country dining tour.

Maple Leaf Forever: Toronto’s Take on a National Symbol
The Maple Leaf didn’t suddenly become Canada’s logo with the adoption of the current flag. In fact, the symbol was used in commerical branding throughout the 20th Century, and was even in use before that when the Prince of Wales paid a visit to Toronto just before Confederation. This upcoming exhibition at the Market Gallery explores Toronto’s role in creating an iconic image.

Party City
Thinking of throwing a Canada Day shindig, or any other event with a Canadian theme? Party City, which has four locations in Toronto, is your base for supplies with the familiar Maple Leaf design. Paper plates, napkins, cups, confetti, balloons, pinwheels, miniature flags, full-sized flags, table covers, top hats, banners, paper lanterns ... no one will accuse you of not being patriotic enough.

  • When: Monday to Wednesday from 9:30 am to 8:30 pm, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 am to 9 pm, Saturdays from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm, Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm
  • Where: Party City
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Canada on Screen
Canada has a diverse film industry that has grown since the 1970s, and TIFF has been celebrating the sesquicentennial with free screenings of beloved Canuck movies. You can still catch such classics as Atom Egoyan’s Calendar, David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, Claude Jutra’s Mon Oncle Antoine, Denys Arcand’s Jésus de Montréal and the Noam Chomsky documentary Manufacturing Consent.

Poutini’s House of Poutine
Is any meal more Quebecois than poutine? T.O. has many great spots for this simple dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy, and what makes Poutini’s special is its quick service and variety: you can get poutine with bacon, smoked meat, beef, pulled pork, roasted mushrooms, onions or sour cream – and there are gluten-free and vegan options. Time to rev up your taste buds and apologize to your arteries.

  • When: Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to midnight, Thursday to Saturday from 12 pm to 3:30 am, Sundays from 12 pm to 9 pm
  • Where: Poutini’s
  • Menu
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Shopping for modern home furniture may not sound like the most obvious way to celebrate a country, but EQ3 – which has two T.O. locations, on King Street East and Hanna Avenue – proudly boasts that its wares are Mostly Made in Canada. You can order custom-made upholstery pieces (like sofas, sectionals or ottomans) from the store’s Winnipeg factory and receive them in a matter of weeks.

  • When: Weekdays from 10 am to 8 pm, Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm
  • Where: EQ3
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Canada Days at Nathan Phillips Square
Now this is a party. A who’s who of beloved Canadian bands and artists perform on four stages in the Square – Barenaked Ladies, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ron Sexsmith with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Shad, Belly, Charlotte Day Wilson – as well as dance collectives, poets and even a circus troupe. Food and drinks are available for sale, and each night closes with fireworks at 10:55 pm.

Redpath Waterfront Festival
This annual festival between the ferry terminal and Harbourfront Centre isn’t ignoring Canada’s 150th either: to celebrate, “Canuck It Up!” features multicultural music and dance from Rhythm of the Nation, with actor Pierre Trudel and DJ Creeasian, as well as the West Coast Lumberjack Show, a forty-five-minute showcase of log rolling, axe throwing and more. (Cue the “Log Driver’s Waltz”.)

  • When: July 1 to 3
  • Where: Queens Quay West, from Harbour Square Park to HTO Park
  • Price: Free
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