The symbolism of celebrating the 1864 Charlottetown Conference on Father’s Day wasn’t lost upon Governor General David Johnston this weekend.
© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Governor General David Johnston, left; Lt, Gov. Frank Lewis; Premier Robert Ghiz; Regis Laheaume, mayor of Quebec City and Charlottetown Mayor Clifford listen as Chief Brian Francis of Abegweit First Nation, speaks during a ceremony in Province House Snday. Johnston is in the city for a conference of Canadian lieutenant governors. He also participated in some 1864 Week celebrations in Victoria Park Sunday.
Johnston arrived in Prince Edward Island Sunday as part of Charlottetown’s 1864 Anniversary Celebrations. The celebrations looked back on the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, where the Fathers of Confederation first started discussing the possibility of forming Canada.
The connection was picked up by Johnston, who said it was in P.E.I. where Canada took its first steps towards nationhood.
“We can say P.E.I. is the father to Canada,” said Johnston during an official ceremony at Victoria Park. “And it’s here that I see Canadians enjoying the fruits of the labours that created Canada 150 years later.
Johnston said he believes it’s important to not only know the history but also to celebrate it.
That was the purpose of Charlottetown’s 1864 week, a six-day festival that was free to the public and featured activities showcasing multicultural diversity, artistic talent, and the culture and heritage of the city and Canada as a whole.
The “Family and Diversity” concert in Victoria Park was being held before and after Johnston’s speech.
“It’s important to have days like this, days for families to spend quality time together. There’s no substitute for reconnecting and discovering and learning together,” he said. “And there is nothing like being in the great outdoors, I can’t think of anything more glorious than Canada in the summertime particularly here on the Island.”
That summertime weather was a missing factor in the weekend celebrations, with rain playing havoc on some of the planned activities.
The city put a rain plan into effect that saw some events cancelled, moved or rescheduled.
A fireworks display that was supposed to be held at Victoria Park was cancelled due to the two rainy nights.
Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee said that while the rain was challenging for organizers, most of the planned celebrations were pulled off without problems.
“The staff of the city of Charlottetown have done a fantastic job throughout the week,” Lee.
Lee also asked those in attendance to think about what it meant to be the birthplace of confederation, and the differences in how Canada was formed through discussions and negotiations rather than military conflict.
“Canada was not created through war and that is why, ladies and gentlemen, people and countries all around the world look to Canada as the example of what they want to be,” said Lee. “That is why Canada is the best country in the world.”
During his speech, Johnston asked that Islanders continue looking towards the future while they celebrate the past.
“I see people who will continue to make this a stronger community, who will care for the well-being of others. I see a smarter and more caring nation proudly heading towards 2017 and the 150th anniversary of confederation thanks to people like you.”
The weather had also affected Johnston’s visit.
The governor general could not land at the city airport due to rain, fog and low clouds and was unable to attend a special church service in St. Dunstan’s Basilica.
However, his plane did land later in the morning and he attended a guest book signing in Province House before heading to Victoria Park.
He also took part in a community walk later in the afternoon on the Trans-Canada Trail from Brudenell to the Montague Marina Train Station.
Johnston will also be participating in public events Monday before attending the annual meeting of the lieutenant governors and territorial commissioners in Charlottetown Tuesday.