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Canadians new and old, at home and abroad, celebrate Canada Day

The annual Canada Day party on Parliament Hill is celebrating Canadians at home and abroad.

But many people’s thoughts are with those in southern Alberta, still cleaning up from last month’s floods.

They’ve set an example for the rest of the country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

“When floods forced so many from their homes, communities dug deep, neighbours helped neighbours and people sheltered complete strangers,” he said.

“That’s the spirit that makes Canada the best country in the world. The best, bar none.”

Harper gave his annual address at the foot of the Peace Tower, which he says has come to symbolize Canada’s values.

“Canada is not just any country, but a people determined to do right – a fact that makes me proud as we approach the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of our country,” he said.

“Compassionate neighbours, courageous warriors, and confident partners, a bastion of freedom in an un-free world, a standard-bearer of goodwill, in a time when too many choose to hate, a land of hope in a sea of uncertainty.”

The Parliament Hill noon show featured a performances by Carly Rae Jepsen, live coverage of celebrations in New York and London and an appearance by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Hadfield’s photographs of Canada taken from his perch aboard the international space station earlier this year earned him fans around the world.

He earned some of the loudest cheers Monday from the estimated 80,000 people gathered on Parliament Hill to hear him perform a song written for his time in space.

Both Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston paid tribute to Hadfield.

Johnston said Canada Day is about celebrating work like his and that of the people in Alberta who helped each other in the aftermath of the floods.

“Let me thank you—every Canadian who gives back to his or her community, every Canadian who takes risks, every Canadian who reaches for a dream; every Canadian who has made and continues to make Canada a truly great country,” Johnston said.

“We have so much talent, so much creativity, so much ingenuity. So I challenge you this year to do and give what you can, to make our country smarter and more caring, fairer and more just, stronger and more united.”

Citizenship ceremonies

Outside of the nation’s capital, over 30 citizenship ceremonies were being held across the country as were events honouring the Canadian military.

In Calgary, still cleaning up from last month’s flood, the holiday will also mark the re-opening of that city’s downtown core.

The support that Canadians have offered to flood ravaged Alberta prompted Premier Alison Redford to publicly thank them in a video.

“Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts,” Redford said in the video. “Whether it’s Red Cross volunteers from Newfoundland, social workers from Guelph (Ont.), dog trainers from Kelowna (B.C.) who provided food for search and rescue dogs, the important time and money Canadians poured into the Red Cross to help us rebuild.”

”On this Canada Day we are so grateful to be part of a Canadian community,” she added.

While celebrations in Calgary are expected, officials are warning residents away from river banks as viewing locations for the nightly fireworks show as water levels are still high.

As rain fell on the Halifax celebrations, Alberta was also on people’s minds there.

Don Parker had travelled from Sexsmith, Alta., to celebrate Canada Day in the Nova Scotia capital.

“Whether it’s raining or sunshine or flooding in Alberta, you know, Canada is where I want to live,” said Parker.

“It means having the freedom to travel all over Canada and meet all these great people and see all this wonderful country, in the rain of course,” he said, laughing.

Expats celebrating

Expat Canadians and those who simply profess a love for Canada were also celebrating.

Country star Carrie Underwood, who is married to former Ottawa Senators hockey player and Peterborough, Ont., native Mike Fisher, posted a message to her fans on Twitter Sunday.

“Happy Canada Day weekend, all you crazy Canadians!!!,” she wrote.

The Canadian consulates in New York and Los Angeles also pulled together videos for the celebrations there featuring celebrities like Paul Anka, Mike Myers, Paul Shaffer and Bryan Adams sending Canada Day greetings.

Among the best know celebrations abroad on Canada Day is the party at the U.S. embassy in Washington, D.C., but there are concerns festivities might not be up to their usual standards this year.

The 30 Canadian foreign service workers at the embassy, most of them in high-ranking positions, are among the 1,350 members of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers who have been in a legal strike position against the federal government since April.

The striking diplomats have refused to work any after-hours events since the work-to-rule action began, causing logistical and organizational headaches for the embassy.

They won’t be at the Canada Day pancake breakfast on Monday, leaving what’s known as “locally engaged” staff to handle the affair.

How are you celebrating this anniversary? Share your photos and thoughts in the comments.