Fireworks light up sky from Winnipeg to Churchill to celebrate Manitoba’s 150th anniversary

For the 150th anniversary of Manitoba becoming a province, the Manitoba Metis Federation has come up with a way for people to celebrate together while staying apart.

Fireworks will light up the prairie sky in dozens of communities from Winnipeg to Churchill on Wednesday night, with the displays live streamed so people can watch from their own homes.

The fireworks mark the date Manitoba officially became the fifth province to enter Confederation, and the only one to be negotiated under an Indigenous leader. (Although the Manitoba Act received royal assent on May 12, 1870, it wasn’t enacted until July 15 of that year.)

Louis Riel’s vision for Manitoba is one that still resonates today, said Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand.

“He had open arms. He welcomed all [of] society to come to such a rich and prosperous province,” Chartrand told guest host Pat Kaniuga on CBC’s Information Radio Wednesday morning.

“Now is the time to take that opportunity and be proud of our province.”

The fireworks displays will start at 10:45 p.m. and run for 15 to 25 minutes at locations in West St. Paul, The Pas, Cranberry Portage, Dauphin, Duck Bay, St. Laurent, Grand Marais, Portage la Prairie, Wabowden and other communities across Manitoba, Chartrand said.

The federation has not announced the specific sites where the fireworks will be set off in those communities, and encourages people to watch the live stream on the MMF website from their homes, vehicles or backyards to help maintain physical distancing.

The video from the live stream will stay up at the website for people who couldn’t stay up late enough for the live event on Wednesday, Chartrand said.

‘Once in a lifetime’

The anniversary is a chance for people to consider Manitoba’s history and imagine what its future could look like, Chartrand said.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “Fifty years from now, what are we going to be leaving behind? What legacy do we leave behind as parents and grandparents and as leaders? What’s the legacy that’s for tomorrow?”

Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand says the 150th anniversary of Manitoba’s entry into Confederation is a chance to examine the province’s history and imagine its future. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused most events celebrating the milestone to be cancelled, the federation thought it was important to give people a way to mark the occasion, he said.

“COVID has taken so much of our lives and so much of our regular cultural things that we do as a people,” Chartrand said.

The federation didn’t want COVID to also cancel the celebratory fireworks, he said, because “150 years only comes once in a lifetime.”

“The next time will be our grandchildren celebrating 200 years. And so we need to make sure that everybody can … even for 25 minutes, just forget COVID.”

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