Calgary’s Cancellation of Canada Day Fireworks Display Prompts Backlash

by EditorK

Concert-goers watch asireworks burst behind the stage of a drive-in Dean Brody concert to celebrate Canada Day on July 1, 2020 in Markham, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

Updated: May 23, 2023 

An advocacy group that says it represents “common sense Calgarians” has launched a petition calling for a reinstatement of the fireworks display in Calgary on Canada Day.

“How about we put an end to this nonsense immediately, and force City Hall to reverse course and bring back fireworks now, this year?” said Common Sense Calgary in its petition, launched on May 21.

On May 18, the City of Calgary announced that this year’s celebration of Canada Day will proceed in a “new way” without the traditional fireworks show.

Instead, it will be replaced by “an enhanced pyrotechnic show featuring a visually stunning display of lights and sounds,” said the city in a press release.

Franca Gualtieri, manager of arts and culture at the City of Calgary, said at the time it was a pilot test to address some of the “cultural, community and environmental impacts previously experienced with traditional Canada Day fireworks.”

Truth and reconciliation with First Nations, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Immigration Act, traffic delays, overcrowding issues, and “disturbances” to wildlife, were among the reasons cited for the cancellation.

Gualtieri said the city will engage with citizens, community groups, and cultural groups over the next year to get feedback and understand what Calgarians prefer to “guide future decisions” around Canada Day fireworks.


The “new way” was denounced by some who argued that the city should have consulted with its residents before making the decision. Others had said it was a deliberate move by the city to do away with traditions.

Dan McLean, city councillor for Ward 13, is among those Calgarians who expressed support for keeping the fireworks.

“The City is asking for feedback on canceling Canada Day fireworks due to environmental and cultural concerns. Personally, I love ending Canada Day celebrations with fireworks!” he said on Twitter on May 19.

The petition by Common Sense Calgary says the city has “failed” to consider what Calgarians want.

“As usual, government bureaucracy takes a minor issue, spends your money trying to fix something no one wants fixed, and then creates an even larger problem,” it said.

The group dismissed the idea of waiting for public feedback on this year’s event before deciding the fate of fireworks. It urged petitioners to “tell City Hall you want Canada Day fireworks this year!”

Kourtney Penner, city councillor of Ward 11, responded to the group on May 22, saying it wasn’t the council’s decision, and reversing it would be “upholding colonialism and racism.”

“Council didn’t make this decision and if we were to reverse it, it would do nothing more than discredit the voices who asked for a different kind of celebration,” she said in a series of tweets.

She countered the group’s comment that cancelling the fireworks show was “nonsense.”

“This isn’t nonsense. It’s being actively anti-racist, working at truth and reconciliation, and being responsive to the diverse community Calgary is.”

She added that Canada Day historically “is for and by white people” and “Indigenous people weren’t acknowledged as Canadians for years.”

‘Incredibly Offensive’

Penner’s tweets quickly drew criticisms with some questioning how the support for fireworks amounts to racism.

“So let me get this right…a Calgary councillor thinks celebrating Canada Day with fireworks is racist?” said Rob Anderson, executive director of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s Office, in his tweet.

Melissa Mbarki, policy analyst and outreach coordinator of the Indigenous Policy Program at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, questioned Penner regarding the cancellation of fireworks.

“You’re making an assumption that Indigenous people don’t want fireworks or to celebrate Canada Day,” Mbarki tweeted. “Are we not Canadians? Thanks for throwing us under the bus!”

Common Sense Calgary responded to Penner’s tweets hours later, saying it’s “incredibly offensive” for the councillor to call Calgarians who support fireworks on Canada Day racist.

In its update to the petition, the group said the more important question is whether other city councillors agree with Penner’s view.

“We’d sure like to know the answer to that one,” it said.

“If other Councillors don’t agree with Councillor Penner, and the fireworks cancellation really was just a decision made by City staff, then there’s a really simple fix…”

“The Mayor and Council can get together, hold an urgent Council meeting, and reverse the decision immediately,” it added.


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