As final preparations for Canada Day celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of confederation were being made on Parliament Hill nearby, a different kind of celebration took place at Christ Church Cathedral June 30.
“This eve of Canada Day celebration honours Indigenous nations who have dwelt continuously on this land for millennia,” said Cathedral Dean Shane Parker, in his opening remarks to an interfaith celebration titled, A Prayer for Canada 150+.
“The number, 150 plus, is in recognition of the history of the first people before confederation and our shared history as a diverse people of Canada since then,” Parker said. “By the grace of our Creator may we always dwell together on this land with respect and in peace.”
Diocese of Ottawa Bishop John Chapman led the procession of religious leaders, special guests and members of the Capital Region Interfaith Council into the church following an opening song by the Ottawa River Singers drum group.
Algonquin spiritual leader Oshki Nodin (Albert Dumont) gave the opening prayer, asking the Creator to “touch the Canadians of the future with your sacredness and blessings so that Canada will become a beacon of light and an example to the other countries of the world.”
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, in his comments to the gathering, acknowledged that Ottawa is built on unceded Algonquin territory. The Algonquin “culture and presence continue to nurture this land,” he said.
Watson also thanked “all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, their elders, and their ancestors for their valuable past and present contributions to the land and society.”
Drum keeper and Algonquin Elder Barbara Dumont-Hill led the “calls to prayer” with a “life-giving” song. “All our songs were prayers,” she said. “We sing prayers for everything on the land, and this song talks about the one who gives us life, and walks with us always.”
Next was Imam Samy Metwally of the Ottawa Mosque who recited a prayer in Arabic and translated it into English, ending with, “There is no deity worthy of worship except God.”
The Christ Church Cathedral Choirs, led by music director Matthew Larkin, closed the calls to prayer with the song Sanctus Benedictus. It was followed by 150 seconds of silent prayer before Padre Guy Chapdelaine, the Canadian Armed Forces Chaplain General recited a prayer that ended, “Creator of all, keep this country under your care that we may be people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.”
A solo Inuit drum dance by 11-year-old Timothy Erkloo was a definite crowd-pleaser drawing applause from the congregation.
The Rev. Aigah Attagutsiak, the first Inuk to be ordained to the Anglican priesthood in a Southern diocese, was one of six participants who recited blessings before the closing ceremony.
Attagutsiak, assistant curate at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Ottawa, prayed in Inuktitut, her native language.
Others who recited blessings were Rabbi Eytan Kenter of Kehillat Beth Israel, Ottawa; Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Jacques Kabangu, Ottawa; Oshki Nodin; Imam Metwally, and Archbishop Colin Johnson, diocesan bishop of Toronto and the Metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario.
In his blessing, Johnson said, “May the gracious Creator who forgives us our sins, free us to be his agents of reconciliation and healing.”
He added, “May the god of peace bless us who come from many nations so that in this country we may find a home of justice and mercy and freedom.”
Among those attending the service were General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff; Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau, and members of the Ottawa fire and paramedic services.