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Canada parties like it’s 1812, but with Feist and football

Members of the crowd smile and wave flags as they enjoy the annual Canada Day parade in Montreal, Sunday, July 1, 2012.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Thousands of people have covered Parliament Hill in red and white for the celebration of Canada's 145th birthday.

Mounties on horseback and in red serge escorted Governor-General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon, as they rode an open horse-drawn carriage onto the Hill.

A scout presented Ms. Johnston with flowers, and Mr. Johnston remarked on the number of badges the scout wore.

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Mr. Johnston inspected an honour guard and received a 21-gun salute, and there were flypasts by two CF-18 fighter jets and the Snowbirds aerobatic team before the festivities started.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the crowd that Canadians have much for which to be proud and thankful.

"Proud of strong and growing economy, proud of caring and compassionate society, proud and ready to cheer on the young men and women who are headed to London, our Olympic and Paralympic athletes."

Mr. Harper also touched on the War of 1812, which is a major theme of this year's Canada Day celebrations.

The Prime Minister called it the struggle that made Canada possible as people of all backgrounds joined in the fight for Canada.

"In fighting together our ancestors in 1812 laid the basis for a common sense of Canadian nationality based on diversity and they laid the basis for the vision of freedom, democracy and justice that is our inheritance – Canada the best country in the world," Harper said.

A crowd numbering in the thousands – many with portable chairs – started arriving early in the day and was greeted by sunny, warm skies and soon began overflowing onto the street.

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The program is a nod to both the present and the past. Performers include indie rock star Feist and French crooner Roch Voisine.

But the show will also feature actors playing key figures from the War of 1812.

The Grey Cup will also be given VIP status as the football tournament celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

In his Canada Day message, the Governor-General says that from the moment of Confederation in 1867, Canada has been a unique and challenging experiment.

Mr. Johnston says that the nation resembles a giant family that each day displays a commitment to unity, diversity, excellence and equality of opportunity.

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