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Gord Downie and Justin Trudeau want Canada to focus on the next 150 years

Ottawa: July 2, 2017 - Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, left, stands with Daisy Wenjack, centre, and Pearl Wenjack at We Day on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Sunday, July 2, 2017. Downie's project "Secret Path" tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 escaping a residential school.

Patrick Doyle/WE Day photo

Canada's birthday celebration continued on Sunday as tens of thousands of people made their way to Parliament Hill for a major WE Day Canada event featuring Canadian performers and artists, including Lilly Singh, Nelly Furtado and Gord Downie, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"What an inspiring day to come together and really prepare for the future," Mr. Trudeau told the crowd. "As we look back on the 150 years, we know there were mistakes and there were successes, there were lots of lessons to learn and there are lots of reasons to be extremely hopeful about our ability to surmount the great challenges in the coming years."

People braved the rain and security lines that caused much frustration on Canada Day to watch the long list of performers and activists. Many attended the event to feel inspired about the country's future and the opportunity to make Canada a better place.

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"I haven't been to a WE Day since high school and I remember how awesome it makes you feel, seeing all the other people out here that care about the world especially at a time when there is such a climate of fear and hate," said Alima Dewani, a political science student at the University of Ottawa.

"Craig and Marc Kielburger, who started this whole [WE Day] movement, were a huge inspiration for me when I was younger and inspired me to get involved in social justice."

The Kielburger brothers founded WE Day Canada to inspire and empower young people across the world. The organization also helps to lift more than one million people out of poverty in Africa, Asia and in North America.

This is the first event of its kind for WE Day. Organizers said its aim is to inspire the next generation of Canadians to step up and build a stronger and more compassionate future for Canada over the next 150 years. Participants and performers are asked to take pledges on how they can make Canada better.

"Canada 150 is more than simply sitting back on your lawn chairs," said Craig Kielburger. "It's a chance for conversation about the type of country we want to build. Every person on the stage will share their pledge how they will make the next 150 years even stronger."

Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie also focused on what the future has to offer for Canada.

"Now we begin a new 150 years and we leave behind the first 150 years – the ones with [the] one big problem [of] trying to wipe out our Indigenous people, to take their minds and hearts, to give them the choice to become white or get lost," he said.

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Mr. Downie was joined on stage by residential school survivors Pearl and Daisy Wenjack. "It's time to listen to the stories of the Indigenous; we are blessed as a country to look to the wisdom of a really old country," he said.

Ms. Singh, who performed her new song #IVIVI and a mashup of iconic Canadian songs, said her main message of the day is to encourage women empowerment and equality.

"On a deeper level, I'm talking about girl love – women empowering other women – and I just want people to know that whether it's in your schools, homes, every single day we can do something to promote gender equality," Ms. Singh said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "It's completely free to encourage women to reach their fullest potential."

The Globe and Mail is a media sponsor of the WE Day event.

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