Dubai: The Canadian community in the UAE is celebrating their homeland’s 150th anniversary with a raft of events spread across the year.
Over this coming year, expats from the world’s second largest country can expect a marathon, concerts, and an art exhibition, and the sale of Canadian products on supermarket shelves.
On Wednesday evening at a Dubai hotel, a large number of Canadians and other residents kicked off the year’s celebrations.
The evening was sponsored by the Canada Club, an informal expat association, and the Canadian Consulate General in Dubai.
The UAE is home to around 40,000 Canadian expats. Around 25,000 live in Dubai, while roughly 15,000 live in Abu Dhabi.
“This anniversary year is “special” for Canada,” the country’s ambassador to the UAE told Gulf News.
“Across Canada there will be special events and celebrations throughout the year to mark this milestone,” said Masud Husain.
“For our friends in the UAE, this is a perfect time to plan a vacation to Canada, especially as admission to our many national parks will be free.”
Consul-General Emmanuel Kamarianakis said, “With over 40,000 Canadians and a lot of friends of Canada living here in the UAE, we have many people keen to celebrate this important year for Canada.”
Some of the Canadian expats said that they came to Dubai when booming business beckoned. Others spoke of a need to move nearer to their cultural backgrounds.
“I absolutely miss Canada,” said Sachin Mahajan, who heads the regional branch of a Canadian investment bank. “That’s home now.”
In 2015, the Indian-born banker, who holds Canadian citizenship, moved his wife and two daughters to Dubai.
For another Canadian expat, taking her 15-year-old son to ice hockey practice — one of Canada’s national sports — twice a week has boosted friendships with other Canadians.
How Canada Became a Nation
For centuries, Canada, a land of vast forests, lakes and mountains, had been home to the few aboriginal tribes who could survive its fierce arctic winters.
Then, from the 1500s, the area fell under the interests of the French and then the British. In the mid-1700s, France let control of its settlements in Canada go to Britain.
Then, in 1867, 150 years ago, three territories north of the United States joined together, forming a mostly self-governing dominion under the British fold.
Six decades later, in 1931, Canada became fully independent. Yet the country still shares symbolic and constitutions ties with the UK — and the same monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II.
Canadians celebrate July 1 as a national holiday, the date which marks the signing of a treaty which, back in 1867, formed what would one day become an independent nation.
Here’s a look at what’s on in the UAE to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary year:
* On February 17 in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and February 24 in Ras Al Khaimah, the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research has already taken place.
Around 10,000 people participated in the run in honour of the late Canadian athlete and activist who ran a six-month marathon across his country in 1980. The gruelling, six-month trek was cut short when cancer took his life.
* Canadians can rejoice — Choitram supermarkets will carry Canadian food and beverages on their shelves.
* On March 9, Canadian singer Bryan Adams performed before a crowd of 12,000 people at the Autism Rocks Arena in Dubai, alongside a festival of Canadian culture.
* On May 6, Canadian superstar Justin Bieber will rock an expected crowd of 32,000 at the same venue.
* In October, a display of Canadian arts — including pieces from aboriginal artists — and culture will take place at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, in partnership with the Canadian Consulate General.