Canadians joined people the world over in welcoming the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
From schoolrooms in Calgary to Montreal and in celebrations from Halifax to Vancouver, Canada paused yesterday to watch Obama’s historic swearing-in live from Washington D.C.
Across the GTA people gathered downtown, in schoolrooms from Markham to Scarborough and crowded around televisions screens throughout the city to take in the pomp and politics. In the heart of the city, the Bloor Street Cinema broadcast the inauguration live on its big screen to a capacity crowd of 850.
Much of the sponsorship for the event came from Democrats Abroad’s Toronto chapter. Stephen Scharper, a member of the DA who has been living and working in Canada for over eight years, commented on Canada’s enthusiasm for the new US president.
“There is so much excitement. I mean most of the people here are Canadians, not Americans,” Scharper said. “I am a little surprised, I mean the kind of hoopla that Canada has been exhibiting, I am surprised but I think the world is hungry for the United States to kind of live up to its own values and I think they have hope (in) Barack Obama.”
The change in leader for the United States signifies a lot for many people. However, this time it is not only African-Americans and American citizens who are feeling the full force of this historic day.
Obama’s inauguration came upon the heels of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day that celebrates the achievements of a man who fought for equality. For Barbados-born sisters Evelyn Gaye and Aliene Gibbons, it made sense the day belonged to the world.
“I never thought this day would come. This is just awesome and I do not think words can describe it,” Gibbons said.
Her daughter, Jasmyn Fyffe, was happy to be a part of the day with her mother and aunt and expressed an understanding for why so many Canadians and people of other nations seem so invested.
“It is a remarkable moment in history that I am grateful to be a part of. I feel (Obama) is bringing people together all over the world. It is definitely not just (important) in the United States,” she said.
The crowd at the Bloor Street Cinema was not the only one. A large number of people gathered at Wayne Getzky’s, a sports bar, where they toasted the inauguration with drinks like the Barack on the Rocks, and celebrations were held over the noon hour at Yonge and Dundas Square.
Meanwhile at the theatre the festive crowd broke into a rendition of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ ‑ sung as ‘We Will Barack You’ – as others snapped photographs to mark this day in history.