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Making the most of Canada Day lite Add to ...

Cancelled Canada Day events at Nathan Phillips Square and many city parks may not have washed Torontonians' national pride away Wednesday, but they did put a damper on celebrations.

While many city dwellers enjoyed a day off work, members of locals 79 and 416 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees met with city management in hopes of ending the 11-day-long labour dispute, though no major progress was reported.

Community groups that regularly ring in Canada's birthday in city-owned parks were told their events - along with the city's fireworks display at Ashbridge's Bay - would be cancelled.

The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association had to change its Canada Day parade route - which ended at St. James Park near St. Lawrence Market - in haste after its permit to use the park was cancelled by the city.

The parade was followed by a barbecue, which was attended by more than 500 people. Before the parade began, members of the group formed a "guerrilla garbage gang" and swept up cigarette butts at Berczy Park.

"Our theme this year is resiliency," said association president Suzanne Kavanagh. "Our neighbourhood is able to bounce back from anything that's thrown at us."

The Beaches Lions Club was forced to cancel its annual family events at Kew Gardens, but families still ventured to the park yesterday for modest revelry.

Antionette Hughes arrived at the park in the morning with her mother, husband and two children in tow for a day of building sand castles, eating hot dogs and flying kites.

Last year, the family spent Canada Day at Centre Island, but cancelled ferry service due to the strike prevented them from returning Wednesday.

Her four-year-old son, Spencer Chang, spent much of the afternoon frantically trying to keep his neon kite in the air as he scurried across the beach, never straying past the pebbles that lined the shore.

Without proper water testing at city-owned beaches during the strike, Ms. Hughes said she didn't want her son to wade into the water.

After a long day at the park, the Hughes-Chang family planned to spend the end of Canada Day at home.

"There's no [city-sponsored]fireworks. There's nothing. And for that to be canned with the Lions Club events is disappointing," Ms. Hughes said. A few kilometres away at Ted Reeve Arena, a temporary dump site, area residents took a break from Canada Day celebrations to add their bags to the nine-foot-high pile of garbage.

Peter Ouellette, a union leader with CUPE Local 416, helped drivers unload trash from their vehicles. He said striking workers have changed their strategy from previous days of making residents wait for up to a few hours to drop off their trash. Especially on Canada Day, he didn't want to keep people waiting.

"Stopping the public is just going to make them angry. Our fight isn't with the public - it's with management," he said.

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