Laurier students celebrate Canada

Any stereotype of the over-polite, soft-spoken Canadian was shattered on Sunday night as Waterloo was flooded with red and white clad Canucks screaming, singing and chanting for their country.

Sidney Crosby’s overtime winning goal not only gave Canada the men’s hockey gold medal and a Winter Olympics record with 14 gold medals overall, it also gave the nation an excuse to celebrate.

And shortly after, the celebration spilled out from the bars, basements, living rooms and even front lawns around Laurier and into the streets, in a show of national pride the likes of which few have ever witnessed.

“I’ve never seen this before in my life. It’s amazing,” said third-year business student Kendra Dunn. “It’s so patriotic. There’s no words, it’s unbelievable.”

The singing and flag waving – at least around Laurier – started in two separate groups, one at the entrance to the university and one at the Uptown Waterloo square.

Eventually, the two groups converged at University Avenue and Hazel Street and formed a pack of what Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000.

WLU Special Constable Service and the Ontario Provincial Police were also called in for assistance.

Aided by a police escort, the massive group then went up and down King Street as well as University Avenue, making their way to both the Laurier and University of Waterloo campuses, going right through Laurier’s quad and into the Concourse.

The celebrating Canadians even stopped traffic at King and University, repeatedly singing “O Canada,” as well as starting numerous chants.

“It was electric,” said second-year business student Kevin Degruijter of the atmosphere within the group. “People were chanting, starting chants, singing the national anthem….It was the most Canadian flags I’ve ever seen in my life. There were people driving by in cars that looked they were falling out the windows, giving high fives and the cops were just moving back and letting the crowd roll.”

Although the public gatherings in Waterloo were spontaneous, many students were already on campus, as approximately 350 were at Wilf’s watching the game. According to Wilf’s food and beverage manager Rob Sexton, the campus bar was at capacity and had $4,700 in sales for the game.

“We were lining up at about one o’clock this afternoon,” said Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union president-elect Kyle Walker, who later joined the gathering at Mid Campus Drive and University Avenue. “Everyone is behaving really well,” said Walker. “Waterloo Regional came out here and kind of gave us free reign to celebrate a little bit so it’s a really fun atmosphere,” said Walker.

In true Canadian fashion, the celebration was raucous but not out of control, as at the end of the night only one member of the group was arrested for being intoxicated in a public place.
The WRPS also reported that there was no property damage or injuries as a result of the celebration.

According to Sergeant Greer, an officer who was on patrol at the entrance to the Laurier campus, the illegal activity was limited to “a little bit of public nudity, drinking, but no fights.”

“It seemed from our perspective that the people celebrating were really interested in just doing that, and that is just cheering on the Canadian athletes,” added Olaf Heinzel, public affairs co-ordinator for the WRPS. “We didn’t have any sense that there was anyone interested in getting involved in anything that would involve property damage or anything along those lines, but a police presence for a large group is always needed to ensure their safety.”

The gathering in Waterloo was part of a cross-country celebration seldom seen in Canada, and those involved will always remember the experience.

“I can’t describe it; it’s indescribable,” said second-year economics and political science student Jake Deoaurentis. “It means everything for Canada to win…. The Olympics couldn’t have finished any better.”

Degruijter expressed a similar sentiment, noting that “we definitely showed that [Canadian pride] can come out.”

“We’re not always vocal and out pouring it on, but when it comes out, it comes out in huge droves and we can match any U.S. celebration.”