Toronto hosts burning ceremony to mark third anniversary of COVID-19 pandemic

‘The Burn’ kicked off on Jan. 19 as part of the city’s Stronger TOgether project. (Courtesy: City of Toronto)

Toronto is hosting a commemorative gathering Saturday to mark the third anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and in honour of lives lost. 

The gathering is happening at Nathan Phillips Square and will feature “The Burn,” an interactive installation inspired by the universally sacred elements of fire and water. The Burn kicked off on Jan. 19 as part of the city’s Stronger TOgether project and toured across the city for residents to set healing intentions on wooden spheres to reflect on the pandemic. 

The project was created by artist Roger Mooking, in collaboration with interdisciplinary artist and designer Javid JAH and multi-disciplinary artist and Wyandot Elder Catherine Tammaro.

Today, the cedar spheres will be burned in a display of fire, water and immersive sounds for 24 hours at Nathan Phillips Square. Afterwards, ashes will be harvested, mixed into soil and spread across gardens in the city.

READ MORE: COVID-19 triggered a decline in Canadian life expectancy, new data says

“Communities across Toronto are still feeling the impacts of the pandemic. The Burn is a great opportunity for residents to connect and find healing together as we move into 2023. I encourage you to explore the installation as it travels across the city and share your personal reflections with neighbours, friends, and loved ones,” Shelley Carroll, councillor and chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee, said in a news release. 

On Mar. 11, 2020, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that the number of COVID-19 cases increased 13-fold and that the number of affected countries had tripled in the two weeks prior, prompting the group to declare a pandemic.

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.” Ghebreyesus said. “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” he continued. 

As of Mar. 6, there have been more than 51,400 COVID-related deaths reported in Canada since the pandemic was declared. 

Meanwhile in Ontario, there have been 16,217 reported deaths linked to COVID-19 as of Mar. 7. 

More than 86 per cent of Ontarians aged five years and older have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Mar. 9.

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