Aboriginal canoes greet Canada C3 icebreaker upon arrival in Vancouver
The 67-metre Polar Prince is a former Canadian Coast Guard vessel being used by the Canada C3 expedition for a 150-day coastal exploration on the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans. (Martin Lipman/Students on Ice Foundation)
Two canoes representing Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations greeted the Canada C3 icebreaker Polar Prince on Monday as it sailed under the Lions Gate Bridge and docked on the downtown Vancouver waterfront off Canada Place.
A lot has changed since aboriginal canoes welcomed British Capt. George Vancouver as he entered these waters by the same route in 1792 while charting the B.C. coast.
"My territory looks nothing like it did when the newcomers arrived," paddler Rhiannon Bennett of the Musqueam First Nation shouted up from one canoe alongside the ship's starboard side.
"It makes me emotional to think what it would have been like to go out and greet Captain Vancouver compared to what it looked like to come out to greet you today."
Bennett said she appreciated that reconciliation has been a central theme of the 23,000-kilometre Canada C3 voyage around Canada's Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific coasts. "What's happened on land and water has not been kind to my people," she said.
On the other hand, aboriginals — including the Musqueam, one of the most progressive and wealthiest First Nations in B.C. — are making significant economic progress. A Supreme Court of Canada decision involving the Haida in 2004 requiring that aboriginals be consulted and accommodated on projects in their traditional territories proved to be a game changer.
Other themes of the voyage are diversity and inclusion, environment, and youth engagement.
The 72-metre Polar Prince, a former Canadian Coast Guard research vessel, left Toronto on June 1 on a 150-day voyage to acknowledge 150 years since Canadian confederation. The journey's 15th and final leg from Campbell River to Victoria ends this Saturday, with federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna scheduled to join the ship.
The ship carries 60 crew, expedition staff and wide variety of participants, including politicians, explorers, aboriginals, youth ambassadors, chefs, cooks, journalists, and musicians.
Participant Andrew Strang is a former Vancouver criminal lawyer who now co-owns the popular FlyOver Canada tourist attraction at Canada Place, offering a "virtual flight" over the country. "It's been an amazing journey," he said. "To be able to come into my hometown and share it with my new friends is special."
It's also the first time he entered the city under the Lions Gate Bridge. "A beautiful morning with the sun breaking — spectacular. I get to see the city from a different perspective, as well."
British-born musician Tim Crabtree, who goes by the name Paper Beat Scissors, currently lives in Montreal and said that after several days of exploring remote parts of the B.C. coast, including Desolation Sound, he enjoys seeing the urban landscape again.
"I feel kind of relieved, coming into a city. I feel more comfortable, more at home and familiar, which may seem backwards after being out in the countryside."
During their visit to Vancouver, Canada C3 participants are visiting FlyOver Canada, as well as the Downtown Eastside and the Vancouver Aquarium. Future stops on the itinerary include Salt Spring and Saturna islands, and Tod Inlet near Victoria.
The $10-million voyage is an initiative of Students on Ice and is funded about two-thirds by the federal government and the rest by more than 100 donors.