Imagine sailing on a 220-foot icebreaker through the Northwest Passage for a 150 days. That’s the adventure some Canadians are embarking on in the name of science, reconciliation and Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation.
The Canada C3 stands for “coast to coast to coast” and is taking researchers, scientists, indigenous people and business leaders on a voyage as part of a Canada 150 project. The journey started in Toronto on June 1, 2017 and will finish in Victoria on Oct. 28, 2017.
The $10-million project is funded mostly by public partners while the rest comes from private donors. Global News spoke to Geoff Green, the expedition leader and founder, in Toronto last week before he set sail to get a better understanding of what exactly the journey is all about:
For those who don’t know, what is the C3 expedition?
Canada C3 expedition is a signature project for Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. It’s a journey from Toronto here in the great lakes, Canadian flag icebreaker, all the way around Canada’s coastline. So out the St. Lawrence river, all through the Maritimes, up the east coast, through the Northwest Passage, around Alaska and then all the way down the west coast of Canada to Vancouver and Victoria.
“It started as a journey of celebration but it’s become a lot more. It’s now a journey of reconciliation for Canada, a journey of science, a journey of education and really of storytelling that links those things together. So we want to share this unprecedented journey with millions and millions of Canadians from coast, to coast, to coast.
Who will be joining the expedition?
Physically joining on the ship we’ll have 60 people, and that includes the crew. And then special Canadian participants from all walks of life. The idea was to have a real diversity of Canadians that represent our society from youth to elders, musicians and artists, scientists, business leaders, indigenous leaders and elders… and they are on board to be ambassadors and help to share this with the rest of the country.
What about the research aspect of this expedition. What exactly will you be researching?
The science program is really exciting. It’s mostly focused on water. Canada is a water nation and we want to better understand that. One of the studies is looking at micro plastics in our waters, which is a really serious concern. We need to understand it and tackle it. There is also another really amazing thing they are doing. By taking water samples, pressing through filters and then studying the DNA of the water, they can actually tell us what life is in that body of water. And we are going to be doing that all around the country. So we will actually get a picture, a pan-Canadian coast survey of the life in Canada’s oceans.
What about the reconciliation part. How is that integrated within this expedition?
The reconciliation piece is reflected in many ways from the turtle on the top of the funnel of the ship, Turtle Island. To the legacy room we have on the ship, which is a place for ceremony to take place daily and conversations and developing friendships.
It’s also the people we will have with us on the ship. On each leg of the journey, we will have participants from indigenous communities all across the country. But I think the biggest thing is storytelling and sharing. So as we go, C3 will be a platform to talk about what’s happened in Canada, talk about residential schools and have Canadians, indigenous and non-indigenous sharing stories and having conversations. I think that is the most powerful thing we’ll be able to do.
For those who are enthusiastic about big ships, could you tell me about the icebreaker?
This is a 220-foot icebreaker. She’s built in Canada, it’s got a beautiful Canadian flag on the back. If you stood it on end, it would be about the size of a 22-storey building.
We just spent about three months re-fitting it, transforming it into what we need to make this journey a success. It’s got a rich history in Canada, it’s been in all Canada’s oceans. The ship was built in 1958 and she served for the Canadian coast guard up until 2008 when she was decommissioned. We’ve fallen in love with the ship as we’ve gotten to know it and I think it’s the perfect ship for this C3 journey.
Lastly, why do you think a regular Canadian should care about this expedition?
I think people should care about this expedition because it’s a real opportunity for us to celebrate Canada’s 150th but also learn a lot about our country, get to know one another, connect Canadians coast to coast to coast. Things like knowing that we are an ocean nation and a polar nation with 40 per cent of land mass being the Arctic. Did you know that Canada is as high, north and south as it is wide? Did you know we have the longest coast line in the world?
Beyond those sorts of facts, I think a lot of deeper meaning will come out of this journey but it will only be a success if it reaches millions of Canadians. That’s why I think this it’s a great opportunity for us to come together and have this journey serve as one of the legacies of our 150th.