The museum currently on Monaghan Road houses the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft. Construction continues on a new and larger museum on the shore of Little Lake along Ashburnham Drive to enable it to showcase its entire 600-plus watercraft collection, which has been declared a cultural asset by the Senate.
Wednesday’s granting continues a tradition by Canadian governors general to provide support through patronage to recognize associations and organizations for “outstanding contributions to society” by supporting and promoting Canadian values, diversity, inclusion, culture and knowledge. Patronage is granted to an organization or a program only for the duration of the current governor general’s term in office.
The museum notes Simon, sworn in July 2021 as Canada’s first Indigenous governor general, has made reconciliation a key focus. Initiatives at the new museum aim to do the same, says executive director Carolyn Hyslop.
The museum — located on the traditional territory of the Williams Treaties First Nations — has invited Indigenous Peoples to share their stories in their own voices. The museum is reconnecting the watercraft to their Indigenous communities of origin, and has developed a collaborative relations process to work together to care for the canoes and share the cultural histories and stories held within the collection.
“We believe that as sites of cultural and historical preservation, museums play a key role in shaping our understanding of our past and collective future,” said Hyslop. “Indigenous peoples around the world designed, built, and used the first canoes and kayaks. These vessels retain their enduring connection to Indigenous cultures across Canada and are powerful living embodiments of knowledges, languages, and beliefs.
“Through the collaborative relations process, we are working with communities to share these stories, perspectives, languages, and voices throughout the new exhibits and museum.”
Hyslop says the new museum — scheduled to open in summer 2023 — will feature trilingual exterior and interior signage, featuring English, Michi Saagiig Anishnaabemowin (the local Anishnaabemowin dialect) and French. Additional Indigenous languages will also be featured in exhibits relating to specific watercraft.
Inuit and First Nations communities and builders will be commissioned for new canoe and kayak builds to fill “gaps” in the museum’s collection, to provide a greater diversity of stories to be shared and traditional knowledge to be preserved and passed on to younger generations.
Museum board of directors chairperson Victoria Grant (Teme-Augama Anishnabai Qway), a member of the Temagami First Nation, says the canoe is an important part of the reconciliation process. In December 2021, she was named an officer of the Order of Canada for her work in to “bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture, business and communities through her facilitation and mediation.”
“At this time in Canada, we are beginning a process for Truth and Reconciliation,” she stated. “Together, we need to learn, understand and acknowledge our shared history. We can’t do that without first knowing and understanding the impact of the canoe in Canada’s story, from those very early times when the first visitors came to our shores.
“The Canadian Canoe Museum provides us with an opportunity to learn, to feel, to smell, and to see the canoe in its diversity and endurance.”
The 20,000-square-foot museum will feature new exhibits, a lakefront events and education centre, an artisan and canoe-building studio, a library and research room that will allow for the recording of oral stories, a lakefront canoe house and dock for on-water and outdoor education programming, and more. Currently, the Monaghan Road location can only allow for 20 per cent of the collection to be showcased.
According to the Governor General’s website, patronage is granted at the discretion of the governor general to organizations that meet the following criteria:
- They have objectives aligned with the role and responsibilities of the Governor General
- They are national in scope
- They are governed and managed responsibly and sustainably
- They have a solid record of achievement with programs implemented on an annual basis.