Three coasts in 150 days, and Haida Gwaii is the second stop for the Canada C3 icebreaker along the West Coast route.
The C3 ship is a former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker that set sail in Toronto on June 1 and will end its journey in Victoria on Oct. 28. It stayed in the Prince Rupert harbour from Sept. 29 until Oct. 2, and then sailed toward Haida Gwaii, Hartley Bay and Bella Bella.
“One of our partners is Parks Canada. We’re visiting as many national parks and marine protected areas as we can and also working with the Haida,” said expedition leader Geoff Green. One of the members on his expedition team, Gen Gay, is from Masset.
The expedition is one of the biggest Canada 150 signature projects that aims to share stories from Indigenous people in the north and along the eastern and western coastlines. It is intended to build a deeper understanding of Canada’s northern and coastal history, and to expand knowledge of its diverse and remote environment.
“Increasingly we need to start acting like an ocean nation to take responsibility for what that means,” said Green. “We’ve been hearing stories pretty much every day since we left Toronto the challenges coastal communities face.”
The C3 moored in Prince Rupert after a long trip around Alaska. A new group will then fly in to join the last leg to Victoria. More than 5,000 people applied to travel aboard the C3 ship for approximately 200 spots (not all at the same time). There are 15 legs of the journey that range from seven to 12 days.
Smithers-based Juno Award winner Alex Cuba was on Leg 2 from Montreal to Baie-Comeau. He was a part of a song collaboration “River of Nations.”
At each leg, the boat takes on a new group of Canadians that represent a portion of society: youth ambassadors, Indigenous leaders, people with disabilities, newcomers to Canada, business leaders, musicians and politicians.
Only a select 200 people are joining one of the 15 legs of the journey — but for Cyndi Peal, a commercial fishing deck hand based out of Prince Rupert, there were no applications necessary — just pure chance.
Peal’s cousin was on Leg 12, from Tuktoyaktuk to Prince Rupert, and she was hoping to meet up with him when the ship arrived. Peal is also in her second year at the Vancouver Island University in the coastal stewardship technician training program. She had just completed training in Hakai, Bella Bella, where she learned more about the Canada C3 boat there.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, Peal went down to Cow Bay Marina to meet her cousin, but then decided to take a tour of the ship while she waited for him to finish lunch.
“I met a couple of the workers on the crew. I got chatting with them and told them about the fishing and I told them about the training and that I had just gotten off the boat. Some of the crew overheard and said, ‘What are you doing for the next 10 days? Do you want to join us?’” Peal said at the community meet-and-great organized by Hecate Strait Employment Development Society on Sunday, Oct. 1.
There was a space available and she was invited to join the ship for Leg 13. Although she has travelled up and down the coast for the past seven years, she’s never been to Haida Gwaii and she’s looking forward to exploring the area on Leg 13 with the rest of the crew and participants.
“Everyone is coming from different places and different points, even in their lives. I can immediately see the respect for each other and also for First Nations communities and that’s going to be a key in getting everyone to feel more accepted and welcomed,” Peal said.
Starting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, musicians and C3 travellers Patrick Watson and Old Man Luedecke will play alongside Skidegate’s Hltaaxulang Guud Ad Kaaju singers in a free performance at the Haida Heritage Centre Performing House.