BY ISN STAFF | April 20, 2017
Young people to paddle hundreds of kilometres this summer, working toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
Toronto, ON – More than 30 people, comprised of Indigenous, Jesuit, English and French Canadian paddlers, will embark on a month-long, 850-kilometre canoe trip July 21 in response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Following a traditional First Nations canoe trade route, the Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage (CCP) will begin at Midland, Ontario up Georgian Bay, travel across the French River, Lake Nipissing, the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers, and end near Montreal.
“We are retracing this historic route on the 150th anniversary of Canada as a nation, but more importantly we are trying to work for reconciliation,” says Erik Sorensen, SJ, Project Manager of the CCP. “As a member of the Jesuits, a group that had a residential school that played an integral role in colonization efforts by early Europeans, there is a collective healing that I am participating in. And we are changing the way we do things.”
“I am hoping to learn a lot about the cultures that are going to be there,” says Andrew Starblanket, who is Nēhiyaw and will be representing the Starblanket First Nation in Saskatchewan on the trip. “I guarantee that I’m going to learn a lot about myself and others.”
“Ontario’s 150th anniversary is an opportunity for us all to reflect on who we are and what we hope to be,” said Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “The Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage will give people the chance to connect with a meaningful part of our history, experience our province’s breathtaking scenery firsthand, and contemplate all that we can achieve by working together.”
Pope Francis, a Jesuit, promotes a “culture of encounter,” a culture where we engage others where they are, offer welcome and hospitality, and are moved with compassion and the desire to treat all people with dignity. “This encounter is not about anything so specifically active, it’s much more about just being with each other, across our respective cultures and traditions,” says Kevin Kelly, SJ, a CCP co-organizer. “Encountering each other is about being ourselves and being open. This immersion experience into nature will also help participants increase their understanding of the current ecological crisis we face, especially the importance of water and our respect for and treatment of it.”
About the Jesuits in English Canada
The Jesuits, an order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, have worked in Canada for more than 400 years. They have responsibility for the direction of schools, churches, retreat houses, and a variety of social justice ministries that span from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to Vancouver, British Columbia. They have worked closely with the TRC and issued a public Statement of Reconciliation in 2013. The Jesuits are currently implementing the Calls to Action described by the TRC.