Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social, environmental and urban issues.
A dozen intrepid individuals are canoeing 1800 km from Ottawa to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness of the need to protect and restore our rivers. They launched their 36-foot voyageur canoe on September 5, with the intention of reaching Washington, D.C. in mid-October.
I headed down to Turtle Island (Victoria Island, below Parliament Hill) to see them off, and I’m glad I did; it was a chance to meet some of the paddlers and hear from supporters including the Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Ottawa Riverkeeper and Paddle Canada. A highlight was hearing Evelyn Commanda, daughter of Elder William Commanda, in whose memory the trip is being made. (I’ve written about him before, here.) Evelyn Commanda spoke about the importance of water for all living things, and the connections between bodies of water and between water and the rest of nature.
Paddlers Max Finkelstein and Clive Doucet joked about the long journey ahead, but emphasized why they decided to undertake the trip: to draw attention to the need for healthy waterways, and to connect people in the two countries on water issues. Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown underlined this connection, encouraging people to think about where our water comes from and the role we share in protecting it.
It’s a big task that participants have taken on. It’s no easy paddle—a six-week journey, with no straightforward route. The canoeists, all experienced paddlers, will rely on tips from local residents along the way as well. It’s part of why the journey brings so many people together.
“River systems know no borders,” says the trip’s website. “The Capital to Capitol by Canoe 2012 will spread the message that we must transcend political borders and work together to protect and restore our rivers.”