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‘It’s closer than many people think, and there’s more to it than polar bears and ice,’ Cedar Swan says of Canada’s Arctic.

MICHELLE VALBERG

Cedar Swan has the right name for what she does for a living.

The daughter of hippies who named her for the abundance of cedar trees surrounding her on Canada's West Coast, Swan has a career that keeps her constantly connected to Canada's great outdoors. Emphasis on great. As the vice-president of Adventure Canada, a tour operator specializing in High Arctic cruises and land-based adventures, she promotes the Arctic to Canadians and others, emphasizing its uniqueness as a tourist destination.

"It's really about making the North accessible to people who might have thought the Arctic too remote," she says from her Mississauga home, which is decorated with Inuit art. "It's closer than many people think, and there's more to it than polar bears and ice."

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With her expedition teams of marine biologists and local artists among other Arctic experts, Swan has taken thousands of tourists – some from as far away as Australia and Japan – past the tree line in summer months when the ice breaks and the midnight sun is out to explore what she calls Canada's last frontier. "It's not just the vast open spaces of the land," continues the 31-year-old mother of a newborn daughter who has been running her family's business since 2004. "It's the openness of the Inuit people which keeps me fascinated. Their friendliness and warmth form such a contrast to the harshness of their environment."

The North, in other words, is warmer than it appears. Swan was 14 when she went to Iqaluit for the first time, travelling there with her father, Matthew Swan, who had founded Adventure Canada in 1987 with wife, June Bradley. As soon as she arrived, Swan knew what she would do with the rest of her life.

"I had just walked off the plane, and this young man came up to me with a pair of earrings made from caribou horn, and he gave them to me, saying, 'Welcome.' It was an epiphany moment," she recalls. "I found it very touching.""I realized then that the Arctic was my calling. It's where I felt a personal connection with a stranger." And a strangely beautiful land.

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