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A portrait of Students on Ice Expedition Leader Geoff Green in Greenland for the Canadian Museum of Nature. (Justin Bastien)
A portrait of Students on Ice Expedition Leader Geoff Green in Greenland for the Canadian Museum of Nature. (Justin Bastien)

Icebreaker to set sail on Canadian cultural journey for Canada 150 Add to ...

A repurposed icebreaker will embark on a voyage around Canada’s three coastlines to mark the country’s sesquicentennial this summer and the expedition is looking for Canadians interested in making the journey. Called Canada C3, it will carry a diverse mix of passengers – ordinary people as well as scientists, journalists and dignitaries.

The overarching theme is the appreciation and understanding of the physical, cultural and historical fabric of Canada, including its Indigenous peoples.

During the voyage, which starts June 1 and is broken up into 15 legs, more than 300 participants will make contact with 36 Indigenous communities, 13 national parks and six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among other things.

The Globe and Mail spoke to expedition leader Geoff Green about the project.

What was the impetus behind Canada C3?

We wanted to sail around every inch of Canada’s coastline and connect the country, celebrate it as an ocean country and incorporate the notion that we’re a polar country as well. The journey itself is a reflection of the journey our country’s been on for the last 150 years and more. It would be a way to connect the past, the present and the future.

What are people going to see?

As we planned the journey, we wanted to visit many different types of places, big communities, small towns, national parks, marine protected areas, bird sanctuaries, Indigenous communities. It’s a gigantic floating communications platform to share stories and showcase the country – the people, the places, the issues. Every day we’re stopping somewhere having community events, doing scientific research. The list goes on.

What types of research?

A lot of it is focused on water sampling. One project is looking at microplastics in our oceans.

Tell me about the people who will be on the ship.

They’re on board to play a role. That role is to share the journey with the country, with the 20 million-plus Canadians that will be following virtually, through community events or the media. We wanted to have this real cross-section of Canadians so that, when everybody looks at the team, they’ll see themselves reflected by somebody on board. The people on board are ambassadors.

What are the themes behind the journey?

There are four themes to 150 and we’re building our journey around them. They are the environment, youth engagement, diversity and inclusion and reconciliation.

Can you explain the reconciliation part?

It started very much as this journey of celebration, but it’s evolved in a way I didn’t see coming. We spoke with Senator Murray Sinclair [who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission] and, within 10 minutes, he looked at what we were proposing and said, “You know, this is a voyage of reconciliation for Canada.” The light bulb went off. We’re visiting so many Indigenous communities. Let’s have this as a platform to tell stories.

We’re going to have a legacy room on the ship. It’s a concept to have physical and virtual legacy rooms that will bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians together to talk about reconciliation. We will have one of the first ones on the ship.

Tell me about the ship itself.

She’s a former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker and is about 220 feet long. She’s that classic-looking Coast Guard vessel. A solid expeditionary vessel. Not luxurious by any means, but a comfortable home and platform for the team. She’s versatile. She’s Canadian.

It sleeps 60, including the crew. On each leg, we have room for 25 Canadians. As we pull into communities, we will have events where people can come on board and meet everybody.

Why should Canadians go on the expedition?

I think people will want to participate for different reasons, because they love what this journey is about for the country. They want to contribute and share. It’s not a tourist trip or a love boat cruise. We’re hoping that all kinds of Canadians will participate. Since March 3, we have received 3,000 applications already, so it seems to be resonating. It’s about our amazing country. We’re not perfect, but if you look around the world these days, we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot that we can still do to make it even better.

This interview has been edited and condensed.Applications for Canada C3 close March 24. For more information go to canadac3.ca.

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