It is official! Canoemobile has gone north of the border at the invitation of our friends at Thomson Reuters. Wilderness Inquiry has enjoyed a long-time partnership with Thomson Reuters. WI board member Paul Fischer is CFO of Legal at the company and he and Managing Director Neil Sternthal conspired to bring Canoemobile to Toronto, headquarters of Thomson Reuters.
The enthusiasm was palpable as we brought 369 individuals of all ages and abilities out on the Humber River and Lake Ontario over a 4-day period in September. Approximately 40 volunteers from Thomson
Reuters came out to help, and we partnered with Toronto Park People to reach folks who have never had the opportunity to get out and paddle. The weather was perfect and it was a big success.
As our new and lighter canoes dipped into the Humber River in Toronto, we celebrated this expansion into new waters. While this was a first for us, the Humber River has known centuries of canoes. Our canoes take advantage of resins, epoxy, and all sorts of modern materials, yet our canoe’s shape and paddles would be instantly recognizable by untold numbers of generations that have lived along this river as native communities have existed here for thousand of years.
Strangely, a modern tragedy has reshaped the Humber so that our experiences today might still ring familiar to those past generations. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel unleashed dramatic and deadly flooding along the Humber. Instead of rebuilding throughout the floodplain, the banks of the Humber were restored as natural parkland that serve as a flood barrier for Toronto. Today it is an urban treasure; a gem of wilderness only a quick walk from an urban subway station.
Our time here has included an especially wide variety of local organizations including programs for refugee families and even a Tibetan newcomers’ seniors group. Toronto has highlighted what Canoemobile staff knows so well. Nature and its appreciation is universal. Furthermore, sharing experiences of natural beauty helps create community. Together, we laughed at the antics of the fishing cormorants, marveled at the magnificence of the blue herons, and questioned how egrets can stand on those spindly legs. In such surroundings, it was easy to imagine that we were sharing this sense of wonder not only with each other, but also the centuries of people that have traveled these waters in their own versions of canoes.
Thank you Thomson Reuters for supporting Canoemobile’s first international adventure! We plan to make this an annual event and build it out to reach more and more people.
Written by Peter MacMillan