What can you learn on an icebreaker? A lot about reconciliation.

There aren't many people that get an invitation to go on an icebreaker in Canada's north. But I was on of the lucky ones chosen to participate on the Canada C3 expedition. Canada C3 is a special voyage aboard The Polar Prince icebreaker that made a special 150 day journey around all three Canadian coasts. The ship departed from Toronto in late June and it will complete it's journey this weekend in Victoria B.C. 

So when you're on an icebreaker far away from the noise of the world what can you learn? I learned one thing: I know nothing of the plight of Inuit, First Nation and Metis people here at home. One of the key aspects of the Canada C3 expedition was to have participants like me open my eyes to reconciliation. 

As a grown man of 52 years old, I had no idea about the terrible ways our country has treated our first citizens. We have stolen from, lied to, separated and hidden away the people who know the country the best. 

During my time on Canada C3 I came to know that Inuit people had their names taken away from them and were given numbers in their place. When the Inuit children were whisked away from their families they were given a round circular leather "dog tag" with their number stamped into it. At school, the children knew each other by their number, not their names. A day at a residential school might include phrases like, "Hey W2-656. Throw the ball to me" or "Why can't W2-350 help me with my homework?" Sadly, there was a lot more heartbreaking things at the schools as well. 

But I knew nothing about it. I knew nothing about the nasty laws that ripped families apart. I knew very little about the nightmares of living at residential school. I knew no indigenous people at all. Thanks to Canada C3, I know Inuit, First Nations and Metis people. I also know that it at all possible when I meet new friends I will learn what nation they belong to. I will honour their nation name: Blackfoot, Tsuu T'ina, Crowfoot. They are my neighbours but I don't know a single one of them. I intend to change that. 

So what can you learn on an icebreaker? I learned to pay attention to the ongoing reconciliation with our first citizens. I wrote a promise in my notebook that I intend to keep. "I didn't know but now I do. I can learn more and be kinder." Watch a recap of Leg 11 that I was blessed to be a part of in the below video. You'll learn somethings about reconciliation that may shock and sadden you.

If you'd like to learn more about the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation report, click here. There is so much to learn but we can't learn if we're not made aware of it. 

Tim Tamashiro