Life After the Polar Prince

It has been two days since I’ve gotten back to my life in Ottawa, ON. The reflection below was written after I had finished packing up on June 10th, 2017.

By: Canada C3 Youth Ambassador on Leg 1, Dhilal Alhaboob

This article was reposted from Dhilal’s blog, the Gist.

Today marks the close of the first leg of the Canada C3 expedition on the Polar Prince. There is so much that is unfinished. Thoughts and learning unfinished. I am leaving more confused than before. They say that the more you know, the less you know. And still, when you know better, you do better. So, where do you start?

Canada is best known for its utmost politeness and its size. Lesser known is our history of mistreating indigenous peoples, the diversity of our natural spaces, as well as the disagreement in what the future holds for Canada. We are, as Geoff Green likes to put it, an ocean nation. We are a coast-to-coast-to-coast nation. We are rich in diversity, be it in landscapes, perspectives or peoples, and we are just now learning how to harness that as a strength for all Canadians.

You’d think a nation by default would be by the people, for the people. But when Canada was first conceived, it was not made for all the people, and for that reason, not by all the people. How do you reconcile with that reality? How do you build on shifting waters? I don’t have these answers. I couldn’t possibly have them. I think we build these answers with time and consistent effort. Roundtables and grassroots initiatives are great, but political overhaul is of the essence. If our parliament was really keen on moving forward with reconciliation, there would be an entire reform of the Indian Act, and a nation-wide campaign on treaty education for settlers, who are also treaty people. I think we are moving forward, though.

During this leg of the expedition, I learned that I love being out on the water. I learned so much about freshwater systems, like how the largest freshwater system in the world is found in Canada. I learned that people from Akwesasne First Nation have to pass through international customs on their own traditional territories. I listened to the fascinating insights of my co-participants and got a feel for how many cool people there are out there trying to create positive change for this generation and those to come.

It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of the Canada C3 expedition. I have made friends from every corner of the country, and even a friend from Germany. I met a newcomer family living in Wellington, Prince Edward County. I had maple butter. I interviewed a chef on his work. I helped plant two little saplings on Gordon Island. I saw the most beautiful sunset of my life. I met a handful of kindred spirits. I read a book. I wrote plenty and sketched a bit. I embraced being quiet. I fasted. I even sang with Aaron Pritchett (I will never live that down). I had Korean BBQ for the first time. Became friends with a zodiac driver from France named Julien.

I had fun. And I am so grateful to have a voice in changing the narrative of what Canada really is and what we have the potential of becoming. I can’t say this experience was particularly life-changing, because most things leave me changed. What I can say is that my life has been dented, bitten into and gladly made richer for all that I’ve lived and learned.

To all those boarding on coming legs, I have a few recommendations:

  1. Be critical and outspoken. This is an opportunity for you to join a larger conversation and integrity is of the essence.
  2. Buy the cheese/preserves/ice cream. Always.
  3. Don’t use your data while your service is roaming. Reality hits you hard when you come back to a lovely $500 phone bill.

I think this may be good advice to anyone. I hope it serves you well. I wish someone had let me in on that last one.