Q&A with Leg 6 Journey Participant Shaun Majumder

Shaun Majumder in the Torngat Mountains

Canada C3: Why did you want to come on Canada C3?

Shaun Majumder: Oh my gosh. Opportunity of a lifetime, I’d say! I’ve been blessed to have gone on some pretty fun adventures through work. This trip in its mission, which has evolved over time, was pretty intriguing for me. I love adventure. I’m an outdoors guy. I love the land. I love exploring. I’ve got mini-Jacques Cousteau genes in me. So, it was really important for me when I came on to be open to whatever was thrown my way.

C3: So, you saw a polar bear. What was that like?

We did. We were blessed with a greeting and a meeting of nanuk. It’s interesting. You come to the north and everybody talks about the polar bear. You can’t wait to see a polar bear. The polar bear is everything. I’ve seen seals. I’ve seen whales. We’ve seen lots of things on this trip, but the elusive polar bear, for our trip, they weren’t showing up. They told us “Tomorrow morning, you’ll wake up. Guaranteed polar bear.” You wake up, you go outside, no polar bears anywhere. We went to Ramah Bay. No polar bears. There are supposed to be polar bears everywhere. There’s supposed to be a polar bear softball game going on and we didn’t see it.

So, yesterday we went to Eclipse Sound. The weather wasn’t very favourable. It was wet. It was cold. We went out in the zodiacs in this bay. There were rumblings on the walkie talkie that this polar bear was spotted, but that was by the front boat. All of us were late coming, so by the time we got there he was gone. So, then we were like okay, well, at least we were near one. Nobody saw it, except for one person. Who? Geoff Green, of course, because he’s a wizard.

Then, we went on this major hike all the way up the opposite side of the arm. As we were walking up, myself and Andrew, who’s one of the bear guards, we decided to have a look over and see if we could see anything. Sure enough, the bear had walked down. So, one of Geoff’s mantras is flexibility. We had planned to go up to this waterfall, but everybody mobilized quickly and said “Let’s get down and see if he will stick around.”

So, we got to the zodiacs. One boat had already gone over there. The bear had been triggered to be curious. He stood up on his hind paws and looked down and sniffed the air. That led him to come down, because there was this new fresh smell of delicious human food. He started walking down and we all arrived. It all went quiet. We turned off the engines and just sat and watched this amazing animal come down. It was beautiful to watch.

Photo by Shaun Majumder

C3: Had you heard of the Torngat Mountains before?

SM: Yes, because I lived in Newfoundland. You learned about it in school. Everybody talked about the Torngats, but never really pushed it in school. Everything was about Gros Morne, probably because it’s so accessible. For the Torngats, I’d only seen pictures. Even now, words stopped coming out of my mouth, because it’s hard to wrap your head around the power of the Torngat Mountains National Park. It wasn’t that I couldn’t speak. Obviously, I could, but I felt compelled to be silent in the presence of this incredible beauty. What is there to say?

So, that physical effect that the land has on me is pretty powerful, but that’s just a fraction of what this story is. For me, the highest value of this trip has been understanding the story of the Inuit people even more. I grew up listening to stories about problems in Labrador. That’s all I heard – problems. “The Inuit people are really struggling. Suicide. Gas huffing.” That’s not the story of the Inuit people. The story of the Inuit people goes so much further. It’s about self-determination. As Natan Obed said in Hebron, “One culture doesn’t have to dominate another in order for both to thrive.” In fact, it should be the opposite.

C3: If you could tell Canada one thing about your experience on Leg 6, what would it be?

I can’t stress enough that Canadians have to take an active role in going beyond the rhetoric when it comes to the conversation about the relationship between Canada and its Indigenous peoples. We get so inundated on a daily basis with social media and the noise of the easy soundbite armchair human problem solvers. “Well, they shouldn’t drink so much. The problem is they don’t have jobs. Why did they drop out?” If you look at the deep root cause of the problem, it’s so much more.

Recognition that the people who were here well before anybody else have an absolute right to continue their way of living. We live in a structure – there is a parliamentary structure, a monetary structure, a land ownership structure that was imposed. Everything is in a box now. The people of the land who were here before didn’t live inside a societal structure in the way that we do now. They lived in an ebb and flow relationship with land. They were in sync with the land, the air and the migration of the animals. I’m sure there were issues back then as well, but I think these people – any people – have to be able to be their true selves on a daily basis in order to exist and to be synergistic with their culture and to find happiness. It’s a weird thing. What is happy? Happy is when you are free to be who you are.