The Canada C3 expedition brought together nearly 450 Canadians from across Canada on a historic journey around Canada’s three coasts. The experience was transformational for everyone onboard, impacting each person in unique ways. For Kirsten Acker, this was an experience that brought her life full circle and connected her with a journey her grandparents undertook 50 years ago.
Kirsten’s grandfather worked in Tuktoyaktuk, Nunavut in 1965, helping to install power and telephone lines. In 1967, during Canada’s 100th anniversary of Confederation, he decided to embark on a journey across Canada with his wife, Kirsten’s Métis grandmother. The journey was titled “Arctic to Expo: A 10,000 mile Model A Ford Epic from Coast to Coast to Coast” and it was quite the endeavour! He outfitted the Model A Ford with skis, divided their eight children up among their siblings for safekeeping and ventured from Tuktoyaktuk to Vancouver along the coast, and then via Expo ‘67 in Montreal all the way across to Halifax.
They brought with them a book that they had covered with sealskin once in Inuvik and collected signatures from people they met along the way. Similar to the C3 expedition many people thought they were crazy to undertake such an ambitious journey. A man from Inuvik even went so far as to write “crazy white man” on the hood of Kirsten’s grandfather’s vehicle. But they completed their “coast to coast to coast” journey…a phrase that, 50 years later, sparked Kirsten’s interest to join the Canada C3 expedition.
“The third coast is so often forgotten,” says Kirsten. She remembers fondly the stories of her grandfather and his sealskin book, filled with signatures from Canadians from Inuvik to Halifax and many places in-between. And when she heard about the opportunity to join a “coast to coast to coast” expedition, she jumped at the opportunity to apply to be part of Canada C3.
Kirsten was selected to join Leg 7, sailing from Iqaluit to Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut. “Other than my marriage and my kids it was probably one of the most poignant moments of my life,” says Kirsten.
Experiencing her own piece of the “coast to coast to coast” journey, like her grandparents, had a huge impact on Kirsten and became a part of her that she wanted to share with others. Recently, she had the C3 logo tattooed on her ankle as a permanent reminder.
“I’m hoping that everyone takes away and learns something from the themes we touched on. My grandmother was in residential school, so I knew about that and the Métis. But I had no idea about the North and the Inuit. Or about the role of the RCMP or the dog slaughter and how far back it goes or how hard their journey has been. I was really proud to be a part of it to create some awareness. There are so many Canadians who don’t know anything about it. People see my tattoo and it sparks a conversation. I hope it creates dialogue for people who do not have much knowledge of reconciliation.”
In addition to engaging others in learning more about the people and places of the North, Kirsten hopes to reconnect with her Métis heritage and leverage her skills as a registered nurse to give back to Indigenous communities.
“As a Registered Nurse I hope to utilize what I have learned through my experience with Canada C3 to provide the best care I can to indigenous Canadians.”