Merrickville-Wolford is preparing for Canada Day 2017 with a major event coming to Merrickville on June 28. The South Wind brigade will be arriving in the village that day as part of a special Canada 150 event. Between June 23 and July 1 of this year, four flotillas of traditional Voyageur-style canoes will be converging on Victoria Island on the Ottawa River as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. The South Wind Brigade will be paddling the Rideau system, from Kingston to Ottawa, and will be arriving in Merrickville on June 28, where they will be staying overnight and holding a public gathering in the Village.
This will be an amazing sight to see, as fifteen canoes, each one between 26 and 36 feet long, with crews of between 14 and 16 each, paddle along the Rideau on their way to Ottawa to join the other three Brigades. They will be arriving from the four points of the compass, in honour of the significance First Nations peoples have always attached to the concept. Victoria Island, where they will meet, is a sacred place for First Nations and the gathering there will be a call for reconciliation between all the peoples of Canada, both with each other, and with their natural environment. A time of healing and community. The aim of the Four Winds Brigades is to celebrate the historical and ecological significance of rivers like the Ottawa, the Gatineau, and the Rideau, that connect our communities, our ecosystems, that connect our people through time and geography. To celebrate the canoe as an icon to the values of this country: cultural cooperation, freedom, respect for the environment.
To symbolize this idea, the canoes will bring bottles of water from the beginnings of the journey each brigade will follow to the foot of Canada’s Parliament. The brigades will be carried out in honour of Elder William Commanda and his vision for a Circle of all Nations, with the canoe as a symbol of how people, water, and nature combine and work together to animate peace, healing, and understanding.
The fifteen canoes taking part in the South Wind Brigade will have two crews from BC, one from Alberta, and three from Ontario. One of these is from the Office of the Surveyor General of Canada. Parks Canada has also indicated that they will have a crew in their Big Canoe. Unattached paddlers are from BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, so this is a truly Canadian event. In addition, local residents with their own canoes, kayaks and small river craft are being invited to join the flotilla between Merrickville and Ottawa. Given the number of canoes already involved in the South Wind Brigade, it has been suggested that those who want to join them on June 29 on the stage to Kemptville should meet them below Lock 17, just past Burritt’s Rapids. Parks Canada are providing free lockage for Canada 150, and, as this is happening just a couple of days before Canada Day, it is thought that the locks will be very busy places indeed.
It will be a colourful and historic event for Merrickville-Wolford. South Wind canoes will also be available to take local residents out for short trips during the afternoon and early evening of June 28. As part of the visit, there will be a dinner at the Legion Hall in the evening, with a talk on the story of First Nations in Eastern Ontario, and it is hoped to have a representative of the Algonquin nation attend to mark the fact that this is unceded Algonquin territory. More details on these activities will be available over the coming weeks.