Making Waves and Building Ocean Literacy
By Victoria Schembri
Between June 14 and 24, 40 youth from across Canada travelled along Lake Superior’s north shore as a part of Ocean Bridge. These young ocean advocates provided services to and learned from the communities that thrive on this great body of water.
These Ocean Bridge ambassadors spent 10 days exploring Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, Neys Provincial Park, Pawgwasheeng (Pays Plat) First Nation, and other communities—all of which, participants remarked, were gracious and generous hosts. Across these locations, they planted trees, performed biodiversity surveys and trail maintenance, removed garbage from shorelines, and all the while built a strong network of activists committed to give a voice to the world’s waterways.
Up until June 14, these youth had only been in contact via online discussions and workshops. The Ocean Bridgers spanned across Canada’s provinces and territories, ranged from ages 18 to 30, and came from different walks of life. After months of sharing experiences and ideas through online meetings, this Lake Superior expedition provided them with an opportunity to not only put faces to names, but also to participate in service projects and cultivate ideas for impactful projects they could bring back to their home communities.
“Getting to know each individual person was amazing. I have a whole new group of lifelong friends and colleagues who share the same passion that I do,” says Mia Otokiak, a participant from Cambridge Bay in Nunavut.
Four of the participants call the shores of Lake Superior home: Caitlyn Harvey from Red Rock; Jake Guggenheimer from Innisfil, currently studying at Lakehead University; Erin Van Breda from Thunder Bay; and Madison Dyck, who also grew up in Thunder Bay.
“Personally, having the service expedition [hosted] on the shores of Lake Superior felt like a massive gift to me,” Dyck explains. “I was able to share my passion and love for this region with inspired youth from across the country. I am on a mission to protect this lake, and I feel like, ‘Hey, we are here, and this lake is damn important!’ It was amazing to have that recognized, and be able to reiterate the global importance of this lake and the responsibility we as Canadians have to protect it.”
The Ocean Bridge team participated in a variety of service-based projects over the 10 days. Most notable for Van Breda was the environmental assessment they conducted at Hurkett Cove. “This type of survey hadn’t been done since the 80s,” Van Breda explains. She explains that the data collection process was tedious and time-consuming, but the information is indispensable for the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority. That Ocean Bridge used their own time and resources to conduct the surveys is, in itself, extremely valuable for LRCA; and the information will be used to make key decisions moving forward in regards to conservation efforts and flood watch in the area.
These youth ambassadors will meet again in January 2020 after returning to their homes and conducting their own service projects. For example, Harvey and Van Breda plan to hold single-use plastic reduction workshops in Thunder Bay, starting with beeswax wrap tutorials. An upcoming Ottawa meeting will be another opportunity to share ideas, resources, and inspire each other to continue standing up for the Earth’s most precious resource: water.
This program is part of a larger, national initiative called Ocean Wise, which is supported by Canada Service Corps. To learn more, visit oceanwise.ca.