“Big Canoe Project is a non-profit, social enterprise that works to get people into action on the water. Whether it’s active living, protecting Georgian Bay by doing water quality monitoring, or building connections in our community.”
In April 2022, the Meaford Culture Foundation provided $1800 to the Big Canoe Project Film Festival. The Festival featured the film, ‘Paddle to the Amazon’, a film by Chris Forde, which tells the tale of the world’s longest canoe trip,12,000 miles from Winnipeg’s Red River to the world’s largest river. Afterwards there was a Q&A with Dana Starkell, who, forty years ago, completed this trip with his father Don. Recently, Tom Thwaits, Executive Director of The Big Canoe Project Organization, reflected on the benefits of that donation to that project.
The $1800 was specifically arrived at as a contribution that MCF could provide because it paid for Meaford Hall for the entire day (Friday April 29/22).
It was important to Tom and the Big Canoe Project to have the Hall for the entire day because, in addition to that time frame allowing for the 7pm public showing of the film, full-day access allowed for Georgian Bay Community School students to come to see the film, during school hours, at no cost to them. The bonus of the Meaford Hall being paid for during the school day enabled the students to walk to and from school. The donation of the Hall’s full day fee, allowed the students to not only participate in the event – but to consider discussing it with their classmates before and afterwards as they walked within sight of our own source of life in and on the water, the Bay.
That community connection to the water is where Tom sees the story of culture living. When asked how a film festival and the Big Canoe Project are aligned – Tom describes it all as being part of the exploration of culture. Understanding the water, the shoreline and its importance today, being conscious of its Indigenous history, the fishing and agricultural heritage, & even the industrial supply chain teaches us about the culture of our community.
The proceeds from the Big Canoe Project Film Festival, and grants and donations from the Meaford Culture Foundation, and others allow the Big Canoe Project to survive as a not for profit organization. In addition to what seems like “just plain old fun” – a 10+ person canoe travelling on the Bay and Lake Eugenia – The Big Canoe Project invites paddlers to take part “citizen science” monitoring water quality. Thanks to Water Rangers and Great Lakes Datastream those observations go on to inform government, NGOs and academics about the health of our waters and help guide conservation efforts and policy. It also builds up a current and historical record of our life source( in so many ways!) in Meaford. The Project is anti-preachy and pro-experience in its lessons about the importance of our shorelines, life in, around and on the water and Big Canoe Project extends its hand to bridge our understanding of our current cultural mosaic of New Canadian, settler, and First Nations people.
It’s the season to enjoy the sun and water of our beautiful area. Consider gathering a group of friends and neighbours for a Big Canoe Project adventure on the shorelines of Georgian Bay or Lake Eugenia. You will see how, from the water, our communities are changing. You will have great fun while you learn the importance and impact of our shorelines and our waters as they define us, from past to present to future.
The Meaford Culture Foundation is a proud sponsor of the Big Canoe Project https://www.bigcanoeproject.org.