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Volunteers' Stories

A Neighbourly Welcome

Photo of volunteers, André and Micheline Bastien André et Micheline Bastien, volunteer ambassadors at St-Lawrence Islands National Park
© Parks Canada

For the past 25 years, André and Micheline Bastien have enjoyed long summer holidays on their fully-equipped cabin cruiser, sailing the waters in and around St. Lawrence Islands National Park. “We bought our boat at a marina in Bath, Ontario, and we were piloting her home when we first visited the park,” remembers Micheline. “We both fell in love with the park—particularly the islands—and we talked about making a return trip the next year.”

Subsequent trips have reunited the Bastiens with acquaintances and friends from previous years. “We have met hundreds of people over the years,” André says, “for us that is the best part of boating.” As experienced boaters, the Bastiens are happy to share their vast knowledge about boating with others. “We always get to know people by offering a helping hand,” laughs Micheline, “and we have made friends with people we have met volunteering at the park. One family in Japan writes to us each Christmas”.

One good friend is Harry Szeto, a member of the Parks Canada team. “We met Harry years ago and he later asked us to volunteer for the Islands Stewardship Program,” Micheline recalls, “and we agreed right away because we had been ‘unofficial volunteers’ for some time!”

André and Micheline are typical of the volunteers recruited by Szeto: they spend most of the summer touring the islands on their cabin cruiser, exploring and rediscovering favourite spots each year. “We know the park and its waterways very well and we always help others out, which is part of boating,” says André. “People often need help with small repairs, tips on where to explore, directions to the marina or how to pack-out their garbage when they leave.”

Helping others explore the park in safety is important to the couple. “Many people don’t know about tics and Lyme Disease, or how to safely have a fire for roasting marshmallows,” Micheline reports, “so we help make sure they have a safe holiday.”

An accomplished outdoorsman and boater, André has even offered basic boating skills to assist tourists who have rented a houseboat. “Our best memories are helping people out on the water. The park attracts people from different backgrounds or who speak different languages, but the water belongs to everybody and we all look out for one another,” he says.

Helping families is a particular pleasure. “I’ve even arranged shopping trips on rainy days,” says Micheline, “and lots of picnics and get-togethers around a fire. It is fun for us to see families and children enjoying the park like we do”.