by Alisha Rosset

100 paddlers locking through the Sault Canal lock on Canada Day 2017
100 paddlers locked through the Sault Canal lock on Canada Day 2017

On July 1, 2017, the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site partnered with the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority to host the lock’s first paddling event! The event celebrated Canada 150, as well as, recognized the St. Mary’s Heritage River.

We were joined in the celebration by our Indigenous partners, the Métis Nation of Ontario and the Healing Lodge Singers, a group of First Nation vocalists and drummers from the region.

The event began with the Healing Lodge Singers drumming 100 paddlers into the upper approach of the lock. The commemoration of the St. Mary’s Heritage River and celebration of Canada Day was recognized through a heritage re-enactment, storytelling and official welcomes from the Mayor, local Member of Parliament, and local Member of Provincial Parliament. The event also featured a speech from the city’s Canada 150 Ambassador, former Saultite and the first female Canadian Astronaut to successfully launch a space mission, Dr. Roberta Bondar. This year commemorated Dr. Bondar’s 25th anniversary of her space mission.

A canoe flying a Canadian flag
Celebrating Canada150

After the tribute to the waterway, visitors at the Sault Canal were invited to take part in traditional Métis games, Parks Canada airbrush tattoos, and musical entertainment.

“I’m a casual kayak enthusiast who just decided ‘why not?’ What I found was a lot of fun and friendly people, and we all shared a memorable experience!” –Jamie Payette, Parade of Paddles Participant

Thanks to the success of the event and positive feedback from both participants and spectators, we look forward to hosting this event again in the future.

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