Around 300 paddlers celebrated Canadian Rivers Day the old-fashioned way Sunday, with a 20-km trip along the Ottawa River in voyageur-style canoes.
The event is organized to bring people together to celebrate the Ottawa River, said Natasha Wilson with the Ottawa Riverkeeper, who organized the trip from Victoria Island to Petrie Island with the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.
“Really, this is just about celebrating our river and encouraging people to use it,” said Wilson. “We always say swim, drink, fish from your river. This is a reminder at the start of the summer that the river is here for them to enjoy.”
Paddlers ranging from novices to world-class took part in the event.
Olga and Dimitry Kutikov made their first trip on Ottawa River to show their four-year-old son the side of Ottawa and Gatineau that you can’t see from on land.
Sven Brouwer brought his two-year-old and four-month-old sons along for the ride because he and his wife are “big paddlers” and trying to get the kids on the water as much as possible.
“It’s important to be part of a day like this to recognize heritage rivers, with the amount of damming and ruining of rivers that’s going on,” he said.
But it doesn’t take long before any group of paddling enthusiast to discuss the politics and challenges of keeping the water safe and clean, especially when many of them came to Ottawa for the 6th annual Canadian River Heritage Conference, which started last night.
Jay Morrison will be presenting a poster at the conference on the Canadian Rivers Network, a group of organizations opposed to proposed amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection.
He said the proposed changes would allow the federal transport minister to exempt certain construction projects on some waters from environmental assessment and the provisions of the bill.
“Even if there are negative impacts on the public right to navigation or the environment, the minister can exempt that,” he said.