Michelle Thrush is taking a break from the set and setting sail on the Esperanza with her 14-year-old daughter Imajyn Cardinal.

On Thursday, along with British actor Emma ThompsonThrush and her daughter embarked on a 10-day trip, part of Greenpeace’s Save The Arctic campaign.

The award-winning Cree actor is best-known for her performance as Gail Stone in Blackstone. She also starred in the Palme d'Or- and Cesar-award nominated film Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian.

Thrush has a long history of activism, including her infiltration of the 11th Oil Round meeting in Calgary in 2013 to speak up for the indigenous people of the Amazon and the creation of Calgary’s Hug a Non-Native Day.

We asked Thrush about her activism and her trip on the Esperanza.

Can you tell me what motivated you to get started in activism?

I’ve always had a part of me since I was a kid that knew when things weren’t fair, and if you weren’t part of the solution then you were a part of the problem. It started off when I was quite young; I saw a lot of injustice against women.

I was at Lubicon Lake back when I was in high school, doing the blockades there, and it continued on from there.

Do you think that one type of activism is more effective than another?

Hug a non-Native day in Calgary

From left: Kimberly Weasel Fat, Idle No More Calgary organizer, Calgary artist Deb Desmarais, and actor/activist Michelle Thrust gave out free hugs last year on a busy Calgary street corner. (Michelle Thursh)

I don’t believe in violence. I think we have more ability to create change through awareness, through education.

I’ve always been a part of creating ways of political awareness through education, which is why I did the Hug-A-Native Day.

It’s better to create allies than it is to create enemies and opposition. So everything I do is always about including people to be a part of it, including this campaign that we are on right now.

When Greenpeace approached you about the trip on Esperanza, what was your reaction?

I was really honoured to be asked to be a part of this campaign and to represent Canada.

I feel that they definitely are forward in decolonizing themselves and understanding what’s happening in the North and how their actions directly did affect the people of the North and know they are doing everything they can to create more alliances up there.

What are you hoping will come out of this trip?  

Esperanza Greenpeace ship

The 10-day trip aboard the ship Esperanza is part of Greenpeace’s Save The Arctic campaign. (Greenpeace)

I’m honoured that my oldest daughter is going to be accompanying me. It’s important for me that she’s aware of what’s happening in the world, and I’ve tried to raise both of my daughters to be aware of creating solutions.

And also to spread awareness that things are changing drastically up there and we all need to put on our awareness hats to try to make a transition into more sustainable ways of living.

What's one thing that you'd like to talk about with Emma Thompson?

I definitely want to talk about acting and see what kind of things inspire her as far as the environment goes, the reasons that she’s involved in this, and who her mentors are.


Thrush  and the rest of the crew travelling on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza — started out from the northernmost port in Norway. They will sail north and visit the world’s largest climate research station, participate in experiments and research, spend a night in a trapper’s cabin on the ice, clean up plastics from a beach, and meet with the BBC's Frozen Planet team before reaching the sea ice edge and visiting retreating glaciers.

This interview was edited for length.