A respected Quebec doctor is embarking on a 3,200-kilometre walk across northern Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador to inspire First Nations young people.
Stanley Vollant will begin his trek, called the Innu Meshkanu (Innu Road), in Havre-Saint-Pierre on Quebec’s North Shore, on Tuesday.
The 45-year-old will spend three weeks walking to aboriginal communities in the region, sharing his story of how, after growing up in poverty, he became Quebec’s first aboriginal surgeon, a marathon runner, a proud father and professor of medicine at the University of Montreal.
He plans to make similar treks annually over the next five to six years.
Vollant said he wants to show young people from First Nations communities that they can do anything they set their minds to while still respecting their roots.
"Walking is a traditional way for our people to deal with stress, to connect with the land … also realize our dreams," said Vollant.
'If I can inspire one or two young people in each of the communities I visit over the next five years, I would say that would be mission accomplished.'— Stanley Vollant, Quebec doctor
Growing up in the small Innu village of Betsiamites, Que., Vollant said he faced the same problems of poverty and isolation that many First Nations children still experience today.
He had to overcome racism and find his own identity, he said.
"I'm going to tell them stories about the obstacles that I had, and tell them that they are going to face obstacles, too," said Vollant, who now lives and has a practice in Montreal.
He also returns regularly to Betsiamites for clinical work.
Vollant said he hopes each step of his trek will inspire others to take bigger steps in their lives.
"If I can inspire one or two young people in each of the communities I visit over the next five years, I would say that would be mission accomplished," he said.
Vollant hopes to complete his first 500 kilometres by the first week of November, when he is scheduled to arrive in Baie-Comeau, Que.