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1967: Centennial Voyageur Canoe Pageant launches

The Story

Ten canoes plus 100 men racing over 3,300 miles in 104 days equals one big Centennial project. It's Canada's 100th birthday this year, and the Centennial Voyageur Canoe Pageant is just one way people are celebrating the country's past and looking to its future. The CBC's Bill Guest hosts the network's live radio coverage of the pageant's launch on the North Saskatchewan River at Rocky Mountain House, Alta. The competitors, representing eight provinces and two territories, are tracing a route through rushing rivers, along windswept lakes and across gruelling portages. It's a way of paying homage to the fur-trading voyageurs and explorers who opened up the country, and spectators in the hundreds have turned out to watch the official start on a rainy day. CBC reporter Doug McIlraith talks to two team captains from Manitoba and New Brunswick about the journey ahead. 

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: May 24, 1967
Guest(s): Norm Crerar, Henry Land
Host: Bill Guest
Reporters: Garnet Anthony, Fred Diehl, Doug McIlraith
Duration: 6:00
Photo: Frank Grant / National Archives of Canada / PA-185522

Did You know?

• Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland did not enter teams in the pageant.

• The race stopped in about 90 towns and cities along the route. Almost everywhere the paddlers stopped they were greeted with a grand feast, and in Ottawa they were treated to a reception at Rideau Hall.

• These modern voyageurs also consumed plenty of food of their own: 30,000 eggs, 10,000 litres of milk, 5,000 loaves of bread and almost 12 tonnes of steaks, bacon, potatoes, butter and honey.

• At the end of each day there were sprint races with prize money raised by local communities. There were also lap races along the way, up to 150 kilometres long. Times for both were tallied, and in the end Manitoba was fastest: 531 hours, six minutes. Runner-up British Columbia was just 80 minutes behind.

• One of the Manitobans was Don Starkell, who would later break records paddling to the Amazon River in 1980 and across the Arctic ten years later.

• The paddlers arrived at the Expo site in Montreal after traversing 26 bodies of water. They had carried each loaded canoe, weighing 180 kilograms, over 70 portages - 100 kilometres in total.

CBC Television broadcast their arrival live. The CBC Times program schedule promoted the event: "Ten bronzed, calloused and weary teams... will shoot the dangerous Lachine rapids and paddle to Montreal's north shore on September 4th to end a gruelling, hazardous journey."

Also on May 24:
1603: Samuel de Champlain first lands in what would become Quebec, at Tadoussac, Lower Canada.
1932: Parliament passes a bill establishing the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, which became the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Nov. 1936.
2000: What is termed Canada's worst e. coli outbreak becomes public knowledge. Seven people die and 2,300 are sickened after drinking contaminated water in the southwestern Ontario community of Walkerton.


1967: Canada's Centennial Year more