British Columbia

Canadian ice breaker finishes 150-day journey in Victoria

As the Polar Prince docked in B.C.'s capital following a tour of the country's coastlines, Canada's Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced that a goal to protect five per cent of Canada's oceans by year's end had been reached.

Federal fisheries minister announces Canada has met 2017 goal to protect 5 per cent of oceans, coastline

The Polar Prince arrived in Victoria's harbour on Oct. 28, 2017 after travelling 23,000 kilometres as part of Canada's 150th birthday. (Russ Nicks/Twitter)
The Polar Prince ice breaker docked in Victoria Saturday, marking the end of a 150-day voyage exploring Canada's coastline.
Canada's Polar Prince docked in Victoria's harbour. (Nicky Hastings/Twitter)

The Canada C3 expedition from Toronto to Victoria via the Northwest Passage celebrated the country's 150th birthday by travelling 23,000 kilometres and visiting 75 communities.

Expedition leader Geoff Green says the journey highlighted the fact that Canada is both an ocean nation and a polar nation: it has the longest coastline of any country, and that coastline is predominately in the Arctic.

He says with so many communities relying on the oceans, lakes and rivers, he believes Canada will become a global leader in championing ocean conservation efforts.

"One of the things we've seen on this journey is how connected we are to that ocean and how important it is to all the incredible communities coast to coast to coast," Green said.

Green added the voyage was a significant opportunity to meet with Indigenous communities and discuss reconciliation. 

"Since the moment we left Toronto, we have been on the territory of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people every step of the way," he said.

'We love sharing the arctic'

Natan Obed is the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national group that works to protect and advance the interests of Inuit in Canada.

Obed says although Indigenous people struggle with the history of their relationship with Canada, they are proud Canadians and welcomed the opportunity to share their traditions with the expedition.

"We love sharing the arctic, sharing our homeland ... with those who want to learn," he said.

Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc also took part in the celebrations and announced Canada has reached its goal of protecting five per cent of its oceans and coastline by the end of this year.

In a written release, the David Suzuki foundation calls it an important milestone.

Two years ago, the amount of protected marine and coastal areas in Canada sat at only 0.9 per cent.

"After years of stagnation, it's inspiring to see momentum for marine protection in Canada," wrote Bill Wareham, a science projects manager with the foundation.

He says the 83,000 square kilometres announced on Saturday as a new protected area will be closed to commercial and recreational bottom-contact fishing activities.

Wareham says Canada is home to some of the most diverse marine environments and unique marine species in the world. In particular, the coast off of B.C. has some of Canada's richest biological wealth. 

"We also know that our oceans are under threat, threat from climate change, overfishing and pollution and many other real threats," he said.

Leblanc added that new marine conservation areas announced earlier this year off the B.C. coast and in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence in Quebec ensured the five-per-cent milestone was reached.

He says the government is now focused on raising that to 10 per cent by 2020.

"Our government will live up to and exceed the commitments we have made to Canadians in terms of ocean protections," he said.

With files from the Canadian Press.