Iconic Fredericton canoe gets colourful makeover for LGBTQ youth centre fundraiser
Former finance minister and canoe restorer Norm Betts donates rainbow Chestnut canoe to Imprint Youth group
A former New Brunswick cabinet minister has teamed up with a transgender activist in Fredericton to make the capital city a safer and more welcoming place for LGBTQ youth.
And while they're at it, Norm Betts and Reid Lodge will also be helping to take fall colours on New Brunswick waterways to a whole new level.
Betts is a former finance minister and teaches business at the University of New Brunswick, but he also owns a business that specializes in restoring Chestnut canoes.
Canoes don't have to be one of these or one of those. People don't have to be one of these or one of those.- Norm Betts, Chestnut canoe restorer
The prominent brand was locally made from the late 1890s until 1979.
Betts finished his latest restored canoe in rainbow colours and it's being raffled off to raise money for a new LGBTQ youth centre.
"I'd been thinking for a while, why have canoes always been green or red?," Betts said on Information Morning Fredericton.
"I was thinking about doing something different with this canoe and I heard Reid on the radio talking about his project and it just came to me, in the McGivney woods."
"It was quite as simple as, 'Canoes don't have to be one of these or one of those. People don't have to be one of these or one of those.'"
"And the rainbow canoe was born."
Sought a safe space
The Imprint Youth Association is looking to create a safe space, free from drugs and alcohol, where LGBTQ youth can drop in, organize and have fun, said Lodge.
"You can't go to Boom! nightclub as a 15-year-old kid," he said.
Lodge said the group is still looking for an appropriate location. It wants the building to be accessible to people with mobility impairments, and few buildings in downtown Fredericton fit that bill.
If a landlord is willing to work with the group, he said they might be able to partner on fundraising for a stair lift, if necessary.
Lodge said proceeds from the raffle should be enough to operate a youth centre for one year.
Betts has been driving around with the canoe on the roof of his SUV to promote the campaign.
"My favourite morning was, my wife and I were coming out from the market and the car was parked, and there was a mother and two little kids were walking by and one of the kids was saying, 'There it is, Mommy! There it is, Mommy! The rainbow canoe.'
"And it really felt good. It raised that awareness and it's been a lot of fun."
Tickets are $100 each and only 216 are being sold, at various local events and online at gofundme.com. Lodge said the draw date will be determined once the tickets are sold out.
Besides the canoe, first prize also includes camping supplies. Second prize is a round of golf and dinner. And third prize is a stay at a local hotel.
'Paddle your own canoe'
The name of the project, Paddle Your Own Canoe, borrows a phrase implying independence and individualism, steeped in Canadiana, political activism and fun.
According to Wikipedia, the first known use of "Paddle Your Own Canoe," was in 1844, in a children's novel called The Settlers in Canada by Frederick Marryat, about an immigrant family near Lake Ontario.
Women's rights activist Sarah T. Bolton of Indiana wrote a poem she called Paddle Your Own Canoe in 1850.
Canadian explorers and conservationists Gary and Joanie McGuffin thought it an appropriate name for their canoeing how-to guide, published in 1999.
And most recently, comedic actor and real-life woodworker Nick Offerman used it in the title of his 2013 book of Fundamentals for Delicious Living, imparting cheeky wisdom on things like growing a perfect moustache.