North Renfrew Family Services Board of Directors member Philip Chester travelled from Deep River to Ottawa by canoe. He did this to raise awareness and funds for the not-for-profit K.i.D.S. ‘n Canoes pilot project. He made a stop at Petawawa Point. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)


Trip raises funds for K.i.D.S ‘n Canoes

By: Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017


At 66, North Renfrew Family Services (NRFS) Board of Directors member Philip Chester is sharing his passion for the canoe with local youth.

He took on the challenge of paddling his way from Lamure Beach in Deep River down to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to raise funds for the NRFS’ not-for-profit K.i.D.S. ‘n Canoes pilot project as well as awareness of the cultural and historical significance of canoeing.

Most notably his journey is about Canadian kids getting into canoes through this program.

“This trip isn’t about me,” said Chester. “It wasn’t an ego trip. This trip is about the ‘invisible kids’. For them to enjoy, and possibly get a lifetime enjoyment of paddling a canoe.”

His original goal was to raise $1,000, which he successfully accomplished long before putting a paddle into the water. Everything from this expedition went into the K.i.D.S. ‘n Canoes to support young people living between Deux Rivieres and Chalk River who would like to experience time on the water. This initiative is part of NRFS desire to get children and teenagers outdoors, experiencing the joy of canoeing in a safe, secure environment.

As a member of Paddle Canada, he ensured that his own voyage was undertaken in a responsible manner. Though he did some paddling by himself, friends and family often joined him, meeting new people along the way.

The long journey started on June 18 with a ceremony presided over by members of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn, who bestowed their blessings on him.

“(The pouch of tobacco given to him by Algonquin Chief Kirby Whiteduck) is very important to me,” said Chester. “It wouldn’t have been given to me unless they respected what I was doing.”

Canoeing the Ottawa River was no easy feat.

The former philosophy teacher has had triple bypass heart surgery, and conditions were not necessarily the best for a two-week journey. Yet even as he battled hail and rain, fighting against headwinds and currents and confronted by unpenetrable hydro dams, he continued on, pulling to shore only when safety required it. He was two days late due to issues beyond his control, arriving in Ottawa after the Canada Day party on the Hill. Nonetheless, he accomplished his goal.

Both the Ottawa River and the canoe itself were chosen for good reason.

“Without the Ottawa River, there would be no country called Canada and without the canoe, there would be no Canada,” said Chester.

This is one of the lessons that he hopes to teach the kids taking part in the pilot project.

A canoe is more than just a mode of transport; it is a living tradition that must be shared with the youth. It teaches things that no other watercraft can, including utility, as less is more. The canoe doesn’t ask what you want but gives you what you need. Paddling a canoe makes a counter-cultural statement in an environmentally friendly way. It shows respect for the wild world and encourages stewardship for the environment, perhaps helping the conservation of sacred First Nation places like Oiseau Rock. It also demonstrates the four Principles, Grounding, Centering, Balance and Pace, which can be used in many different facets of life.

“It brings forward the ancient teachings and wisdom of the past into the present moment with the real hope for a future in which the Earth is respected,” he said.

Canoeing together also builds friendships.

“It creates circular relationships, not hierarchical ones as it is an equaliser,” said Chester. “Everybody is equal in a canoe.”

More importantly for children, it allows for them to reconnect to something greater and more natural, and become more self-resilient, free and independent.

“It gives an alternative view of the world,” said Chester. “It is a complete and total paradigm shift. It brings forward the past, reclaims the future so our kids have a future with a natural component.”

The pilot project is currently in its infant phase, but Chester believes it will be a template that could be used by municipalities, organizations and youth centred programs all across Canada.

For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation to the cause, please visit www.kidsncanoes.com.