• James Parry

Weary but determined reconciliation canoeists land in Hudson en route to Kahnawake


Exhausted and thrilled to reach land, these paddlers - together with those in six other canoes - were welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd at the Hudson Yacht Club beach on Sunday afternoon.

Inspired by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and with the hope of encouraging intercultural and interreligious dialogue and learning, some 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous paddlers pulled their long canoes up onto the Hudson Yacht Club beach on Sunday afternoon, August 13. Just one stop in their 850-km voyage from Midland, Ontario, to Kahnawake, the First Nation Reserve of the Mohawks on the South Shore of the St. Lawrence River across from Montreal.

And what a memorable, albeit brief, overnight stay they had, said co-organizer and one of the lead paddlers in the Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage (CCP), Erik Sorenson, who told Your Local Journal, “We have been made to feel so welcome and we will always remember Hudson. It's obvious that you have a wonderful community here.”

Throughout the long and arduous Jesuit-led trip through all kinds of weather, joined by others of different faiths, and averaging about 45 km a day - some from the very beginning, others at various stages along the route - Sorenson added that they, “were all immersed in each other's customs and traditions, with the goal of fostering deep respect, trust, dialogue and hopefully friendship as the building blocks for conciliation.”

Welcomed by Hudson’s Father Roland Demers and Bishop Noël Simard of the Diocese of Valleyfield, for a liturgical celebration in St. Thomas Aquinas Church followed by a potluck dinner, prepared and served by volunteer parishioners in the Reid Hall below, the paddlers pitched their tents around the church, hanging up their wet clothes to dry on makeshift clotheslines a sight likely never seen before on the church property.

For one of the paddlers, landing in Hudson took on a special and emotional significance. Brook Stacey, currently studying in Toronto to be a Jesuit priest, was welcomed on the beach by his parents, Mike Stacey and Cathy Cirko, as well as his aunt, Arlyne Cirko, whose late husband, Gary, passed away in 1999 and in whose memory Hudson created the 2.5 km Gary Cirko Nature Trail.

Said Stacey, “It has been a wonderful journey so far and being here in Hudson just has to be the icing on the cake.”

Following their brief overnight visit, the paddlers loaded up the following morning and headed out on the next leg of their sojourn, well-fed and dry clothing in tow.

See more photos on our Facebook page.

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