Local centennial paddlers honoured by Governor General in Ottawa

By Lois Ann Dort    

GUYSBOROUGH – For 50 years the three men from Guysborough who participated in the Centennial Voyageur Canoe Pageant were called upon infrequently to tell the story of their epic paddling adventure from B.C. to Expo 67. But celebrations for Canada’s sesquicentennial brought accolades and inquires out of the woodwork in surprising succession, culminating in an invitation to Rideau Hall to meet with the Governor General of Canada Julie Payette on Thursday, October 19.

In early October, invitations arrived for paddlers Gerry Jamieson, Shawn Hadley, Richard Gerrior (currently residing in Truro) and their spouses to meet with the Governor General in Ottawa on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Centennial Voyageur Canoe Pageant. The three, along with fellow Team Nova Scotia paddler Lloyd Hogg, decided to accept the invitation and make plans to travel to Ottawa.

Shawn Hadley said of the decision, “It was only going to happen once, so we decided we better go.”

The reception at Rideau Hall was a reunion of sorts, with former teammates and team members from the other provinces and territories that took part in the canoe race 50 years ago, which still stands in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest canoeing race in history.

Of the teams present, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had the most representatives present, at four members each.

The Governor General spoke with all present for a few minutes and posed for pictures. Gerry Jamieson said that the comment he remembered most from the Governor General was her remark that Nova Scotia looked so green from space. And, he added, “She was very approachable and down to earth.

“She’s a great choice for the job.”

Hadley said of the meeting, “It was good and she was very enlightened, very friendly and very accommodating. We told her where Guysborough was, which she didn’t know, so we enlightened her on that.”

Richard Gerrior said, “It brought back some of memories of when we were there in ‘67. The Governor General was very down to earth and introduced herself as ‘Julie’ and she chatted with us for a few minutes.”

As Gerrior indicated, this wasn’t the first formal visit to the halls of Canadian power for the centennial paddlers. During the centennial celebration in 1967 the paddlers had a luncheon at the Parliament Building with the Prime Minister of the day Lester B. Pearson and the then Governor General Roland Michener. At the time, they had not expected a repeat performance.

On Friday, October 20, Gerrior attended Question Period in the House of Commons, watching from the Gallery with other paddlers from the Centennial Voyageur Canoe Pageant. They were recognized from the floor by New Brunswick MP Matt DeCourcey. He said, as written in the House of Commons Hansard notes from the day, “As we mark 150 years of Canada’s Confederation, we welcome these voyageurs to our nation’s capital as they mark the 50-year anniversary of their extraordinary trek. As the Guinness record holder for the longest canoe race in history, this exploit reflects the Canadian spirit, a spirit of courage and determination that commemorates our past as we set our sights on the next 150 years. I know that all members will join me in celebrating the accomplishments of the centennial voyageurs, and thank them for their continued contributions to Canada.”