The spirit of Canada Day


On July 1, as crowds fill Sechelt and Gibsons for the annual Canada Day festivities, one Sunshine Coast resident will be starting out on a Canadian adventure of epic proportions.

Award-winning filmmaker, photographer and author Dianne Whelan sets out Wednesday from St. John’s, N.L., at mile zero of the Trans Canada Trail, for “a 23,000-kilometre journey where story has no boundaries.”

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Whelan, as Jan DeGrass reports in this week’s Arts and Entertainment section, will hike, bike, ski and paddle her way along the longest trail in the world, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic oceans and linking 1,000 communities.

The journey will take at least 500 days and will be the source material for Whelan’s next project, 500 Days in the Wild. She hopes to release an independent film and non-fiction book documenting her travels as part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations in 2017. That’s also the date set for the official opening of the Trans Canada Trail, which was conceived in 1992 for Canada’s 125th and is 75 per cent complete.

Whelan sharpened her photographic skills at Coast Reporter before going on to other projects, such as the acclaimed 40 Days at Base Camp, shot on Mount Everest. In a kind of homecoming, Coast Reporter readers will be able to follow her new adventure, in print and online, with regular updates and stories.

On her website,, Whelan writes that it’s time to revisit Canadian myths and identity.

“Maybe everything we need to know we have forgotten. So I return to the original Garden of Eden, the domain of Mother Nature, stripped of my lattés and warm comforts to rediscover all that which has been forgotten.”

She writes about her personal reasons for undertaking the journey, summing it up as “knowledge of true self,” which is intimately tied to the wilderness.

“I have rented out my home, put my broken down car into storage, and am stepping off the board game back into the wild, where I have no mortgage, car insurance, Internet, hydro, or credit cards,” she writes. “I know there are dangers, nature is an indifferent mother, and her lessons can be hard. I have felt the bite of an arctic wind and the thin air of Everest. But the only clarity I have ever had has been in her silence.”

That’s clarity of a very Canadian sort.

We wish Dianne a safe and productive journey.

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