OTTAWA – In his run across Canada, Caribou Legs has crossed the highest mountains, drank from some of the purest springs, and been buffeted by more 18 wheelers than he’d like to count.
The Gwich’in cross-country runner from the Northwest Territories left Vancouver on June 1 on a pledge to protect lakes and rivers in Canada, most of which lost their federal environmental protection in 2012.
“Our waterways need protection from Stephen Harper’s government and from big oil, gas and mining companies eager to sacrifice them for profit,” said Caribou Legs the morning of his departure. “I have a voice, I have legs, and I’m committed to using them to make change.”
Averaging 50-75 km per day, Caribou Legs followed the Trans-Canada Highway, passing through such places as Kamloops, Canmore, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Regina, Brandon, Winnipeg, Kenora, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and finally Ottawa.
“What kept me going is the vulnerability and magnificence of this land,” says Caribou Legs. “I saw dirty rivers with sewage pipes running right into them, other times it was leaking oil. But I also tasted pure water, saw animals in their habitat, and breathed the cleanest air you can imagine. We have a choice: do we protect our natural resources? Or do we exploit and in the process destroy them?”
The run was supported by the Council of Canadians, as part of the larger #Pledge2Protect campaign which calls for Members of Parliament to reinstate environmental protections for all lakes and rivers.
“Caribou Legs is an inspiration. We need people like him who are willing to go the distance to raise awareness of the vulnerability of our lakes and rivers,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “The Navigable Waters Protection Act was Canada’s oldest piece of legislation, ensuring that our waters were for everyone since 1882. Now, our waterways are being prioritized for industry. No matter which government gets elected this October, I urge MPs to not only reinstate but strengthen our environmental legislation. We can do better.”
Caribou Legs, born Brad Firth, spent 20 years in Vancouver, mostly homeless, often addicted. But Firth, whose aunts Shirley and Sharon Firth were cross-country skiers and among the first Aboriginal athletes to represent Canada at the Olympics, found relief and a purpose in running. “Running is my way of life. I have an obligation to serve my people and let them know that it is possible to transform oneself from addiction, and even that it is possible to transform the world around you.”
Welcome Caribou Legs to Ottawa!
Please join us at for a welcome and water ceremony on Victoria Island followed by a run to Parliament Hill.
What: Welcome for Caribou Legs, water ceremony, run with Caribou Legs and petition delivery on Parliament Hill
Where: Victoria Island, Ottawa
Who: Caribou Legs and supporters from the Council of Canadians, the Assembly of First Nations and Idle No More Ontario.
Local federal candidates have been invited to accept a petition calling on MPs to protect lakes and rivers.
Special guests include: Paul Dewar, NDP incumbent for the riding of Ottawa Centre; has confirmed he will run with Caribou Legs. This event is part of the Ottawa Peace Festival.
When: Monday, September 21, 2015
11:00 am Welcome and water ceremony at Victoria Island
12:00 pm Run/walk from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill
12:30 pm Presentation of petitions on stairs at Parliament Hill (candidates to say a few words)
Welcome to Ottawa!
Petition delivery on Parliament Hill
See more photos from the run: