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MEET ONE OF ADVENTURE CANADA'S FINEST
 
(2019 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: JOSEPH FREY



I have had the pleasure of being on an Adventure Canada expedition cruise through the fabled Northwest Passage with Expedition Leader Jason Edmunds.

Adventure Canada’s award-winning expedition cruises have garnered a great deal of attention over the years. Some are Canadian Signature Experiences. Others have been featured on the Discovery Channel. All set sail with a hand-picked team of experts who educate, engage and enlighten their guests through a truly immersive travel experience. The trips feature incredible wildlife—polar bears, whales and seabirds are standard—as well as jaw-dropping landscapes. But it is the cultural component of the company’s programs that truly sets the company apart: journeys into Inuit homelands rely on local knowledge and cultural interpretation straight from the source. Truly, they are trips of a lifetime, travel experiences like none other.

At the heart of each expedition is an Expedition Leader. This top-tier position is reserved for seasoned veterans who walk a tightrope of balancing the complex logistics of seafaring in polar regions with the demands of a floating hotel, a mobile university and an upscale entertainment venue. The Expedition Leader manages the intersection of all that happens aboard the ship. The position demands impeccable organization, flawless attention to detail, quick thinking, and, more often than not, a sense of humour.

Cultural sensitivity is of vital importance to the discerning traveller and Adventure Canada emphasizes a mandate that “locals know best.” In Jason’s case, this is all the more true. An Inuk from Nunatsiavut in Labrador, Jason was born in Nain and delights in returning there each year aboard Adventure Canada’s Greenland & Wild Labrador expedition. Travelling into an Inuit homeland with an Inuit leader allows passengers the opportunity to get an on-the-ground experience of visiting communities and being welcomed along with one of their own. Jason works to bridge the gap between visitors and the places they visit, facilitating a two-way cultural exchange that broadens horizons and expands world views.

What stood out for me was Jason’s calm demeanour and soft-spoken explanations, which turned the most challenging moments into ones of calm and understanding. I was intrigued and wanted to know more about him.

What is your background?

I am Inuit from the Nunatsiavut region of Labrador. I grew up in the town of Nain, which is the most northerly permanent settlement in Labrador. As a teenager, I attended high school in Makkovik where my father ran a five-room hotel. He operated boat charters and guided tours, which I would join, into the Torngat Mountains for a couple of weeks at a time. I guided tours for four summers and then attended Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I studied political science.

How did that play a part in connecting you with Adventure Canada?

The Nunatsiavut Youth division keeps an eye out for opportunities that suit young people in Nunatsiavut. Because of my background in tourism with my father, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a guide-training program. I had not heard of Adventure Canada and was hesitant to travel at first, as I did not have much information; however, the experience was hard to pass up. When I Googled Adventure Canada, I noticed they had programming in Labrador, and to places I knew were spectacular. They looked like a reputable company, so I said yes. 

Why Adventure Canada?

Adventure Canada opened a door for me. Prior to Adventure Canada I didn’t know that expedition cruising and cultural tourism existed. Adventure Canada’s investment into the youth of Nunatsiavut through the Nunatsiavut government provides new, meaningful opportunities—not just token positions. Adventure Canada had fostered an environment where I, as an Inuk, was able to grow my knowledge and skills and become Adventure Canada’s first Inuk Expedition Leader, which is not common in this industry. It is important that visitors are able to share the Arctic through local eyes. Whether it’s me as the leader of the expedition or the artists, activists, elders, instructors or community leaders, we all bring an important perspective.

What is your favourite story or memory?

It happened during my earlier years with Adventure Canada while sailing the Northwest Passage. We had to divert our itinerary because of ice, and we decided to head north and see how far we could make it. We ended up sailing past 80°N. It was around 1:30 a.m. when we turned around, and everyone was awake to experience being at the highest point north of the expedition. On the way there, we made an unplanned stop into Skraeling Island, a beautiful spot rich in archaeological sites off the east coast of Ellesmere Island. The sun was shining and there had been an evening snowfall the night before. All passengers and staff turned into children again, playing in the snow. A snowball fight ensued, and people would take a break and speak to our Inuit culturalists, historians and archaeologist before getting back into the fun. Everyone wished to linger but appreciated what a privilege it was to visit this unplanned treasure as our fleet of Zodiacs set back to our ship. It left a lasting impression on everyone on board, and we took a part of that feeling into every landing thereafter. It was a bonding experience, where strangers got to know each other on a level deeper than dinner conversation. It’s moments like this that make my job the best anyone can have.

What is your favourite adventure?

My favourite adventure is always the Greenland & Wild Labrador trip where we stop in my hometown of Nain. It’s a place I am really proud of. Being my home, I am able to share it with our guests. It’s where I can return to my childhood, a place where I am rooted. When I talk of my connection to the land, it is in this place. I also love the diversity in the landscape and culture along the way. We start the trip by meeting the Kalaallit in the rugged mountains of Greenland. We move south, entering into the wooded areas of the (super welcoming) Nunavik Inuit, in northern Québec. Later, we move into Nunatsiavut with the Inuit of Labrador, and the Innu regions of Natuashish. The Torngat Mountains National Park is a highlight for all. The southern Labrador shores are home to the NunatuKavumiut. Then, we end with the beautiful Newfoundland culture. When you look at where you began, it’s hard to believe everything you covered and learned in one trip!

What do you hope to achieve on each adventure?

I always hope to help our passengers find a deeper connection to the places they visit and to the people they meet. We can provide all the tools, the educational programs and the connection with the places and people who live and work there, but it is up to each individual passenger to make his or her own connections. I want people to come away with a deeper understanding of the places and people they encountered along the way and let go of any preconceptions. 

What new adventure tour(s) would you like to see added to the ever-growing list of Adventure Canada’s excursions?

I would love to see east Greenland and some of the communities there. I learned to appreciate the strength of culture and traditions in the region. I enjoy travelling to the different regions across the circumpolar world. While there are many similarities, our distance and differing social-political environments have made each region unique.

Travel Planner

For information on the various tours and expeditions offered by Adventure Canada, visit adventurecanada.com.

 
 
 
 
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