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Bill Mason Memorial Scholarship Recipient 2022/23

Bow River 1

This year saw over 20 applicants to the Bill Mason Memorial Scholarship, and our selection committee was very impressed and inspired by the quality of the applicants.

We are pleased to introduce you to the recipient of the 2022/23 award, Robin Pollard. Robin is studying at the University of Victoria student and is also a Paddle Canada canoe instructor, and shared these words with us upon receiving this award:

“I am grateful and honoured to be recognized by the Bill Mason Scholarship Committee for this award. I believe outdoor education, environmentalism, and climate justice all go hand in hand and can be practiced in alignment with each other. In Path of the Paddle, Bill Mason suggests that “It might seem that we own the earth, and we certainly act that way, but I don’t believe we do” (p. 194). Fostering communal and personal responsibility for the earth, rather than ideas of ownership or dominion over it, is incredibly important to me. The bodies of water we paddle through are a connection of watersheds and ecosystems managed since time immemorial by Indigenous nations—each with specific laws and protocols that continue to be alive in landscapes today. River ecologies are lifelines, travel routes, and homes to many, traversing diverse ecosystems to meet the ocean. Paddling through river systems often reminds me that the creation of provincial and state borders are not natural law, and humans and the natural world exist in interdependence, reliant on our collective commitment to care for each other and the world around us.

I grew up in Treaty 7 Territory, on the lands of Îethka Stoney Nakoda, Blackfoot, and Tsu Tsina nations. Water has shaped who I am, from the Great Lakes where I learned to swim, to the glacier rivers flowing through the Rocky Mountains where I grew up. I took my first canoe instructors’ course with Stef MacDiarmid on the Kicking Horse River in Ktunaxa lands. That course challenged me, and I was incredibly inspired by the passion, care, and dedication Stef showed with her teaching. Since then, I have sought out and found mentors and friends in the whitewater community, on and off various rivers. Some are teachers like Stef, others are co-workers at the Madawaska Kanu Centre, and some are a part of the Bow Valley, UVic, and Vancouver Island paddling communities. One mentor & friend rescued me after a swim and coincidentally co-taught my whitewater rescue course later that year, she was the 2010 recipient of this award, Allison Bray. 

Inspired by my mum’s teachings on the importance of creating connections with the people and ecosystems around me, I have been involved in community advocacy and environmentalism since high school, where I engaged in protecting important wildlife corridors within the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Since then, I continue to merge my passions of outdoor education with environmental justice and I am currently finishing my degree at the University of Victoria with a double major in Environmental Studies and Indigenous Studies. During my time at UVic, I was introduced to Erynne Gilpin, a Saulteaux-Cree Metis community-based researcher, educator, Land-based wellness advocate, and rock climber. Her teachings, among many others in the island community, have re-shaped how I view and interact with outdoor education and community activism. 

I am continually grateful for the communities I am a part of, which cultivate cultures of care for each other and the natural world. This scholarship is important because it celebrates the unique and diverse ways students are working to challenge, change, and care for the world. It also fosters a community where love and respect for water is of central importance.”

Paddle Canada would like to congratulate Robin on this achievement, and we look forward to following along on her path. We would also like to send a sincere thank you to our selection committee, for the time and energy they put into reviewing all candidates while at the same spreading the word of the Bill Mason Memorial Scholarship and helping to raise funds to keep the scholarship available for years to come.

If you would like to support the fund, the Canadian Canoe Foundation collects funds on our behalf, and you can make a tax-deductible donation here