We are pleased to announce the recipient of our 2023/2024 Bill Mason Memorial Scholarship, Liam Cunningham. Liam is currently working towards a Bachelor of Science at Athabasca University. As a Paddle Canada instructor, his past few summers have been spent teaching and guiding paddling in the NWT, which is where his interest in learning more about the north of Canada, and the arctic ecosystem were sparked. This led him to continue his education (he is a previous graduate of Algonquin Colleges Outdoor Adventure Program) by studying environmental science and biology at Athabasca University with the goal to combine his diploma and future degree to transition his career from a recreation focus to a conservation focus.
Liam’s philosophy regarding the environment is centered on the need for sustainable coexistence of people and land, which he believes can be achieved through education and no-trace-based recreation:
“Outdoor education is vital to this coexistence as the more we understand about the environment we’re in, the more connected we feel towards it. This goes for recreation as well. Spending more time recreating in space leads us to feel a deeper connection to that particular environment and develop a greater desire to conserve that land and water to continue enjoying it in the future. I believe this reflects Bill Mason’s life very well as he had spent much of his life on the land and water and had always promoted the need for positive coexistence between people and the environment. He also understood that outdoor education and recreation are strong tools to use in developing these relationships between people and the environment. A final point on my philosophy regarding the environment which relates to Bill Mason is the importance of inclusion when it comes to access to the outdoors. It is significantly important that both the education and recreation mentioned above are accessible to everyone regardless of their background. This will ensure people from all walks of life will be able to develop a sense of responsibility to land and water.”
Paddle Canada would like to congratulate Liam on this achievement, we wish him great success while he continues the rest of his studies and look forward to following along on his 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.