Grizzlies and gales hamper Anglican’s unity campaign

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Anglican Chris Robertson battled enraged grizzly bears, defied roaring transport trucks and stood firm in the teeth of howling gales to promote Canadian unity during a year-long, 6,000-kilometre mountain bike odyssey from the southernmost to the most northerly points of the country.

Mr. Robertson, 42, of Burlington, Ont., decided to do something to help keep Canada united after attending the Canadian unity rally in Montreal on the eve of the 1996 Quebec referendum. That experience, he said, showed him that a united Canada is a powerful force.

“It was amazing to see Canadians come together in an effort to save the country,” said Mr. Robertson, a professional speaker and parishioner of St. Christopher’s Anglican Church in Burlington. “There were tens of thousands of Canadians there actually saving Canada.

“I sat down with my family,” he said, “and we made a personal decision to do what we can to give my son, James, a united country.” Mr. Robertson cashed in some RRSP investments and prepared to make the trek from Point Pelee in southwestern Ontario to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories. He left March 1, 1997, and arrived in Tuktoyaktuk on January 7, 1998.

Along the way, he met thousands of Canadians and asked them to examine what they could do to make Canada better. “I met a lot of really kind Anglicans who invited me into their homes, fed me and even offered me the use of their washing machines,” he said.

The journey also allowed him to read the Bible from beginning to end for the first time. “Growing up,” said Mr. Robertson, “I went to Sunday school, confirmation classes and even an Anglican school, where Scripture was read daily, but I’d never read the Bible from beginning to end.”

On the last leg of his journey, Mr. Robertson read the passages in which Moses tells the children of Israel that God has led them to “a good land, a land of milk and honey.”

At the time, it was 80 degrees below zero and he had just finished bicycling across the perilous ice trail stretching beyond the basin of the Mackenzie River about 10 kilometres out into the Arctic Ocean. “It was a powerful message for me,” he said.

Mr. Robertson now hopes to help build a church in Inuvik, where an abandoned warehouse purchased for $1 might one day house the Anglican congregation of the Church of the Ascension. “Rev. Larry Robertson (no relation) is hoping to build a church there,” he said. “I’d like to help.”

He will bring his multimedia presentation to any group willing to make a donation to that cause. Recently, a Baptist church group in his community to which he spoke donated “several hundred dollars to build an Anglican church. If each of us Anglicans donated $5 or $10 – there would be a new church in Inuvik.”

Anyone interested in booking Mr. Robertson is invited to contact him at (905) 387-0721 or send him an e-mail message at chris.robertson@sympatico.ca

Nancy Devine is a freelance writer living in Aurora, Ont.

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