Subscribers to the Waterkeeper.ca Weekly newsletter know that our favourite issues involve communities' struggles to protect and win back their waterways. From November 14 - December 31 2004, The Tragically Hip gave Canadian Waterkeepers the opportunity to introduce our ideas to fans across the country.
Waterkeepers joined the band on their In Between Evolution tour, travelling from Vancouver to Halifax, and wrapping up the tour on New Year's Eve in Hamilton.
Bringing local issues to the national stage was something we had never tried before. In the course of six weeks, we visited 15 cities - the majority of them had never seen a 'Waterkeeper' before. We introduced ourselves to thousands of concert-goers - all of whom were there for the rock 'n roll and didn't know "the environment" would be on the night's agenda.
The Waterkeepers Canada booth was set up at the entrance of every hockey arena on the tour. The Hip's lyrics graced our posters, stickers and T-shirts. More than 47 Waterkeeper volunteers handed out over 10,000 pieces of literature on the Canadian Waterkeeper programs, including hundreds of copies of The Waterkeeper Magazine that started thousands of conversations and sparked incredible interest in the movement. Discussions with Hip fans continued long after the concert was over and the arenas were emptied out.
Gord Downie became a huge part of the tour for us. He coined the phrase "Win back your lakes and rivers," while on stage in Edmonton and repeated it over the course of the tour. He also made a spontaneous plug for Waterkeepers Canada during the Grey Cup by affixing a "Waterkeepers.ca" sticker to the front of his acoustic guitar for the first song of the half-time show: Courage.
The tour taught us that Waterkeepers' work resonates with all Canadians, even though the stories are local by nature. Clean water is part of Canadian culture and whether it's the Fraser River or the Detroit River, Canadians from across the country will band together and support local fights.
The tour also underscored the importance of the Waterkeeper.ca Weekly newsletter, because we saw that the national media doesn't always cover the best stories. For example, the story of the Petitcodiac River (as often documented in our newsletter) was one of the most talked about issues on tour, from coast to coast. While the national press has been virtually silent on this issue, the destruction of the Petitcodiac River and its 17 feeder streams captured the imaginations of Hip fans across the country.
For Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, the tour provided us with the opportunity to talk about important local issues such as burning tires at the Bath LaFarge Plant, manufacturing slightly enriched uranium in Port Hope, discharging sewage into the Don River, and building an expressway through a Hamilton park. Again, these stories sparked outrage and passion in Hip fans as far away as Edmonton and St. John. For that reason alone, we know that our newsletter will keep and grow in interest for all our new subscribers.
Because of events like the In Between Evolution tour, the rights to fish, swim, and drink safely from our waters is taking their rightful place on the national stage. To the Tragically Hip: Thank you. To their fans: Welcome.