Posted by: Vicki Burns | July 27, 2013

Lake Winnipeg Inspires Courageous Actions

Jay Hawranik on his stand-up paddle board

Jay Hawranik on his stand-up paddle board

Ininiw Aski Quest Welcome at the Forks

Ininiw Aski Quest being welcomed at the Forks

Love of Manitoba’s great Lake Winnipeg, which lies at the heart of Manitoba, has inspired some dramatic and courageous actions from Manitobans in recent weeks. The increasing threat of blue-green algae blooms in Lake Winnipeg and several other Manitoba lakes has drawn the attention of many people, not just in our province but around the world. A few months ago, the German Global Nature Fund designated Lake Winnipeg as Threatened Lake of 2013, worldwide. This unfortunate designation has spurred attention and action from many people who are determined to save Lake Winnipeg.

Yesterday a group of 14 First Nations people (ranging in age from 10 years old to 81 years) arrived at the Forks in Winnipeg after paddling a 32 foot canoe down the shores of Lake Winnipeg, from Cross Lake. The journey, called Ininiw Aski Quest, took 20 days and was very challenging. From big winds to a broken canoe, this group had much to contend with. But they made it safely and according to their leader, Ronnie Beardy, it has given them a great sense of accomplishment. The focus of their journey was to help their youth reconnect to nature and to the respect for Mother Earth, that dominated their ancestors’ spirituality. Their special focus this year was the threatened state of Lake Winnipeg. I was at the Forks for the welcoming ceremony and it was a very proud and moving tribute these people received. I was inspired by their commitment, their willingness to endure physical hardships and their recognition of the essential importance of protecting our precious lake.

Today, a young man, Jay Hawranik from Grand Marais, made a brave attempt to cross Lake Winnipeg on his stand-up paddle board. The big wind and waves on our powerful Lake Winnipeg forced him to turn back but he will try again tomorrow. Jay lives on the lake’s shore and is on the water every day he possibly can be. He states in simple terms that he loves the lake and he wants to do whatever he can to spur the necessary action required to restore the health of our lake. His Paddle for a Purpose campaign is garnering lots of attention and inspiring others to get involved as well.

These are 2 examples of grass roots action that is filling me with hope that our great lake can be saved. We know some of the most important ways we can decrease the phosphorus getting into our waters (including improving sewage treatment and stopping wetland drainage). Now we need our governments to make the investments required to begin these actions.



  1. This is so inspiring to see such action taken by local people, willing to make a difference in there community. I love the encouragement to reconnect with nature- absolutely essential! I live in Vernon BC, and there are many local environmental groups that inspire the community, and many local businesses that make a difference too.
    Thanks for a great read!

    • Thanks for your comment Melissa!

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