Update: Dhilal Alhaboob wrote a reflection of her time on the Polar Prince during the first leg of the Canada C3 Expedition.
By Brandon Gillet
University of Ottawa international development student Dhilal Alhaboob is one of 33 youth ambassadors chosen to take part in the Canada C3 expedition, a federally funded signature project of the Canada 150 celebrations. Each participant will join the Canada C3 ship for one leg of the 15-leg, 150-day journey along Canada’s coastlines, from Toronto to Victoria via the Northwest Passage. The Gazette met with Alhaboob before she embarked on the first leg of the trip, which leaves Toronto on June 1.
Why are you interested in taking part in Canada C3?
I think what makes Canada C3 special is that it delves into the realm of reconciliation. [The project’s other themes are diversity and inclusion, environment, and youth engagement.] I was apprehensive at first because I have been very anti-Canada 150 and the celebrations due to the undeniable backdrop of colonialism — Indigenous civilizations thrived on this land for thousands of years before Confederation. I came to Canada as a refugee, so I’m twice removed from the history of this land, first as an asylum seeker and second as a settler, but being real with ourselves about that history is a big deal for me.
But Canada C3 is bringing out the idea that we’re diverse, with different experiences and realities, and that’s what’s so cool about it. The fact that the expedition is going to so many different places is just wild. The ship will stop in communities along the way and get people to have conversations and engage with other cultures. Another big part of the project is the creation of a “digital classroom,” where students and teachers across the country can interact with each other and engage with the expedition.
Tell me a bit about your own background.
My parents came to Canada from Yemen 16 years ago. Living conditions weren’t great for them back then, but, after almost two decades of political turmoil, an uprising became a civil war. There’s a scarcity of water in the country, but nobody wants to touch the issue because it’s so politically contentious.
Last summer I was on the phone with my grandma, who still lives there. She’s always telling me everything is fine — when everything clearly isn’t. But it’s her way of trying to have a normal conversation. However, this time she said, “We don’t have any more water.” It broke my heart.
In Yemen, water costs more than gas — and gas costs more there than it does here, which is pretty ridiculous. I thought, I can’t just feel bad, I have to do something. So I reached out to a bunch of my friends and started an NGO, WaterFor, here on campus. We organize fundraisers and, from the first one, have sent money to Yemen. Now, we’re working on an awareness campaign for the upcoming school year.
As a Canada C3 youth ambassador, what will your role entail?
One activity I’ll be doing before the start of the expedition is with newcomer Syrian children in collaboration with Capital Welcomes, a student-led initiative that helps with newcomer resettlement, and the Catholic Centre for Immigration. I’ll also present the expedition to other people, which includes reaching out to my own community.
Of course, I’ll also be participating actively on board the ship. I’ve been told the Canada C3 experience will be fairly immersive. We’ll be on a repurposed icebreaker, and it won’t be a cruise! I’m going into the experience expecting to meet a lot of new people and to have some really interesting conversations.
Wondering how you can get involved with the Canada C3 experience?