Don’t be surprised if you see a big red couch being hauled around Yellowknife over the next few days.
That’s because the Red Couch Tour has made its way to the city.
Ela Kinowska and Peter Sobierajski of Ottawa are leading the project. They’ll be traveling across the country over the next few months talking with Canadians about what their country means to them.
The pair will also be joined by photographers Alexander Komenda and Guillaume Lebel.
The idea is to hear stories from Canadians of all walks of life – including government leaders, athletes, entertainers and immigrants – in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Both Kinowska and Sobierajski are immigrants themselves, having moved to Canada from Poland 26 years ago. Once the tour has wrapped up, the group will share 150 stories from 150 Canadians.
By listening to a wide range of voices, Kinowska hopes to create a collective portrait of Canada.
“We’ll have a full picture of Canada and people from the North will listen to the people from the south while people from the east will hear stories from the west and vice versa,” she said.
“So at the end of the day you’ll have a collective portrait of Canada and who we are as a nation. What’s emerged so far is that Canada is the greatest country to live in.
“But we welcome every story, there’s no censorship here.”
With that in mind, Sobierajski says it’s important to remember that Indigenous groups have been around much, much longer than 150 years.
“Aboriginal people are a really important part of this celebration,” he said. “I think we have to understand that 150 is for some but for others it’s more than 150.”
Kinowska agreed, adding that she hopes the project will open up a dialogue about Aboriginal relations and reconciliation in particular.
“It’s important to hear the voices from Indigenous people who were present and occupied this land before other people arrived,” she said.
“I hope that this project actually opens the dialogue between all kinds of ethnic groups and Indigenous peoples.”
‘The North is going to change my perspective of Canada’
The Red Couch Tour will be in Yellowknife until next Tuesday. The group will then travel to Dawson City and Whitehorse before returning to Ottawa.
Before visiting Yellowknife, the foursome made stops in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Winnipeg and Churchill.
Once the group completes its Northern Tour, they’ll start compiling stories which they’ll share in Ottawa on Canada Day.
The group will then embark on an even bigger trip after Jul. 1, driving a combined 20,000 kilometers in 60 days.
Only this time around, the Red Couch Tour will start in Ottawa and travel eastward. Upon completion of that trip, the group will go west.
The entire tour will likely wrap up in September, at which point the group will start putting together 150 unique stories.
Kinowska says she wanted to come to the territory in the winter to get a better sense of what it’s like to live here.
“I don’t think you can have a complete picture of Canada without winter,” she said. “The Northern tour is going to change my perspective of Canada.”
Kinowska and Sobierajski say they feel privileged to travel the country and share the stories of fellow Canadians.
“When I look now from the project perspective, I appreciate how privileged we are to live in this country and in peace,” said Kinowska.
The group hopes to sit down with Gwich’in runner Caribou Legs and Mayor Mark Heyck among other prominent figures during their stay in Yellowknife.
But the foursome will also be ‘going with the flow’ and hopes to speak with anyone else interested.
The Red Couch Tour is being funded by the Government of Canada.