Growing up, my brothers and I spent a bit of our summer vacation time at camps, and a bit travelling—but mainly we were at cottages. And those cottages had canoes. Together they defined our summers.
The first cottage I remember was the prime minister’s official summer residence, at Harrington Lake in the Gatineau Hills. Maybe my most indelible canoe memory from that cottage was one of the rites of passage for the Trudeau boys: When we hit five or six years old, our dad would put us into the canoe and we’d shoot the rapids on the stream that went down into Meech Lake. There’s a little dam there, and in the spring they’d open the dam, and there would be a huge V and a standing wave. With much trepidation, we’d sit in the front and go down the drop. I look back on it now and laugh, because my father was sterning, and there was nothing I could do from the bow to aim it right—but it was very, very important for us to do it. To get into the bow of a canoe with my father for the first time, to be the bowman for the first time, and to go down this big, scary rapid.