National Lead, Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition
Bridging the Gap: Education, stories, and cross-cultural experiences are critical to broadening Canadians’ perception and understanding of the ocean and its important role in daily life.
For most people in Canada, our status as an ‘ocean nation’ is widely accepted. Despite this, Canadians are more likely to recognize the ocean’s economic role than they are its impact on their daily lives. While the ocean plays a critical role in our health and well-being, regulates weather and climate, and is home to integral ecosystems, with 30 million Canadians living in-land, Canada’s terrestrial landscapes often play a larger role in framing identity.
To truly care for a place, one needs to understand it and be a part of it over time.
“To truly care for a place, one needs to understand it and be a part of it over time,” says Diz Glithero, National Lead at the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition (COLC), an alliance of individuals, organizations, and communities working to advance ocean literacy in Canada. Ocean literacy represents the relationship and interactions between society and the ocean.
It’s not a new philosophy, as Glithero notes, but rather a new framing for a relational understanding already in practice. “Inuit and First Nations have understood and cared for marine waters and coastal areas for thousands of years; in many ways, ocean literacy is a recent tool to help non-Indigenous people and non-coastal communities catch up.” With Canada committed to protecting 30 percent of marine areas by 2030, strengthening ocean education and cross-cultural knowledge sharing through stories and shared experiences play a contributing role in achieving this goal.
Sparking conversation through shared experiences
In March 2021, coinciding with the UN Ocean Decade (2021-2030), COLC released Land, Water, Ocean, Us: A Canadian Ocean Literacy Strategy, making Canada the first country in the world with a national strategy and framework for action. A critical part of this lies with broadened ocean education, not just within Canada’s school systems. “We need to look at all places and aspects of society where people can learn more about the ocean, build connections, change behaviours, and take action that will ensure a healthier ocean and local waterways,” says Glithero.
A new annual national festival, Ocean Week Canada, launched in 2022 with over 160 events across Canada. Now in its second year, Ocean Week Canada is a public celebration of the ocean, connecting communities with diverse educators, artists, knowledge experts and scientists to reflect on the importance of the ocean.
Facilitating more opportunities and spaces for ocean conversations and experiences that enable community action is an important part of creating a thriving ocean environment, but it can’t be done by any one organization. As Glithero says, “to ensure a healthy ocean, we need to change the way we think and how we do things. It will take intergenerational and cross-cultural collaboration.”
Get involved in Ocean Week Canada and learn more about national ocean literacy efforts.