After about a year and a half layover in Sault Ste. Marie, Guillaume McMartin began the next leg of his cross-continental journey by bicycle with a message of peace between all nations.
McMartin ended up in Sault Ste. Marie about a year an a half ago and found himself in front of the memorial at the foot of the steps at the Ronald A. Irwin Civic Centre.
The memorial is adorned with stars, each with a name of a person lost to mental health and addiction struggles.
“All I had was a little backpack and I came here pray in the morning and my friends from SOYA were here adding stars on the wall and I prayed with them,” said McMartin on Monday morning.
It seemed appropriate for McMartin to begin the next leg of his cross-continent bicycle ride from the exact same location, with plans to leave at 11:11:11 a.m.
From Sault Ste. Marie McMartin will travel to Wawa and continue on to Winnipeg, a trip that could take up to three months.
“Two years ago I went from Quebec and thought I would make it in three months to Vancouver and it took me three months to get to Wawa,” he said. “It’s hard to tell, depending on what happens along the way.”
After that leg, he plans to continue cycling to The Yukon before making his way south to Argentina.
That trip could take him up to 12 years to complete, he estimates. McMartin is even looking past that goal of crossing the Americas.
“When I make it to the tip of Argentina I am going to take a boat to Africa and do the same — Asia and then the Middle East,” he said.
McMartin was inspired to make a difference in the wake of reports of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“It put something in my heart that I had to do something about it, so I started writing for peace love and harmony and that’s the journey I have been on for the last two years,” he said.
McMartin has so far made an attempt to stop in on local Indigenous communities to build relationships along the way, including locally with Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation.
Sayers was there Monday morning to see McMartin off, with gifts for his journey, including tobacco and an atlas of North America.
“We gave him some medicines and some copper from Lake Superior — which is a medicine, it’s alive — that will help him so he doesn’t feel alone. We wish him well and will stay in touch with him. It’s good work,” said Sayers.
Sayers hopes McMartin will make similar relationships with the communities he visits along the way.
“There are Native people all of the way through, but it’s not just Native people — it’s peace among nations — he just finds comfort within the Indigenous communities, which is nice to hear, because it’s important for us to be a part with all of these reconnections with nations across the world,” he said.
Sayers said he appreciates McMartin’s message of bringing peace to the world.
“All of these contributions add up to the sum, we all really look forward to seeing the results of his efforts,” said Sayers. “As he crosses through the Great Lakes and Lake Superior, especially, we have asked our ancestors and the spirits to help with his journey and keep him safe and to support him in the work he does and to guide him.”
A small group of well-wishers were on hand to see McMartin off for his journey, including representatives from SOYA (Save Our Young Adults), which oversees the memorial. Strapped to his bike trailer is a SOYA teddy bear to raise awareness for the organization he has kept a relationship with since arriving in the Sault.
Before setting off on Monday, McMartin said he carries all of the people he has met in his heart and brings them along with him.
“I think the global consciousness is growing with all of those people, feeling it’s time for peace between all nations on earth because we are fighting over small differences while we have so much in common,” he said. “It’s time to come together with the teachings we know form our ancestors. That is why I am riding.”