Marine Atlantic’s newest passenger vessel will be registered as Ala’suinu, which means “traveller” in Mi’kmaw.
Colin Tibbo, Marine Atlantic’s vice-president of customer experience, says the company is “quite thrilled” by the name, which was suggested by the corporation’s employees.
“The responses from the employees overwhelmingly were all focused around truth and reconciliation,” he told CBC News. “It’s something that is important to Marine Atlantic as a company but obviously really important to our employees as well.”
In addition to the Mi’kmaw name, Tibbo hopes the vessel will have signage and Mi’kmaw art to show the corporation’s focus on truth and reconciliation. Marine Atlantic says it consulted with Indigenous partners in the province and other parts of Canada to ensure the name was appropriate and respectful.
“The name of the vessel is the beginning but certainly not intended to be the end of that journey for us,” said Tibbo.
Qalipu First Nation band manager Charles Pender said it’s a fitting name for the vessel.
“It’s just so appropriate that someone who is travelling between the mainland Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, following the routes of our ancestors, would be travelling on a ship named after the Mi’kmaw word for traveller,” said Pender.
“It’s a very strong message toward truth and reconciliation and the effort to include and acknowledge the Mi’kmaw and Indigenous presence in Newfoundland and Labrador”
Pender says ancestors arrived in the province in birch bark canoes long before any Europeans, risking their lives to create a new community. Language connects the community, Pender said, but many members don’t speak the langauge any more. So to see a Mi’kmaw name on a government-operated vessel is very important, he said.
“It’s very significant. It highlights the passage of time, going back to the beginning and saying, ‘This is where we came from. We still exist. We are still here and we have roots on this island.'”
Getting a new vessel is a really big deal for Marine Atlantic.
“The ferry will offer a lot of improvements,” said Tibbo.
The Ali’suinu will be a modern, energy efficient vessel with better underwater noise to help the marine ecosystem.
It , with a lot more food options than other vessels in the fleet.
The new vessel, which will have 146 cabins and capacity for 1,000 passengers, is scheduled to arrive in Newfoundland in early 2024. Passengers will be able to board the boat, and see the name Ala’suinu across the bow, starting next summer.
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