Fraser began his walk at the end of May, pledging to walk from Bella Coola to Winnipeg to raise awareness around mental health and to connect with Canadians about their struggles.
He was previously advised to slow his pace after experiencing issues with his hip, but the walk has continued to take its toll. Keeping up the pace could result in serious injury.
“It was a decision that I didn’t come to lightly, and I pondered it for a week or two,” said Fraser, taking the advice of medical professionals. “It was very disappointing , I thought I could make it all the way.”
However, the 65-year-old said he found positive engagement and a warm welcome in every community he’s passed through – from the start of his journey to Saskatoon.
“I’ve met some incredible people, far more than I expected to reach, and the problems that lie there are just going to take one step at a time to deal with, to get it to the point where people are OK to talk about mental health,” said Fraser.
Heather Irwin, Fraser’s partner, echoed his sentiments and reiterated that mental health affects everyone.
“Every single province, every single town, there has been somebody who has been touched by this, and whether that’s themselves, or a family member, or a very close friend – there was just somebody in every part of the highway talking about their experiences,” she said.
Crossing three provinces by foot is a huge feat, and Fraser says he’ll never stop advocating for mental health. He may return someday to finish the walk – but for now, he’s taking a well-earned rest.
“By no means is this over and done with. I’m going to take a rest and see what we can do next year – the possibilities are out there to go right across Canada, but I’m not going to commit to anything yet,” said Fraser. “It has been great and I’m grateful to be from a community that’s so supportive.”
He’s been asked to speak about his experiences at Assiniboine Park tonight and will attend a few speaking engagements before heading home.
A homecoming gathering is being planned for late August, and Fraser said he’s looking forward to seeing familiar faces and thanking everyone who’s supported him throughout his journey.
“I’m looking forward to the long trip home and getting back to some kind of normality, whatever that is,” said Fraser. “Just to get back to not being on that road all the time, it's taken its toll, there’s no doubt about that – physically, mentally, emotionally.”
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative.
Have a story or opinion to share? Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org