When Conrad Burns started his walk across the country three months ago, he was fulfilling a longtime goal to explore Canada and spread a message close to his heart.
But even Burns will openly admit he had no idea what he was walking into.
The 7,400 km trek across the country began April 1 in St. John’s, Newfoundland as a way to raise awareness about domestic violence. Burns now has less than 1,500 km to go to reach his final destination.
“It’s a much more larger country than I ever expected,” Burns joked. “Canada is absolutely beautiful from coast to coast and is unique in every community.”
The road has been tough on Burns, who said the journey has been a challenge.
“Physically, I have got a lot stronger in my legs, I have lost lots of upper body strength,” he said. “The last month, I have been backpacking…I was hiking for 48 to 60 kilometres a day with a 45-pound backpack.”
Burns has met many people along the way, from different walks of life, including one man who builds canoes and donates them to charity.
“As they ask you what you do and why you are walking, they share their own personal struggles about abuse,” Burns said. “Hearing that always encourages me to keep going because it reminds me why we are out on the road.”
Burns said the issue of violence and abuse has touched every aspect of society and added, “it’s almost becoming a norm.”
Patricia Crowe, who helped coordinate the walk, will join Burns on the last leg of the journey.
She said they’ve seen a lot of men come forward to tell stories of their personal abuse. She said there has been a definite need identified in many communities.
“If there are shelters, transition homes, services for women; where are the services for the men?” she said. “It’s a journey for us, but at the same point, looking at the program and what currently exist in Prince Albert and where are some of those gaps… to have a healthy community, we need healthy vibrant people and so that includes everybody.”
Burns hopes to reach Victoria, B.C. around Aug. 15. Crowe said they may celebrate the end of the walk with a second “Rise Up” concert in the fall.
Burns is running for mayor of Prince Albert in the fall’s civic election.