I had the privilege to travel to Canada, representing the Air Training Corps through the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE) in July and August 2016. IACE initially began in 1947, between the UK and Canada, but has now expanded to include 18 countries in total.
The UK contingent’s journey started at Heathrow Airport, with cadets arriving from across the country, including Scotland and the Isle of Wight. After getting to know each other on the flight, we flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is on the East coast of Canada.
Our activities in Canada were varied and wide ranging, incorporating cultural visits, to relaxing on the beach, to flying in Griffon helicopters – all very different, but hugely enjoyable.
The cultural tours were very interesting, and we learned about Canada’s history, beginning as a colonial subject and developing into an independent nation. The informative tour guides and museums also showed every aspect of this journey, including from the point of view of the politicians who negotiated with the UK and of the Native Tribes in the area.
There was also an emphasis on Canada’s system of government, which differs greatly from the British system, as it focusses local politics on a provincial level, similar to the USA.
Throughout our visit to Canada, we stayed in the ‘Maritime Provinces’, that is, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick – with all of these being on the East coast..
We also had a tour aboard HMCS Athabaskan, a serving Destroyer in the Royal Canadian Navy which was docked near Halifax. Following a naval theme, the next day we went brown water rafting along the Shubenacadie River, which was exhilarating.
During this time, we visited more museums and visited more of the Maritime Provinces with my favourite being Prince Edward Island. This is due to its unique character and strong local traditions, separating it from the rest of mainland Canada.
Yet we had a surprise in store for our next Province, New Brunswick. When visiting the military base of CFB Gagetown, we had an extensive tour of various military systems and equipment used by the Canadian Armed Forces. This included a tour around Infantry Fighting Vehicles, a small arms display and, unforgettably, a flight in a Griffon helicopter – the highlight of the exchange for many, including myself. These displays were engaging and extremely interesting, and we took every opportunity to ask questions to the serving soldiers.
After these tightly-packed days, however, we were also glad to spend time relaxing with host families. For example, my host family took us to the beach to enjoy the Canadian summer. It was also interesting to experience Canadian culture in a ‘normal’ day and partaking in local events, such as visiting a market filled with locally produced goods. These, of course, included every variety of maple syrup foods you could think of, such as maple candies – a solid, high-sugar sweet, which I subsequently found very useful on my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition. Meeting people around the market was also fun, with the sellers asking many questions about the UK too.
Overall, we all had a fantastic time visiting Canada, and I can wholeheartedly recommend applying for IACE, especially to Canada, to all cadets.