Martin Hebert is a nomad. He has always liked to be on the move, earning enough in a few months’ work so that he can spend the rest of the year travelling.
In his early twenties, he left Quebec for Western Canada. Tree planting in the summer, working as a ski instructor in the winter and later as a lumberjack specializing in aerial logging – extreme work, with extreme pay.
Eventually the young man from Laval earned enough money to achieve his dream: to fly.
With his licence and a vintage aircraft, Hebert flew across the Canadian North many times before becoming a taxi plane pilot on Vancouver Island. But shuttling between the island and the mainland three times a day was not very exotic.
“I flew over areas in the North and landed in places where I knew no one else had been in a long time,” he says, describing the powerful sense of freedom he felt during each of his flights further north.
Hebert had already started a family when a Yukon aviation company offered him the opportunity to join their team. The whole family loved the experience and made the permanent move north of the 60th parallel.
Among the numerous advantages of Whitehorse, the possibility of living in French is at the top of his list. “In almost all of the businesses, someone is able to offer services in French,” he explains. Other aspects of Yukon society he finds especially appealing are people’s kindness and the integration of a diverse population. “Young granola yuppies and trappers fresh out of the woods can be found in the same cafe. People mix here and those who are different are not marginalized,” he says. For him, it is clear that this place is unique.
Even after three years of flying over the Yukon, Hebert never gets tired of the beauty of the landscapes and colours that fill his eyes as he looks down from above. “People have no idea how big the Yukon is. I fly over areas knowing that probably no human has ever been there or ever will, as it would take at least a week on horseback to reach them,” he says.
When he leaves his travelers at the bottom of an isolated mountain or at the mouth of a powerful river, he knows they will have a fantastic experience. They will be immersed in an environment where they are totally responsible for themselves. “I sometimes fly for several hours before getting radio contact. It really shows how remote we are,” he says with satisfaction.
Taking a fishing trip, exploring a deserted beach, water rafting – as far as this pilot is concerned, whatever people choose they cannot go wrong, because the Yukon is an exceptional territory. “I am happy that my children are growing up in this amazing environment, where I can truly teach them to be self-sufficient and responsible for themselves,” he says.
In any event, they will be able to count on their dad to show them the best-stocked lakes for fishing and the most game-rich hunting areas. We didn’t tell you? Our pilot regularly flies hunting and fishing celebrities, such as ‘Panache’ Real Langlois, the hunter who holds the Canadian record for the biggest moose rack (‘panache’ in French). Where exactly did he find his prey? Only his pilot knows.
To see Martin Hebert in action, go to YouTube and search for: Aventures en hydravion – Yukon Canada (Adventures in a seaplane – Yukon Canada).
This article is excerpted from the third edition of a tourism brochure created by Association franco-yukonnaise. You can get a copy of the brochure (in French) at the Centre de la francophonie in Whitehorse or at the tourism information centre in your community.