Stan Rogers was 33 when he died in a plane accident. I knew he had died young, but the image in my head has always been a big man with a bald head and a beard, no moustache. Add to that his deep, powerful voice, and I can’t understand how he was only 33.

Northwest Passage is such a popular song, many Canadians call it our unofficial national anthem. It’s everything about this country—the ocean, the Arctic, exploration, and colonialism—all in one.

Stan Rogers loved those first three; most of us do. He was born in Ontario, but drawn to the water. I was born on the west coast, and when I wanted to try living somewhere else, I chose the east coast.

Canadians love the waters surrounding us, the romantic mystery of the north, the call to see more of this wild, wide land of ours.

But none of that exists without the reminder that the people who answered the call of the Northwest Passage were the Europeans who wanted a faster way to reach China.

33 is so young. I seldom feel like an adult at 37. I’m still learning how to be a kinder person, a better citizen. I wonder how Stan Rogers might have come to view this song, his most famous, most popular, most requested, if he had lived to see how his country has opened itself to reconciliation.

The Northwest Passage isn’t the deadly adventure it once was. That “one warm line” is much wider now. Stan Rogers‘s voice will outlive the ice.