Over the past few months, a number of Ontario Mayors have returned their Queen’s Jubilee medals, arguing that the medals appear to have been awarded to them simply because they happened to be “mayor” and not because of some intrinsically valuable service they had provided.
In our own community, medal recipients were eminently august and deserving, combining both titles and deeds with nary a returned medal among them.
There are however, many, many equally deserving (if not quite so august) recipients of this medal, which celebrates “significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.”
For example, Dr. Edward Britton, former publisher and owner of a number of Muskoka newspapers, including the Bracebridge Examiner. Why Mr. Britton? Well, Ted (as he was fondly known by his friends and enemies alike) challenged the complacent, “happy news” style of the existing local media. He rattled skeletons in closets and wasn’t afraid to print stories that might shake up the local elite.
He was both a newsman and a brilliant businessman, managing to compete and win his way to success despite significant odds.
Most of all, he shone a light on the tightly knit murky corridors of power and influence in cottage country. If we value democracy and openness, then Canadians need all of the “Ted Brittons” they can get.
So, here’s to Ted, a worthy honouree
Next on my list are a trio of ladies who are largely invisible but whose work and dedication make a significant contribution to individuals across the Districts of Parry Sound and Muskoka. As many of you know, our communities are aging at a more rapid pace than much of Ontario.
In fact, within the next 10 years 33 per cent of our population will be 65 years of age or older. Living in areas with very limited transportation infrastructure, seniors have come to rely on the volunteer transportation system co-ordinated across the district to get them to medical appointments, shopping and the occasional recreational outing.
Managing volunteer drivers, high demand and limited resources, these three have shown their mettle by rising to every occasion with determination, flexibility and creativity.
So kudos to Leslie Price from Easthome in Powassan, Linda Taylor from Belvedere in Parry Sound and Laurene Armstrong in Muskoka for going above and beyond the call of duty for so many years.
My next honouree deserves more than a medal!
After many years of serving as executive director for Parry Sound’s Harvest Share, Gail McDonald thought she could retire to Sault Ste. Marie only to discover that Harvest Share was floundering. In a magnanimous gesture, Gail returned to lead the group, commuting from the Sault to ensure that people who need food support in Parry Sound would continue to receive it.
And just so you know, Gail did everything, including cooking, training cooks, fundraising and somehow getting food onto shelves. So Gail, if you’re out there somewhere, know that if I were the one handing out Queen’s Jubilee medals, you would be wearing one today!
Lately teachers are in the public’s bad books, but it’s important to remember that there are indeed educators who take their work seriously and whose influence has a lasting and profound effect on their students.
My next award goes to Parry Sound High School’s Patti Jenkins. Through
her technology and film program, Patti has single-handedly nurtured and inspired a significant number of students who have gone on to further success in the media industry. Like the ladies who work with volunteer transportation, Patti struggles with budgets and limited and sometimes outdated equipment, yet still, inspires and breathes life into her program and into her students. More than that, Patti has a generous and giving soul. We need more Pattis in this world. If it were mine to give, Patti would be wearing a Queen’s Jubilee Medal today.
Last, but certainly not least, I would be honouring the Georgian Nordic Ski club for its contribution to the development of young skiers in our area. Over the past 10 years, more and more talented young skiers are emerging from this supportive club. Given that the club has a large number of dedicated volunteers, it would be impossible to name a single individual more worthy than others, however, if it were up to me, a Queen’s Jubilee medal would be hanging in a place of honour in their smelly but cozy “burrow”.
Perhaps some of those returned medals could be re-gifted to appropriately deserving Canadian citizens who truly have made a contribution to their communities instead of simply being re-circulated to people with titles.