A whopping 18 medals were awarded to deserving men and women of Central Labrador during the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal presentation at the Royal Canadian Legion last Tuesday.
Recognizing longstanding contributions and overall commitment of the individuals to their respective communities of Mud Lake, North West River, Sheshatshiu, and Happy Valley Goose Bay the awards ceremony was particularly special as many of the recipients were the elders of the community.
Family members and representatives from various organizations came to celebrate the many achievements of the men and women who gave of their time, offered skills, talent, leadership, and helped in the community over the years.
MP Peter Penashue welcomed the honourable guests and their families and presented awards to each recipient acknowledging the work they have done throughout the years.
“Congratulations to all the recipients, you have all demonstrated a willingness to go above and beyond what’s required in order to strengthen your community and to make Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Mudlake, North West River and Sheshatshiu even a better place to live,” Penashue said at Tuesdays ceremony.
“You demonstrated all of the qualities that the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal was created to honour so you should be very proud of your achievements. Labrador is lucky to have such a strong community because of people like you that we all very fortunate.”
Elizabeth (Betty) Hynes, originally from the southern shore, moved to Happy Valley Goose Bay in 1960. She said she raised her family here, and took her first job on the base as an accountant. Ms. Hynes began volunteering as soon as she came to the area and took an active role in the Royal Canadian Legion Ladies auxiliary group. Through the years, she’s volunteered at various functions and groups including the Roman Catholic Parish Council, army cadets, the seniors home and with the community dart leagues. Ms. Hynes also served as president of the ladies auxiliary for over 30 years.
Her daughter Cindy said growing up and seeing the work and dedication her mother put forth in the community was motivating and inspired her to also become a volunteer with the legion. “I remember as kid watching Mom at the activities and you could see the pride that she had in seeing the happiness in the people she was helping, more so than what she was doing,” she said. “We have a joke in our house that we never saw our mother as much as other people saw her because she was always busy doing things.”
“Mostly I volunteered in the legion but if there was anything else going on I would go to those,” Ms. Hynes said.
“When she used to come home she always said she didn’t mind doing what she did, it was a part of her responsibility, she felt so she’d always do it,” said her daughter.
“It’s a beautiful award.”
Jean Crane of Happy Valley-Goose Bay also received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee award. Ms. Crane said she had actively volunteered in the community as a young woman in the arts and culture front, as well as an advocate for a not-for-profit women’s organization. She was one of the founding members of the Libra House, the first and only safe shelter for abused women and their children in the community.
“I was with the people who went after the funding and the women’s centre…Status of Women’s Council we were at that time,” she recalls.
For three years, the group lobbied the government for funding for a woman’s shelter in the area but to no avail. However, the group continued their mission and were successful the fourth time around, receiving funding to start work on the project. “We kept moving,” she said.
Ms. Crane also became the first administrator of the Libra House when it opened in 1986. “And it’s still going, that’s so good, they are going to have a new building now.”
Today, Ms. Crane says she is actively involved with her community as an Inuit elder with Nunatsiavut. She also volunteers with a group that supports living an alcohol-free life. “That’s a great a wonderful thing to be doing together,” she said. “We have all been connecting ourselves, Inuit, Innu, Metis and all local people through elders, so I am active with that approach.” Ms. Crane said while she was happy to be a part of the ceremony, she felt sad that her late sister could not be there to share in the ceremony. She said helping others in the community has always been an important part of her family values growing up and it felt good to receive the award.
She said she thought it was particularly important that the elders of the communities received special recognition for the award. “Many elders, they don’t get talked about until they have died and gone and then people tell of all that they have done… I was very proud and pleased to be selected.”
Elizabeth “Tshaukuesh” Penashue, Inuit elder and activist of Sheshatshiu, said she was also very happy to receive the Diamond Jubilee medal. Ms. Penashue also received an honourary Doctor of Laws degree from Memorial University in 2005 for her efforts in protecting her people’s culture and the environment.
“I worked so many years, I don’t know how many years I worked,” Ms. Penashue said on Tuesday. Elizabeth became a strong political voice for her people in the ’70s when the military activities of 5 Wing Goose Bay encroached on the Innu way of life.
But Ms. Penashue said the first community-driven group she can remember being a part of is a Women’s Group to get others motivated to speak up and take an active role in their communities. She said being involved in such groups encouraged other women to get involved in things that impacted their own lives and their families as well. Ms. Penashue said her late sister, Mary Adele Andrew was a very important figure and supportive in her life, inspiring her to take an active role in her community.
“It’s very important,” Ms. Penashue said. “If the people do nothing then what’s going to happen?” She said teaching the young generation is most vital. “That’s why when I walk or canoe trip I always take the young ones, always.” She said those times are opportunities to speak to the Innu youth about their culture and why the land is so important. “I said I hope one of you will do the same thing when I am gone.”
The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee award and medal presentations were established in 2012 as part of the celebrations of the Queen’s 60th year anniversary of accession to the throne as Queen of Canada.
60,000 deserving Canadians will be presented with a medal and recognized for their contribution to their community this year.