Seven North Island residents were honoured last week for their long-term contributions to their communities when they were conferred the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by MP John Duncan in a pair of ceremonies.
At the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 281, Duncan presented medals Friday morning to Chief Bill Cranmer and Ronald Kennedy of Alert Bay and to Clifford Anderson and Bill Velie of Port McNeill.
That afternoon, Duncan traveled to Port Hardy, where he presented medals to Chief Tom Nelson, Colleen Hemphill and Lou Lepine in another ceremony at the Civic Centre.
“I went through this 10 years ago with the Golden Jubilee medal ceremonies,” said Duncan. “We did one-on-one presentations in a group setting, but we didn’t have any audience beyond the actual recipients and their partners.
This is quite different, and I’ve found the level of interest in the community at large quite astounding. I think people recognize this is a very significant milestone.”
Cranmer, hereditary chief of the ‘Namgis First Nation and also elected chief for more than 20 years, was recognized for his work on treaty negotiations, his championing the preservation of the language and culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw Peoples, and his leadership in linking protection of the environment with the creation of economic.
Anderson, currently president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 281, has been chair of the North Vancouver Island Salmon Enhancement Associations since 1991, was awarded the National Recreational Fisheries Award in 2009, and was instrumental in the concept and construction of the Quatse River Salmon Stewardship Centre.
Kennedy, who served in the Canadian Forces’ Airborne Regiment, achieved the rank of Master Warrant Officer, and has served two terms as president of Canadian Legion Branch 198 in Alert Bay. He has focused on the Legion’s annual poppy program, which has grown each year under his watch.
Velie, volunteer manager of Port McNeill Airport, is a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight, which provides free air transportation for people who must travel for medical purposes. He is also Zone Commander for the Vancouver Island Civil Air Search & Rescue Association and serves as Sergeant At Arms of the North Island’s 101 Air Force Squadron.
Nelson, a chief with the Quatsino First Nation, has negotiated through the B.C. Treaty Commission, has worked to create long-term economic opportunity through wind power, aquaculture and wharf operations programs, and is a tireless advocate for the celebration of First Nations language and culture.
Hemphill, a Kwakwala researcher and curriculum developer, has been a lifelong champion of language education, particularly the preservation of of language in First Nations communities. She has been instrumental in the creation of a feature documentary on the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw which will be in release this summer, and continues to find ways to reconnect the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw people with their homelands.
Lou Lepine, a retired captain with the Canadian Forces, is a charter member and excecutive with the 101 North Island Squadron Air Force Association. He has dedicated himself to honouring servicemen who lost their lives in operations on North Vancouver Island through the creation and erecting of memorial cairns at crash sites in the region.
“These are well-deserving recipients, of course,” said Duncan. “It’s easy to determine people who are deserving, but there are so many others as well. That’s always the tough part of doing presentations of this kind.”