In the Company of Heroes
I don’t get to spend enough time in New Brunswick. This trip is a bit different. I’m a little anxious about it. I’m receiving an award for my work with Team Broken Earth. But that’s just it… it’s not just my work.
I know I’ve said this a million times and I’m not trying to create any false modesty, but this is really a team effort. There are many hands lifting, many hands on the oars. This is something I don’t take lightly. I know I represent everyone who has given of their time or talents. Those who support us at home and abroad. Those who have donated or attended an event. Everyone who has believed in and trusted us to make a difference.
Sitting in the awards hall today was one of the proudest days I have had in the journey of Team Broken Earth. I was sitting in the company of fellow Canadians receiving medals and recognition for bravery, humanitarian efforts, and volunteer service. Listening to the biographies of those winning awards reinforced to me that Canada is more than three oceans, the “second largest landmass, and the first nation of hockey.” Canada is its people. People define the maple leaf. People like those who are walking across the stage today.
Watching the Governor General pin medals of awards on the chests of Canadians, my heart was full of pride, not just for Team Broken Earth but that we are fortunate enough to live in a country where people sacrifice themselves for others, to make this place a better place to live. People like Leon, a fish plant worker from St Lawrence who risked his life saving the life of a man who had gone through the ice on his ATV. Leon pulled the man to safety, lighting a fire and giving the man his own clothes in the middle of a cold Newfoundland winter day.
Anne Michelle Curtis’ story brought tears to my eyes. She was a mother who lost her life rescuing her son and two boys. She swam with the boys on her back through heavy waves in Nova Scotia and she eventually was overcome by exhaustion. She made the ultimate sacrifice. She gave her life so all three boys could survive.
Or there was one of the brave soldiers at the scene of the attack at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa in 2014. He remained calm and was able to provide first aid to one of the soldiers injured in the attack.
For us on Team Broken Earth, it was our story in Haiti. While I was accepting the award, I felt the weight of representing my family, of representing Newfoundland and Labrador, of representing the thousands of Canadian volunteers, and the weight of the responsibility of ensuring we never give up on Haiti.
This year we are celebrating 150 years of Canada and reflecting on what it means to be Canadian. Is there a Canadian dream? There is. It’s one built on the principles of diversity, equality, freedom and social justice for all. Above everything else, empathy to our neighbours. Not just in Port aux Basques, Ottawa or Vancouver but around the world.
Whether it is the poor of Haiti, a child in danger in Nova Scotia or an attack our nation’s capital, what makes us Canadian is that we choose not to look away.
For me, when I reflect on Canada 150 and what it means to be Canadian, I look at the people around me at this ceremony. I look at this medal pinned to my lapel. I see Allison, mom and dad smiling from the audience. And I think of my boy someday asking me about all this. I’ll tell him the stories of the people in this room. I’ll tell him about the sacrifice and dedication of everyone involved on Team Broken Earth. That’s a lesson in what it means to be Canadian. That’s what it’s like to stand in the company of heroes.