Winnipegger Scott Cairns always knew his work made a difference but he never imagined this kind of recognition.
The 42-year-old is part of a United Nations chemical watchdog working in Syria that on Friday was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Cairns is a field leader for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, which this past year located and destroyed the chemical weapons stockpiles held by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Cairns, who attended John Taylor High School and received his chemistry degree at the University of Manitoba, was still working in the field in Syria on Friday and could not be reached.
Cairn’s father, Bill, found out the news while watching television on Friday morning -- much to his shock.
"Not the faintest idea, not a clue," Bill said, when asked if he had any inkling his son’s organization was even being considered for what’s widely considered one of the most prestigious global honours.
"But we knew the work Scott was involved in was making the world a better place."
Cairns was part of the original OPCW group of inspectors and engineers who went to Syria in August, when he was named field officer. Cairns first joined OPCW in 2008 after working several years with the Canada’s Department of National Defence, where he helped train military forces about defending themselves from chemical attacks.
"The decision by the Nobel Committee to bestow this prize on the OPCW is a great honour," Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general of the OPCW, said at a press conference Friday morning. "The events in Syria are a reminder that there is much work to be done. We are only a small organization and working to realize the end of chemical weapons worldwide, we rely on the preparation of our staff."
The watchdog group was formed by the UN in 1997 and has conducted more than 5,000 inspections in 86 countries.
Cairns himself has travelled the world with the OPCW, destroying weapons found in Russia, Lybia and Vietnam. The work continues in Syria.
"They’re finding them and destroying them right now (in Syria), as we speak," father Bill Cairns said.