Order of Manitoba given to ‘creators’


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Mitch Podolak had places to go, people to hear.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/07/2015 (2811 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mitch Podolak had places to go, people to hear.

The legendary figure of the folk music community was out of his element — standing in the ornate, fancy-schmancy Manitoba Room of the Legislative Building — but was headed for a more familiar eornvironment.

“You’ve got about two minutes, OK?” Podolak told a reporter, shortly after he had received his Order of Manitoba in a ceremony Thursday afternoon.

“Where are you going in such a hurry?” he was asked.

“The Folk Festival to see Maddy Prior,” Podolak replied. “She’s on at 7 (p.m.) so I’ve got a schedule.”

Now that’s fitting; the Folk Festival founder and pioneer rushing from his audience with Lt. Gov. Janice Filmon to the concert at Bird’s Hill Park. But not before Podolak soaked up the pomp of his circumstance.

“I was kind of curious about the other people who are sitting there with me, you know,” he said. “And there’s some pretty amazing people. That’s a respectable group to be inducted with, don’t you think?”

In all, there were a dozen recipients of the highest honour bestowed by the province on Manitoba citizens, including hockey heroes, musicians, human rights advocates and community activists.

There were household names like three-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Toews and rocker Tom Cochrane, who each said they were humbled to be in the company of lesser known Order recipients such as Karen Beaudin (community resource co-ordinator) and Dan Johnson, the founding executive director of Manitoba Special Olympics.

“When I hear stories like Karen’s and some of the people here, the selfless work they do,” said Cochrane, a Juno fixture for over two decades. “Jonathan Toews will probably echo this: We get paid pretty well for what we do and we put back through charities and stuff. But a lot of these people have worked selflessly through their lives. So it’s really humbling getting this award with them.”

Toews concurred. “It blows me away,” said the 27-year-old from St. Vital, who also has two Olympic gold medal, two World Junior golds and a World Championship gold medal playing for Canada. “I feel almost unworthy of being here. I just view myself as being lucky and in the right place at the right time, and making the most of each opportunity.”

There were connections all around. Cochrane is from Lynn Lake. Toews has previously had a lake named after him (after winning Cup No. 2). Toews also has a community centre in his name, while fellow recipient Chad Allan made his name in community clubs during the 1960s, fronting a band (Chad Allan and the Expressions) that would eventually morph into the legendary Guess Who.

In fact, it’s not every day you get the Order of Manitoba — and a congratulatory note from rock icon Neil Young, who thanked Allan for “forever influencing me.” Fellow Winnipegger Randy Bachman, founding member of the Guess Who and B.T.O., also sent along his well-wishes.

“It was unexpected,” Allan said, “that they would even think about me.”

Allan, who now lives in Burnaby, B.C., called the honour “beyond” any of his musical accomplishments.

“I mean, the music was fabulous,” he noted. “I’ve won some awards, and those were great. But this overrides it. It’s the people of Manitoba telling me some very wonderful things. The old saying goes, just to feel the love. It’s really wonderful.

“The licence plate says Friendly Manitoba and it’s absolutely true,” he added. “Whenever we’re here, the kindness and support from the people here brings me to tears. It really does.”

Other recipients included Rachel Alao, founding executive director of Winnipeg’s Helping Hands Resource Centre; Dian Cohen, economist/broadcaster and author; Wilma Derksen, author/victim advocate; Donald R. J. Mackey, Metis veteran who works with inner-city youth and Monica Khhem Kamarie Sing, immigrant advocate.

Then there’s former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who has spent his post-professional career raising awareness of sexual abuse following his struggles after being victimized by former coach Graham James.

“Eleven years ago I’d probably be the last guy to receive one of these awards, just because of what happened to me and the way I had to live my life because of that,” Kennedy said. “To me, it’s about hope and there is a way out. People can get their life back. It’s a journey.

“If this carries anything, it’s about giving the people the courage to continue their journey,” he added. “To be winning awards besides wonderful people like Tom Cochrane and Jonathan Toews, it’s incredible. A lot of people would never have thought this would have been the outcome for Sheldon Kennedy.”

Newly appointed Ltn-Gov. Filmon said the recipients had diverse backgrounds, but a common denominator: They were all “creators.”

“We might ask, why is there music rather than silence?” Filmon said. “Why is their hope rather than despair? Or why is there healing instead of hope instead of endless suffering? And the answer is because somebody made an effort, somebody took a chance, somebody took on the responsibility to create something. Members of the Order of Manitoba are those somebodies.”

Premier Greg Selinger choked up during his address to the recipients, noting, “So I say to all of you today, we can be proud to be Manitobans, we can be proud to be Canadians. And all of you have made a difference and raised the bar.”

It sounded like there might be a bar in Podolak’s future, too. After all, he had a performance to attend at the landmark festival he founded.

But before the reporter’s two minutes were up, Podolak said the level of commitment and talent among the “respectable group” was no great surprise.

“Manitoba has been the deal, anyway,” he concluded. “It’s always been the deal. This is the place to be.”


Randy Turner

Randy Turner

Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.


Updated on Friday, July 10, 2015 7:26 AM CDT: Adds photos, removes photo

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