Dozen named to Order of Manitoba


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Twelve Manitobans from all walks of life are set to receive the province’s highest honour.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/07/2020 (934 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Twelve Manitobans from all walks of life are set to receive the province’s highest honour.

This year’s recipients of the Order of Manitoba were announced Wednesday. The award, established in 1999, seeks to recognize Manitobans who have contributed to the province in a meaningful way.

An advisory council presents nominations to chancellor of the order, currently Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon, who chooses recipients from the nominations. Those who are appointed the Order of Manitoba are able to use the initials O.M. after their name and are listed on a display in the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Order of Manitoba recipient Mitch Bourbonniere in front of the North End Community Renewal Corporation, one of the many places he volunteers. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

This year’s appointments to the order run the gamut from economic, cultural and community leaders: Winnipeg Art Gallery director and CEO Stephen Borys, community leader Mitch Bourbonniere, Aboriginal education leader Mary Courchene, University of Manitoba faculty of medicine emeritus Prof. Dr. Krishnamurti Dakshinamurti, environmental advocate Bill Elliott, Winnipeg Foundation CEO Richard Frost, Health Sciences Centre Foundation chairwoman Tina Jones, Winnipeg Rh Lab co-founder Dr. Marion Lewis, speech therapy innovator Margaret Morse, former Canadian Museum for Human Rights CEO Stuart Murray, broadcaster Scott Oake, and philanthropist/entrepreneur Ernest Rady.

The awards ceremony will be held at a yet-to-be determined date, subject to public health guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bourbonniere is a recognizable face on Manitoba streets.

A longstanding community leader, he has volunteering in the province for more than four decades, and fondly remembers the years spent working as a supportive force in our “beautiful community.”

Beyond co-founding the original Bear Clan Patrol, he has extensive experience volunteering with local organizations including Drag the Red, Ogijiita Pimatswin Kinamatwin, and the Mama Bear Clan.

“I appreciate that Manitobans recognize empathic work. I think we’re a pretty darn cool province to live in,” he said Wednesday.

“I think we have our share of problems like anywhere else, but there is a lot of love and compassion in our province, and I’m proud to be a Manitoban.”

Manitoba has reciprocated that pride several times over the years. Among Bourbonniere’s long list of honours are two Governor General’s Awards, a Royal Canadian Humane Association Bronze Medal for Bravery, and a Resource Assistance for Youth Community Champion Award.

“The other folks that were named today, it’s beyond an honour to be included in that group. It’s a pretty special group,” he said.

Order of Manitoba recipient Elder Mary Courchene (left) announces new Indigenous art installations at The Forks last year, with Julie Nagam, chair of the History of Indigenous Arts of North America at the University of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

A difficult childhood inspired Bourbonniere to get involved with philanthropic work — he first stepped into Winnipeg’s Rossbrook House as a volunteer when he was 16 — and said helping his community “saved” him.

“It helped me when I was helping others. I think it’s possible to help others and yourself all at the same time,” he said.

Bourbonniere said he admires the progressive values he’s seen among citizens — referencing the recent 15,000-strong turnout and following protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement — adding his main advice to those looking to begin volunteering is “don’t be shy.”

“(We need) even more communication, even more working together, even more resources, so that we can do this work together — private, public and philanthropic, all together,” he said.

Mary Courchene said it is not her “Euro-centric” education, nor her time spent in a residential school that she attributes to the lifetime of philanthropic work being honoured by the Order of Manitoba. Rather, it was the years of childhood she spent with her family and community.

“The love and the nurturing and the way that I was taught is (why I am) where I’m at today, and I thank those years that I’ve had,” she said Wednesday.

Born and raised on Sagkeeng First Nation, Courchene worked as a teacher, school counsellor, and education administrator, after receiving degrees from both the University of Manitoba and Brandon University.

“I wanted to be a teacher, and I pursued that in different ways so I could achieve that and pass that on to my children, my grandchildren and my little great-grandchildren now,” she said.

Director and CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery Stephen Borys. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Courchene went on to hold the dean of Aboriginal education position at Red River College for seven years, and currently serves as elder in residence for the Seven Oaks School Division, a position she’s held for 11 years.

Courchene has received many honours for her work over the years — including the Aboriginal Circle of Educators’ Innovator Trailblazer Educators Award and a YMCA/YWCA Woman of the Year Award — but says she’s especially proud of the honorary doctorate of laws awarded to her by the U of M in 2018 for her devotion to educating others.

“That was a proud moment in my life, because my children were there, my grandchildren were there, and some of my little great-grandchildren were there,” she said.

Twitter: malakabas_

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 5:00 PM CDT: Updates with interviews, new photos, formatting

Updated on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 7:35 PM CDT: Fixes typos.

Updated on Thursday, July 16, 2020 8:28 AM CDT: Corrects title of Winnipeg Art Gallery director and CEO Stephen Borys.

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