As part of the sesquicentennial, the Senate of Canada is issuing commemorative medals to over 1,200 Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to their home town, province and the country as a whole.
“It’s a medal with which we would like to honour people we have never honoured before,” said Senator Betty Unger, one of Alberta’s senators representing the province’s north. “Canada’s 150th is a great opportunity to recognize some of the incredible Canadians whose contributions, volunteer efforts and dedication to their local communities help to make our country a better place to live.”
As a member of the Senate Advisory Working Group for this program, Unger explained that the idea for the medal came about when the Senate learned that Parliament had no such plans to mark Canada 150. “We all felt Canada’s sesquintennial deserved a medal. [This]’s the Senate going it alone to at least recognizing some Canadians,” said Unger, noting this year also marks the 150th anniversary of the Senate’s first sitting, which was held on November 6 and a few months after Parliament was founded on July 1 with the signing of the British North America Act.
It is this history that led Colonel Carl Gauthier, the director of Honours & Recognition at the Department of National Defence, to design the three-inch wide medal with the Senate chambers on one side and their crest on the other. However, the focus is on the people who built Canada and senators like Unger are asking for nominations to be considered for this award.
“It centers on unsung heroes specifically volunteers,” said Unger, emphasizing the tireless work done by people behind the scenes to make life better as being what they hope to celebrate with the medal.
As for specific criteria, a nominee must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and cannot be the spouse of a sitting senator or sitting member of any elected body or bench at the municipal, provincial or federal level. Otherwise they just need to be thoroughly involved in making their community a better place. Unger added that age is not a consideration either as many young people are doing spectacular things and their demographic is doing the most to fill the shoes of seniors as they scale back their own volunteer efforts.
With each senator getting a dozen medals to award to outstanding Canadians in their province, plus one they can keep for themselves or award to a citizen as well, that means over 70 Albertans could receive one of these medals recognizing the work they have done for their community and Unger encourages anyone who knows someone who fits the bill to get in touch with her office or that of another Albertan senator.
“If you know someone then nominate that person. A person can never win if their name isn’t put forward,” said Unger, adding that since some senators have already selected medal recipients you should be sure to contact as many Albertan senators as possible to ensure someone deserving gets a medal. Even if one senator has used up their allocated medals, they may refer a nominee to a senator with medals left or to the Senate Speaker, who has 50 medals to use at his discretion.
To submit a nomination to Unger’s selection panel you can go to bettyunger.ca/senate-of-canada-150-medal-nominations until nominations close on August 15. Medals will then be awarded in November.