Five accomplished Edmontonians were bestowed with one of the highest honours in the country on Wednesday as they received appointments to the Order of Canada.
Robert (Bob) Daniel Steadward, a sports administrator and lifelong advocate for athletes with disabilities, was promoted to companion of the Order of Canada. He had already been an officer of the Order of Canada.
“There’s so much pride (and) there’s so much humility because of the life you led and the people that were with you along that yellow brick road on your journey through life,” the first-ever president of the International Paralympic Committee told Global News when asked what his reaction was to the news.
Steadward has spent over half a century working with people with disabilities.
“We fought for our rights and our recognition and gradually grew the organization into the second-largest sporting movement in the world today, and that’s amazing,” he said, adding that while sport was a part of what he focused on, he generally has advocated for the removal of barriers to accessibility and independence for people with disabilities.
“Many people have said to me, ‘Well, you know, you’re not disabled yourself… You weren’t around people with disabilities in your youth’… But I got that opportunity and I saw such great potential in being able to help those that didn’t have the same kind of opportunities that I had growing up in Saskatchewan — and then Alberta — in sport.
Steadward, who has been a professor at the University of Alberta and coached Canada in wheelchair basketball, was the founding president of the Alberta Wheelchair Sports Association. He served as president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee before later becoming a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
The University of Alberta’s Steadward Centre, an important hub for disability sports in Canada, bears his name.
Steadward, who noted none of his accomplishments would be possible without the support of his family and the efforts of people he has worked alongside, said he remains as determined as ever to be an advocate.
“You still have a passion to do what needs to be done in the world because there was so much discrimination,” he said. That torch will never go out.
“That torch always needs to be carried by someone and I hope there are other people prepared to take that torch and run with it.”
In all, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette announced 61 appointments to the Order of Canada on Wednesday. Since its inception in 1967, the honour has recognized Canadians for their service, innovation and compassion.
Here’s a look at the other Edmontonians who received an appointment on Wednesday.
Lori Jeanne West
Dr. Lori Jeanne West was named an officer of the Order of Canada on Wednesday.
West, who has directed the transplant immunology research program at the University of Alberta, was recognized for “her leadership in the field of organ transplantation and donation, notably for her breakthrough research in infant heart transplantation.”
West and her team charted new territory in the field of medicine when they successfully transplanted a heart from a donor with an incompatible blood type into a three-week-old infant.
John (Jack) W. Brink
Archaeologist John (Jack) Brink was one of three Edmontonians to be named a member of the Order of Canada on Wednesday. Brink was recognized for promoting and preserving Blackfoot culture.
“It’s kind of a bit of disbelief,” he told Global News when asked how he felt when he heard the news. “You’re thinking… ‘What have I done to deserve this?'”
For promoting and preserving Blackfoot culture through his roles as archaeologist, curator and author.
The curator emeritus at the Royal Alberta Museum said he first became intrigued by archaeology when he was a young adult taking anthropology courses. He signed up to take part in an archaeological dig and found his true calling.
“You’re there digging up elements of the past,” Brink said. “You feel like, ‘Wow, nobody’s seen these (artifacts) for thousands of years.
“You’re putting together a story that has kind of been forgotten about a people who have largely been forgotten.”
He said he was fortunate to find work as an archaeologist with the provincial government before joining the RAM where he spent over 25 years.
“It was kind of a lucky chance,” Brink said. “I went on a dig as a young man and never looked back.”
He said he is humbled by the honour and hopes it will encourage other people to follow their dreams and realize they too may find national recognition for their work in whatever field they are in.
“I like to think other people might look and say, ‘You know, Order of Canadas don’t just go to politicians or economists… People can be recognized for their hard work.”
Father James (Jim) Lassiter Holland
Father James (Jim) Lassiter Holland, a beloved longtime pastor at Edmonton’s Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, was named a member of the Order of Canada on Wednesday.
He was recognized for his dedication to serving Indigenous people in Alberta’s capital and for his commitment to reconciliation and inclusion.
Holland, who was inducted to the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2017, was born in North Carolina. He eventually found himself in Edmonton and brought a spirit of inclusivity to the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, encouraging people of various backgrounds to be active in the church. Edmonton’s Eritrean community eventually got its own Sunday mass there as a result.
Holland is also known for his volunteer work with a number of different organizations.
Douglas R. Stollery
Douglas R. Stollery was named a member of the Order of Canada for “his wide-ranging contributions to Canada’s legal landscape, for his defence of human rights and for his broad community involvement.”
The Edmonton lawyer is a graduate of both Harvard University and the University of Alberta and has served as chancellor of the latter.
He also serves and has served in leadership roles with several non-profit organizations, including the Stollery Charitable Foundation, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, CARE Canada, the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Legal Education Society of Alberta, the Alberta Law Reform Institute, Victoria School Foundation for the Arts and Grant MacEwan College.