Quebec community groups hail visionary leaders

Activists and supporters of Quebec’s English speaking community groups, including politicians from three levels of government, gathered last month to pay tribute to five people for their extraordinary contributions to improving the lives of community members and the broader society.

They are the winners of this year’s Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Awards and the Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award, feted at a banquet at the Club Saint James.

The awards were created by the Quebec Community Groups Network, which represents 53 member organizations that work across Quebec, in honour of the late Victor Goldbloom and social worker Sheila Goldbloom for their contribution to Quebec society.

QCGN president James Shea praised this year’s winners as “extraordinary leaders who have made exceptional contributions to our community of communities. All are devoted visionaries who have served their community and their causes.”

The main award was first offered nine years ago. Sheila Goldbloom thanked all the winners for having “helped Quebec and Canada.”

Kathleen Weil, the newly-named provincial minister responsible for relations with English Speaking Quebecers, said she knows first-hand “the enormous impact dedicated volunteers have on society.”

She said the creation of a secretariat to deal with issues affecting Quebec’s English speaking community has “enormous potential” and shows the Liberal government is ready “to bolster our sense of belonging here in Quebec … that everyone should feel that they are part of this great society, part of its future.”

Host Mutsumi Takahashi, CTV’s chief anchor in Montreal, said she has enormous respect for Clifford Lincoln and cannot forget the moment when he resigned from cabinet in 1989 over his government’s refusal to accept a Supreme Court ruling on the language of commercial signs.

“I still can see him standing in the National Assembly when he said there is no such thing as inside rights and outside rights — rights are rights are rights.”

“He is a man with an unwavering sense of justice, a master in balancing the needs and aspirations of this community. He has made and continues to make a real difference in areas such as English language rights, the environment, education, public transit, health and social services, and the rights of the intellectually handicapped.”

In response, Lincoln expressed his love for Montreal and Quebec, adding “we are really true Canadians if we are good Quebecers, and good citizens of Montreal.”
He paid tribute to the Goldblooms, and the late Gretta Chambers, as “people who crossed thresholds between one community and the other, that believe English and French speaking communities belong to each other. There is no way that we should divide ourselves in sterile conflicts.”

He hoped “the younger generation will take over from us the old ones, that they will stay here … and show that it is possible to live here, in English, defend our culture and be proud of it, and at the same time be also Québécois, Montréalais, et Canadiens.”

Sid Stevens accepted the award for himself and Sun Youth co-founder Earl De La Perralle. Together they built and developed the organization from a community newspaper in 1954.

Stevens thanked its 1,500 volunteers, a key element in its success, and all levels of governments for their support. The key, he said, is “dedication, determination, pride, teamwork, and discipline” and people ready to sacrifice to improve the lives of others.
“There are three types of people: those who watch things happen, those who are wondering what’s happening, and the people in this room who have made things happen,” he said.

James Carter, recognized for a lifetime of advocacy for improved access to health and social services in English, was credited for his “determination, vision, patience, and talent as a negotiator over many years.”

Carter was described as second only to lawyer Eric Maldoff in his knowledge of the legislation and various regulations and practices governing access in English to health and social services in Quebec. Carter said his credo is “community action for social change.”

The QCGN praised Claudia Di Iorio, winner of the Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award and a second-year McGill law student, as “brilliant, resilient, courageous, a young woman who has overcome so much to become a highly visible and influential advocate of safe driving.”

Di Iorio, who seven years ago at 16 recovered from a month-long coma and severe injuries, noted that although traffic fatalities in Quebec have been decreasing, almost one person a day dies as a result of a car accident, and that is “one too many.”

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