By Jared Davidson –
As Canada 150 winds to a close, MPs across the country are putting a pin in the occasion by recognising those who stand out in their constituencies. Each MP was given 30 pins, crafted from Parliament Hill roof copper, to award to members of the communities they represent. Catherine McKenna, the MP for Ottawa Centre, asked for nominations in three categories: youth leadership, youth employment, and community leadership. She had no trouble finding nominees.
All gathered on Queen Street for the award ceremony on November 22. The positivity was palpable.
Attendees included several Kitchissippi residents and organizations. One community member, Bettina Vollmerhausen of the Ottawa Tool Library, expressed joy at being nominated. It’s been three years since she and a small team launched the library, which allows handy people to borrow tools for their projects and offers workspaces and guidance. The project has had enormous response from the community, but for Bettina, the nomination still came as a wonderful shock.
“I cried actually. I did – I started crying,” says Bettina. “I was so touched that someone actually thought I was doing something important that would be worthy of recognition.”
This past summer, Bettina was able to get her Canadian citizenship after Germany relaxed its own rules. Her father came to Canada to see her receive it, but passed away before he could. So when she accepted her citizenship from Catherine McKenna on July 1, it was a bittersweet moment. Not so as she received her Canada 150 pin from the very same Catherine McKenna.
“She just said to me, ‘I’m so glad we’re meeting on happier terms.’”
The final list of honourees included organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Dovercourt Recreation Association, and people like Catherine Barette, whose commitment to Hintonburg manifests in her calls to other seniors living alone and her delivery of her church’s food donations to the Parkdale Food Centre. She speaks fondly about the neighbourhood she’s called home her whole life.
“It’s like living in a little town,” says Catherine. “It’s changed, but it’s still good.”
The wide range of people being honoured is something Catherine McKenna was hoping to cultivate. In her words, this isn’t just “the usual suspects.” Rather, Catherine wanted to focus on what makes Ottawa Centre unique and exciting, and a big part of that for her was the youth.
“When I was knocking on doors in my campaign, I met a lot of young people who were unemployed or underemployed,” she says. “It inspired me, not just to help them, but also to highlight all the amazing things they’re doing.”
One such youth doing amazing things is Elizabeth Lennox, a Kitchissippi resident honoured for her sponsorship of a Syrian family. She jumped at the opportunity to do so when it came up through her work, and has since become close with the family. She has worked with the family for almost a year, helping them with their English and with their adjustment to life in Canada.
“They’ve been able to pick up and leave everything behind,” she says. “I hope to continue seeing them and being friends with them as they grow up as Canadians.”
It was a night that was best summarized by one oft-repeated word in the MPs introductions: awesome. In interviews afterwards, Catherine stood by the word choice.
“I know I overuse the word awesome, but Ottawa Centre is awesome.”
For a full list of Canada 150 pin recipients, go to cmckenna.liberal.ca.