The Order of Canada
As some of you may know I was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada, on December 29, 2021. It is a tremendous honour and I am surprised, grateful and humbled by this appointment. I am also very happy and proud although I am very aware that pride precedes a fall and that it is decidedly un- Canadian to seek too much attention. Such are the contradictions of this sort of appointment.
Receiving this award carries with it several responsibilities, one of them being to continue presenting work of merit. I hope I can live up to that expectation. Another is to thank the many who have supported me and my work through the years and also those who worked hard to prepare and present this application.
Though I was completely unaware, the process of this nomination was begun in 2017 by Lesley Strutt, a poet and writer from Merrickville, Ontario. She, then in turn contacted Louise Schwartz from the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, who helped Lesley gather and organize information for the nomination form. I had worked with Louise in connection with several plays I had written about the Gatineau Hills. Lesley also contacted my wife, Amanda Shaughnessy, who secretly fed my C.V. and other information back to Lesley. Later on in the process Jon Dudley of Calgary, Alberta also wrote in to support this nomination. I am deeply indebted to Lesley, Louise, Amanda and Jon for putting my name forward. Sadly, I will never be able to thank Lesley Strutt in person. She passed away last year after a battle with cancer.
I am also deeply indebted to two organizations that helped me visit parts of Canada I otherwise could only have imagined. In 1993 I was asked to join the staff of Adventure Canada as guide and “singing zodiac driver”. This invitation was spurred on by the recommendation of Mike Beedell and sponsored by Adventure Canada’s CEO and madcap founder, Matthew Swan. This association led to many trips to the far reaches of the country including B.C.’s North West Coast, Haida Gwaii, the North West Passage, The Labrador, Cape Breton and Sable Island to name a few places visited. Without Adventure Canada I could never have written The Four Coast Project and I am so grateful to the team at Adventure Canada for providing me the opportunity. Thank you Mike, Matt, Cedar, Alana, Matthew James, and Bill Swan for the wonderful adventures..
The second organization I would like to thank is Students on Ice and the CEO Geoff Green. Through Geoff and the SOI programme I got a closer look at the Arctic and the rare and special chance to interact with young minds excited to know about the North and the changes that are affecting it. I developed a special relationship, particularly with some Inuit students, who found song writing to be an outlet for expressing their emotions and what they were experiencing in their lives and communities. Once again, I was very fortunate to experience some extraordinary moments that have become part of the creative well. It was also a fantastic opportunity to drop in on a generation of younger people for two weeks. The energy level was incredible.
I would also like acknowledge my old friends Greg Tuck, Ken Hamm, George Rideout and Rodney Brown. They were encouraging and supportive of my creative work from the very beginning of this long apprenticeship. We found each other long ago in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur. Without them, I would never have found this calling. It was those guys who knew there was something special about our home town, and North Western Ontario; something spiritual to be found on Lake Superior, something special about the North. I have been chasing this vision ever since those halcyon days.
There are so many others who have helped me along, who have given shelter, comfort and advice but as usual I have gone on too long already. Some are listed below.
Finally, I would like thank Amanda Shaughnessy and our sons, Matthew and Walker. Quite literally, without Amanda, this award would have never happened. Amanda has been the strength through these many years. I am for once at a loss for words and all the words of debt and gratitude fall short of what I feel.
Thanks and Gratitude:
Phil Bova Sr.
Robert and Brenda Rooney
Donald Thom and Nancy Jenkinson
Scott and Sue Merritt
Hugh and Celia Verrier
Mark Silberstein and Jane King