Arts patron honoured with Order of Canada vows to ‘keep going’
REGINA Fitting for a longtime patron of the arts, Jacqui Shumiatcher’s Order of Canada award came with a musical introduction.
“It is called In the Pink, and Jacqui, you’re wearing pink today, so that’s good, we lined up,” pianist David McIntyre said Thursday, introducing a song he originally composed a decade ago, for Shumiatcher’s 85th birthday.
Shumiatcher was all smiles during the awards ceremony at Regina’s Conexus Arts Centre, which was set up in the theatre lobby, not in the basement event space that bears her name.
“I was really shocked when they told me that I was getting this, because I never thought about that at all, because that’s not me,” said Shumiatcher, 94. “It’s a wonderful feeling … And that’s not going to be the end for me. I’m going to keep going, because 94 isn’t very old.”
Shumiatcher was commended for her “legendary” philanthropic work. For decades, she has helped develop and financially support cultural, artistic and social organizations. Until 2004, that work was alongside her husband, Morris “Shumi” Shumiatcher.
“I thought the art people especially were never recognized,” said Jacqui Shumiatcher. “So I just always wanted to recognize them and I appreciate what they do ... I always say that the people there are the ones that feed me and make me what I am … so I owe them a lot.”
Shumiatcher wasn’t Thursday’s only honoree. Lt.-Gov. Vaughn Solomon Schofield presented two men with a Meritorious Service Decoration (Civil Division) and 44 other men and women with a Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in separate ceremonies — 22 in the morning, and 22 in the afternoon.
From White Fox to Elrose to Melville and places in between, 47 Saskatchewan people were commended for their volunteerism, which ranges from fundraising for charities, to helping low-income students succeed.
Retired Brig.-Gen. Cliff Walker was one. The Regina man was awarded for co-founding the Bold Eagle Program, a military training program that has graduated more than 1,700 Indigenous youth.
He also helped research 10,000 names for the Saskatchewan War Memorial. “My dad (Harry) was my inspiration to do things,” said Walker. “He was the mayor of Regina and the president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, and he always said it was important to give back to the city and to the province.”
Walker said receiving the award was humbling. “This medal could have gone to one of hundreds of people in Saskatchewan who’ve spent countless hours and weeks and weekends bettering their communities, their province and this country,” he said.
Retired RCMP assistant commissioner Russ Mirasty was another honoree. A La Ronge resident and 36-year RCMP member, he received the Meritorious Service Decoration for his work in evaluating the provincial education system.
“Really it’s based on a recognition that there’s tremendous strength within our communities that’s untapped,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that we as individuals have to contribute. We can’t leave it to others to create that change that we want, especially in our own communities.”
Heather Salloum, private secretary to the lieutenant-governor, was the first person honoured Thursday. After receiving her Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, for more than 40 years of volunteer work, she announced the afternoon’s other honorees.
The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest civilian honours.
Lt.-Gov. Vaughn Solomon Schofield, left, presents Jacqui Shumiatcher, 94, with the Order of Canada for her philanthropic work. Forty-seven people from the province were honoured for their volunteerism.