Myra Free­man: double dis­tinc­tion

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - News - — MATTHEW GINDIN

Myra Free­man has the double dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first Jew to be ap­pointed lieu­tenant gover­nor of a Cana­dian prov­ince and the first woman to hold the of­fice in Nova Sco­tia, which she did from 2000 to 2006. Free­man is a mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada, a re­cip­i­ent of the Or­der of Nova Sco­tia and the re­cip­i­ent of six hon­orary doc­tor­ate de­grees, as well as the Woman of Ac­tion Hu­man­i­tar­ian Award from the Cana­dian Is­rael Re­search Foun­da­tion. She was also rec­og­nized as one of Canada’s 100 Out­stand­ing Women by the Richard Ivy School of Business and the Women’s Ex­ec­u­tive Net­work.

Through­out her ca­reer Free­man has been ac­tive on nu­mer­ous boards and foun­da­tions, in­clud­ing the At­lantic The­atre Fes­ti­val Foun­da­tion, Cana­dian Health­care Con­sult­ing Ser­vices Ltd., the Grace Ma­ter­nity Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion and the Nova Sco­tia Tal­ent Trust Fund.

Free­man has also served with nu­mer­ous vol­un­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Kid­ney Foun­da­tion of Nova Sco­tia, the Cana­dian Jewish Congress and the Gift of Is­rael pro­gram. In 1990, she was fes­ti­val chair for the World Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships in Hal­i­fax and helped de­velop a Nova Sco­tia teach­ers’ re­source kit for the event.

In 1995, she was manager of the spousal pro­gram for the Hal­i­fax G-7 Sum­mit. She served as Nova Sco­tia campaign co-chair for the Lib­er­als in 1993 and 1997, and from 1995 to 2000, she served as At­lantic chair of the Charles R. Bronf­man Foun­da­tion.

Free­man was born in St. John, N.B., as were her par­ents, Anne Golda and Harry Holtz­man. Free­man be­gan her en­er­getic com­mu­nity ser­vice while still a child. She was a leader at school, in Girl Guides of Canada and in youth groups at syn­a­gogue. She decided to be­come a teacher when she was only 15, while in­struct­ing an arts and crafts course at the YWCA. She at­tended Dal­housie Uni­ver­sity, earn­ing a bach­e­lor of arts de­gree in 1970 and a bach­e­lor of ed­u­ca­tion in 1971. In the year of her grad­u­a­tion, she mar­ried Lawrence Al­lan Free­man, a lawyer and na­tive of Hal­i­fax, where her fam­ily set­tled and con­tin­ues to live.

From 1970 to 2000, Free­man was an ele­men­tary teacher in Hal­i­fax public schools, where she gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a gifted teacher. At the same time, she vol­un­teered in a va­ri­ety of public ser­vice agencies in the Jewish and gen­eral com­mu­ni­ties. She served on the ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee of Beth Is­rael Syn­a­gogue in Hal­i­fax and chaired the com­mit­tee that over­saw the ren­o­va­tion of the con­gre­ga­tion’s social hall, and be­gan amass­ing her epic list of or­ga­ni­za­tional af­fil­i­a­tions.

In recog­ni­tion of her lead­er­ship and ac­com­plish­ments, prime min­is­ter Jean Chré­tien ap­pointed her lieu­tenant gover­nor in 2000, the 30th per­son to hold the post since Con­fed­er­a­tion in 1867. Free­man was one of the youngest lieu­tenant gov­er­nors in his­tory and was the first woman to hold the po­si­tion in its 400-year his­tory. As lieu­tenant gover­nor, she opened Gov­ern­ment House to more than 20,000 vis­i­tors a year and en­cour­aged young peo­ple to take an ac­tive in­ter­est in vol­un­teerism and public ser­vice.

As lieu­tenant gover­nor, she was also the hon­orary pa­tron of more than 90 not-for­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions. Since the end of her tenure, Free­man con­tin­ues to serve in an im­pres­sive ar­ray of ca­pac­i­ties. She is chair of the com­mu­nity lead­er­ship ad­vi­sory coun­cil to Mar­itime Forces At­lantic, na­tional coun­cil chair of the Cana­dian Naval Memo­rial Trust and di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian Forces li­ai­son coun­cil. Free­man also serves with Save the Chil­dren Canada and is on the chair­per­son’s ad­vi­sory group to the Cana­dian Ju­di­cial Coun­cil. She is on the board of gov­er­nors of Mount Saint Vin­cent Uni­ver­sity and served as an ad­viser on the legacy com­mit­tee of the 2011 Hal­i­fax Canada Games. Be­lieve it or not, that’s just a small, par­tial list of her af­fil­i­a­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties.

Free­man is no­table for the high Jewish pro­file she main­tained as lieu­tenant gover­nor. In 2003, she was the main speaker at the an­nual Chabad din­ner in Toronto and in 2004, she de­liv­ered the in­au­gu­ral lec­ture of the “Women in Public and In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs” se­ries at New York’s Yeshiva Uni­ver­sity. While she and her fam­ily were in res­i­dence in Gov­ern­ment House, the kitchens were kosher.

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