Three Victorians were among 16 civic leaders awarded the Order of British Columbia at Government House Tuesday.
Pauline Rafferty, former chief executive officer of the Royal B.C. Museum, Sandra Richardson, chief executive officer of the Victoria Foundation, and former B.C. attorney general Brian Smith were given the province’s highest honour at a ceremony before family and friends.
“For 27 years, the Order of British Columbia has recognized exceptional individuals whose hard work, generosity of spirit and outstanding achievements have contributed immeasurably to the well being of our communities,” said Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.
“British Columbia’s greatest strength is British Columbians — people who use their talents and passions to make a difference both here at home and, in many cases, around the world,” Premier Christy Clark said.
After the ceremony, Richardson said she felt humbled and honoured.
“What’s been important to me has been the work at the Victoria Foundation. You see just what a group of people can do, what a difference you can make in the community.”
Her work on the Vital Signs report, which measures key issues affecting quality of life in the capital region, is perhaps the most important of her career, said Richardson.
“That’s really been the pulse of the community. And we react to that and you just look at the difference you can make. It’s inspiring work to do, but it’s not the sort of thing you do on your own.”
The Victoria Foundation manages charitable gifts through permanent, income-earning funds that are distributed in areas the donors wish to support. Under Richardson’s leadership, those funds have grown from $20 million to $250 million.
Rafferty, who retired as chief executive officer of the museum in 2012, was recognized for revitalizing the museum by bringing world-class exhibits and a business focus to the institution.
Early in her career, Rafferty helped develop conservation and heritage policies for B.C. and its tourism marketing programs, a government statement said.
Today, she serves as vice-chair on the board for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg where she brings her knowledge, management and skills to the task of building a new institution for the country.
Like Richardson, Rafferty felt incredibly honoured by the award.
“You’re humbled. You’re surrounded by people who have done incredible things in their lives and given so much to the community. It feels quite wonderful but quite humbling as well,” she said.
“I’ve always thought there were three things that were really important in one’s life. The first is family and I have an amazing family who are incredibly supportive. The second is doing something you absolutely loved. The third thing is giving back through volunteering, through donating. For me, balance is all of those three.”
Rafferty said her husband and three of the couple’s five children and one grandchild were at the ceremony.
“It was a very special day. And as I looked around at my fellow Order of B.C. recipients, they were also supported by family.”
As mayor of Oak Bay, Smith was the driving force behind a new recreation centre and helped to develop affordable housing for seniors and low-income families. He served on the board of Tennis Canada and was integral in building the Tennis Centre at York University, retaining the Rogers Cup, and launching programs to revive interest in tennis.
Smith established the first legal aid office in Victoria. Later, as B.C.’s attorney general, he supported victims’ rights at the local level. Smith also worked to set up a Victoria law school.
On the national and international level, he helped shape the repatriation of the constitution. Smith was chair of both B.C. Hydro and CN.
“It really was very moving because there were only 16 of us. I looked around at the depth of some of these people who were getting the order and I thought ‘Why am I here?’ I have a very broad resume, but I don’t have anything that goes down as deep as these people. You had the doctor who pioneered liver transplants for HIV patients. You had international scientists. You had a tribal leader who managed to negotiate the first modern treaty in Tsawwassen. I thought I’ve done so many things, but I haven’t done anything as important as the things that they have done,” said Smith.
“It was very humbling. All my family came. All my grandchildren came... They sat there rapt with attention listening to the descriptions of all these people. I think it was a good learning experience.”
This year, 215 people were nominated for the Order of British Columbia.
The other recipients include Janet Austin of the YMCA Metro Vancouver; Kim Baird, former chief of Tsawwassen First Nation; diving coach Beverley Boys; leukemia specialist Dr. Allen Eaves; philanthropist Frank Giustra; John Mann, founding member of Spirit of the West; leading sexual-health educator Saleema Noon; landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander; celebrity broadcaster Robert "Red" Robinson; sporting legend David Sidoo; Marjorie White, founder of the first aboriginal service agencies in Canada; Dr. Peter Wong, community leader, philanthropist and physician, who serves patients in Vancouver’s eastside neighbourhood, and liver disease expert Dr. Eric Yoshida.