Canada Cares awards celebrate contributions of Yukoners

Mike Nixon, MLA for Porter Creek South As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, December 11, 2015
by Mike Nixon, Minister of Health & Social Services

As the father of a son with autism, I, along with other families in similar situations, am particularly aware of the challenges facing anyone who must provide care for a loved one with special needs.

Family caregivers are the invisible backbone of Canada’s health and long-term care systems. They provide care and assistance to spouses, children, parents and other family members who are in need of support because of age, debilitating medical conditions, chronic injury, long-term illness or disability.

According to a Statistics Canada study in 2012, eight million Canadians, or 28 per cent of the population aged 15 and over, provided care to family members or friends. These people, and the dedicated health care professionals who work alongside them, often go unrecognized as they generously give of themselves day after day.

Canada Cares is a non-profit organization that seeks to change that. Founded by Caroline Tapp-McDougall in 2011, it celebrates, says thank you, and recognizes the efforts of family members, friends and health professionals who provide care and support in their community.

This important organization encourages families, workplaces, governments, industry and other stakeholders to support caregivers, and to recognize the importance of caregiving to both the quality of life and the economic and social well-being of our nation.

Each year since 2012, Canada Cares has sought nominations from across the country for its Caregiver Awards, the only program of its kind in Canada. These prestigious awards recognize both family and professional caregivers from coast to coast, as well as support from a caring community and an employer.

This year, the Honourable David Laxton, Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, submitted three award nominations. It’s my pleasure to write that these nominations have resulted in two awards and an honourable mention for Yukon.

Former Yukon commissioner Geraldine Van Bibber brought home the award for Inspirational Voice: Professional Caregiver, Northern Region, for her work in founding and organizing the Yukoners Cancer Care Fund.

Throughout the year, Geraldine and a dedicated group of volunteers work diligently to provide assistance to individuals and families dealing with cancer. Her thoughts and counsel are frequently sought by individuals, community groups and members of the government. As of April 2015, Geraldine and her team have assisted 22 families, and the number keeps growing.

This year’s Caregiver Friendly Workplace award was handed out to the Yukon Hospital Foundation, which administers the funds for the Yukoners Cancer Care Fund. The foundation also motivates and educates individuals, businesses and organizations about the need for more and better caregiving. According to Speaker Laxton, without the Foundation, Yukon would not have some of the “best caregivers possible.”

Foundation president Karen Forward and manager Harmony Hunter were singled out for their hard work and dedication to the organization.

Under the Caring Community award category, Speaker Laxton nominated the community of Yukon, which was recognized with a well-deserved honourable mention. Yukoners are generous, caring and compassionate people who do not see helping others as an obligation; rather, it is just what we do here in the North.

I offer my congratulations and sincere thanks to Ms. Van Bibber, Ms. Forward and Ms. Hunter for their selflessness and commitment to their communities.

I encourage everyone to visit www.canadacares.org to learn more, and to consider nominating an outstanding Yukon caregiver in the future to express our thanks and appreciation.