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What the Order of Nova Scotia means to recipients

Nominations for province's highest honour closed last Friday

6 min read
caption Hetty van Gurp received the Order of Nova Scotia in 2013.
Courtesy Hetty van Gurp

The last of the nominations for the Order of Nova Scotia rolled in last week as the call for nominations closed Friday.

There are approximately 100 nominations for this award every year, but only five, or possibly six, people will get Nova Scotia’s highest honour.

“What [this award] is saying is what you have contributed is exceptional, that you have changed and contributed to the fabric of life in Nova Scotia,” says Glennie Langille, chief of protocol and secretary of the Order of Nova Scotia.

The award was first given out in 2002. To be eligible, a nominee has to be a Canadian citizen who is a current or former long-term resident of Nova Scotia.

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The only people who cannot be nominated are public officials currently in office.

Some of the categories for the Order of Nova Scotia include human rights, journalism, arts and culture, heritage preservation and sports and recreation.

The Signal spoke to four recipients of the Order of Nova Scotia to see what receiving the prestigious award means to them.

Hetty van Gurp

Hetty van Gurp, founder of Peaceful Schools International, is a recipient of many awards, including the Me to We Award from Free the Children and the Golden Jubilee Medal. She is also an author and has served on the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Van Gurp received the Order of Nova Scotia in 2013, the same year as Cecil Edwin Kinley and Raylene Marguerite Rankin.

“Receiving this confirmed for me personally that I was on the right track and that what I had been doing and what I had dedicated myself to was indeed meaningful and had ripple effects further than I could even measure,” says van Gurp.

Van Gurp was a teacher and principal for 30 years, but after her son died due to injuries sustained during a bullying incident, she decided to teach her students about peace and form Peaceful Schools International.

When van Gurp learned she was receiving the Order of Nova Scotia, she did not know she had been nominated and was in complete shock.

The ceremony was a very emotional experience, she says.

“I was in the company of some pretty inspiring people. My family was there and the ceremony is done in such a personalized and dignified way. You know, it’s the kind of emotion that wells up when you hear O Canada playing.”

Silver Donald Cameron

caption Silver Donald Cameron was awarded the Order of Nova Scotia in 2012.
Courtesy Silver Donald Cameron

Silver Donald Cameron is an author of many short stories, plays and novels, winning awards like the Atlantic Independent Booksellers’ Choice Award and Gemini Award. He is also known for spreading an appreciation for Cape Breton culture and advocating for sustainable environmental practices in the province.

Cameron says winning the Order of Nova was “particularly sweet” because he is not originally from Nova Scotia.

“This is my adopted homeland and like most people I am happy to have found a place that I can live my life so happily,” he says.

Cameron was awarded the order in 2012, the same year he won the Order of Canada. He says receiving the awards felt different because he received the Order of Nova Scotia from “home folk.”

Graham W. Dennis and Alexa McDonough were also Order of Nova Scotia recipients that year, but one recipient, the late Robert James Morgan, was both a friend and a colleague of Cameron’s.

“He had died, and his brother came down to receive the honour on his behalf and I was very happy to give a little sense of how much Bob Morgan meant to people and Cape Breton and to people in Nova Scotia in general,” says Cameron.

At the ceremony he also got to meet the woman who nominated him, Christina Brown, and was glad to have the opportunity to thank her.

Another thing Cameron appreciates about the Order of Nova Scotia is the wide range of recipients and what they have done for Nova Scotia.

“I thought, who are the Nova Scotians you would be particularly proud to be associated with, and this is a pretty good selection,” he says.

Bruce MacKinnon

caption Bruce MacKinnon was awarded the Order of Nova Scotia in 2011.
Courtesy Bruce MacKinnon

Bruce MacKinnon is a longtime editorial cartoonist for the Chronicle Herald. He has received many awards for his work and is considered one of the greatest political cartoonists in Canada.

Receiving the Order of Nova Scotia was a great honour and surprise, says MacKinnon. It was 2011 when he got the call that he had won.

“I was just very humbled, especially after I met the folks that I was being honoured with. I read their bios and what they had done and it was really an eye-opening experience,” MacKinnon says.

The other recipients that year included Wayne Adams and Budge Wilson.

“I am not one to let it go to my head. I’m a cartoonist so I am the last person who should be taking themselves too seriously. I don’t expect my hockey buddies to not rub me into the boards because I am part of the Order of Nova Scotia,” he says.

He says he is more aware of what making a real contribution means.

“I am a little more self conscious now making sure I don’t dress like a slob when I leave the house, don’t walk around unshaven in my pyjamas down mainstreet anymore,” MacKinnon says with a laugh.

Dr. Stanley Kutcher

A professor at Dalhousie University, Kutcher is well known for his contribution to bettering mental health in Nova Scotia. This is due to his research in the field and his establishment of specialty clinical programs. He has published more than 300 scientific papers and has authored or co-authored many medical textbooks.

Kutcher says he was “gobsmacked” at the Order of Nova Scotia ceremony. He was amazed by some of the achievements the other recipients had reached and the incredible work they had accomplished.

Kutcher received the Order of Nova Scotia in 2014, alongside Wanda Thomas Bernard and Walter Marven Borden.

He says receiving the award pushed him to do more.

“I thought, my goodness gracious people have put their trust in me and recognized what I have been able to do as good, but I think this is just a signal that I have to work harder and do more.”

One thing Kutcher thinks is great about the award is that it includes many categories.

“The recipients are in the arts, music, civil society engagement, standing up for the disadvantaged; they are in all these incredible parts of life. Every single piece of the fabric of life that knits us together in this province is recognized.”

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About the author

Olivia Malley

Hailing from Dartmouth Nova Scotia, Olivia is a journalist passionate about the HRM. Outside of reporting she enjoys singing in King's a capella...

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