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Vote for The People's Order of BC!

We've whittled down your nominations from more than 100 to 21. Now it's your turn.

Geoff D'Auria 10 Oct

Geoff D'Auria is the front-page editor and web manager of The Tyee.

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Illustration by Alex Grunenfelder.

Three weeks ago we decided to create something we called The People's Order of B.C.

We asked you to tell us who makes you proud to be a British Columbian.

Two weeks on, we found ourselves sitting on a pile of more than 100 nominations and wondering how were were going to cut the exceptional list to a more manageable number.

Thank you for all the fantastic nominations.

It was difficult but we've now knocked that list down to a more manageable 21 and we're sending it back to you to vote for your top five.

The shortlist is below. But before you go there, a few words about how we finalized the list and how we're conducting the voting.

Our criteria

As mentioned when we first announced this contest, only those eligible for the actual Order of BC award were eligible for this award.

That meant we could not accept, for example, the more-than-deserving but unfortunately late David Y.H. Lui or Bruce Eriksen. That meant we could not accept Elizabeth May since she is now currently holding elected office.

That meant, too, we weren't including previous winners of the Order of B.C. Sorry to the people who nominated Rick Hansen, David Suzuki, and, yes, Gordon Campbell.

From there, choosing got much more difficult.

But we knew we wanted a mix. We wanted people from all over the province who worked or volunteered or excelled in a variety of fields, from business to the arts, from activism to sport. We think we found that.

Are our choices perfect? Of course not. That's why it's up to you to decide who the winners should be.

Of voting and zombie cookies

A question remained, though -- how to run a voting campaign in the near-lawless Internet without spending time and money that we don't have?

We decided to piggyback off our newsletter infrastructure to vet email addresses. In other words, to vote, you have to sign up or re-sign up (if you're already a subscriber) to our weekly newsletter, here.

When you do, we'll send you a confirmation email and then another email with a private link to the voting form. If you're already a subscriber, don't worry -- the system is smart enough to not send multiple newsletters to the same email address.

Is it perfect? No. But it was either that or use a zombie cookie.

Cookies aren't unusual. Websites place them on your computer all the time for a variety of reasons. And this zombie cookie would have allowed us to restrict voting to one vote per email per computer.

The problem is, this zombie cookie is so-called because you can't delete it. It just won't die.

And that just didn't feel right.

So instead, we're going with the one vote per email. Again, it's not not perfect but we hope you respect the positive spirit of this friendly competition.

(And if that's not enough, we're also going to keep an eye peeled for irregular patterns in IP addresses, just in case.)

Now, enough with the background. Time to get to the people who really deserve your attention.

The People's Order of BC shortlist:

Once you've chosen your top five, go here to cast your vote.

May Apsassin

We urge you not to skip past May Apsassin on your way to those with greater name recognition, not until you read how lovingly she's described in this nomination:

"May Dominic, a Beaver Indian, was born May 7, 1940, in Doig River Reserve, B.C. ... May lived in a teepee from birth to the mid 1950s. Her people moved nomadically as they followed abundant wild game. In the mid 1950s, [her father] built a log cabin, a first homestead for May and her family in Rose Prairie. May attended the Indian Day school, at Pine River, taught by Roman Catholic Church.

"[With her husband she] raised four children, many nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. During difficult times, May tanned moose-hides, prepared and dried moose meat, picked and dried berries, sewed moccasins and planted a huge garden to help her husband feed their children..."

"May Apsassin, is a tremendously valuable resource for the Blueberry community as a traditional teacher, a spiritual counsellor and [as someone who encourages] our younger generation to complete their education and to learn about our traditional [values], which will lead the young people to live the good life and not to become dependent on alcohol or drugs."

Dave Barrett

The former NDP premier from 1972-1975 received a number of nominations, one of which said:

"Dave presided over a government that made more progress in three years than BC had in the previous 20 under WAC Bennett...."

"The Barrett government created the Agricultural Land Commission, ICBC, the BC Energy Commission... took over several failing forest companies for $1.00 and turned them around, started Mincome to guarantee seniors a minimum living standard, built four new superferries, bought the Royal Hudson and turned it into a tourist attraction, bought the Princess Margaurite and used it to bring tourist business from Seattle to Victoria, saved the Skagit Valley, bought hundreds of new busses..."

As another person said in his nomination, repeatedly:

"Criminally overdue."

Ross Barrett

Ross Barrett is the director, along with his son, and spiritual leader of the Carnival Band. As Wikipedia describes it, the band is a "community orchestra based in the Commercial Drive area of East Vancouver... As a frequent presence in public spaces and supporter of local social and environmental wellness organizations, The Carnival Band is a part of the Activist Street Band movement most well known in the United States through the HONK! Festivals."

And as his nomination says: "Ross Barrett is a saxophonist who has played in the Vancouver scene for over forty years.... However, most important is that Ross has played in one form or another in every progressive march that has ever occurred in Vancouver (and that's a lot of marches!!) He and his merry band of Minstrels were at the Peace marches 30 years ago. He's been there for every street festival and alternative dance since. He has made the marches interesting and fun with costumes and great horns and percussion. I saw him last weekend at a street festival on Main street and thought, "THAT guy should get the Order of B.C.!"

Brian Brett

An eloquent appeal for B.C. author and poet Brian Brett:

"I consider him to be one of our greatest poets. His writing fuses tenderness with strength. His work always honest and raw. His poetry has a muscle and sinew that gives physical body to his words -- and force and life to his poetic vision.

"We travel with him. To The Gulf Islands. To Watson Lake. Down the Yukon River. To the city streets of The Lower Mainland. On to Beijing. Down the Yangtze River. Back again to his farm on Salt Spring. Despite this vast canvas there is always the exploration of the human moment. What it means to love. What it means to lose love... Through it all his own unique voice can be heard, a simple splendour affirming our common humanity. For an example of his work Google his poem "Praise Of The Cheap Hotel."

Joe Foy

Joe Foy is the national campaign director for The Wilderness Committee.

But he's much more than that to the person who wrote this:

"For more than a quarter century, Joe Foy has worked tirelessly to protect BC's crown lands and wild places. In more recent years, he has added the protection of BC Crown corporations such as BC Hydro to his list of passions.

"While Joe is employed by the Wilderness Committee as the national campaign director, it is his personal passion for these assets that is most appealing. Joe is also a guy with a big heart for people as those who know him personally can attest. Whether it is his big extended family, the hundreds and hundreds of activists he has mentored, or the former politicians that he once opposed, British Columbia is filled with people who deeply admire Joe Foy. I would like to nominate Joe Foy for the People's Order of British Columbia because he is the type of British Columbian that we should all strive to be. Determined, strong, passionate, caring and brave."

Julia Goulden

"Julia Goulden is a co-founder of CoDevelopment Canada and served on the board of directors for 25 years... Julia has a long history as a teacher-activist in the BCTF as well as being a long-standing, active member of the New Westminster Horticultural Society.

"In the mid-1980s, the BCTF formed a committee to address sex discrimination within public education. The committee began to learn about the situations of women teachers in the developing world. Julia Goulden was one of the members of that committee. Through her career and throughout her retirement Julia has continued to be a strong advocate for the rights of women, workers and public educators. Women like Julia are often ignored when it comes to awards like the Order of BC, especially if their contributions are made through lesser known organizations like CoDev. Nominating someone like Julia Goulden is our way of thanking Julia for her incredible volunteerism as well as saying that BC should recognize not only those who get media coverage but those who contribute in quieter ways."

Susan Heyes

Susan Heyes is the former Cambie Street merchant who has been fighting, specifically, to win compensation for business disruption caused by Canada Line skytrain construction, and generally, for the rights of small businesses affected by mega-projects.

"This is a nomination for Ms Susan Heyes, currently the 30-year owner of Hazel & Company women's and maternity wear [store] and self-represented litigant before the Supreme Court of Canada. A self-made business success story known across the Lower Mainland for her clothing lines, Ms Heyes recently rose to defend not just all small business persons like herself across Canada but also the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act itself and the equitable application of federal law to all Canadian persons and corporations.

"She combines personal financial and business success with the drive and will to be a tireless defender of the rule of law that is the basis of commercial enterprise in our market economy... "

"... Heroes of a just society who have risked all to defend others must be recognized and celebrated, if we are ever to build a true community."

John "JJ" Jensen

Described by his nominator as mentor to the likes of federal NDP leadership hopeful Nathan Cullen, provincial NDP hopeful George Heyman, and former federal NDP MP Jim Fulton, "John (JJ) Jensen has been and continues to be a significant person in the history of Northern B.C. John has been a primary person in bringing together for common purpose people whose chief interests have been diverse at times. These groups include labour, environmental, native, peace and progressive churches. There have been very real and positive impacts. ...Destructive projects such as the original plans for a Kitimat oil port and the water diversion for Kemano II were stopped. The Nisga'a Treaty found broad local acceptance. ...Much of this can be traced to the work done by JJ.

"John has been much more than just a labour leader. He has always been a teacher. He has a knack of not only leading by example, but of ensuring others work to their own potentials, both individually and collectively. The one question that may be asked when deciding who is deserving of this award is whether the individual has had an actual and ongoing positive affect on local communities. In my opinion and that of many others, the Northwest would be a very different place today but for JJ's work and efforts. His legacy continues –- in Northwest B.C. politics, in people he has mentored, in his very early appreciation of viewing 'development' through the eyes of people."

Joe Keithley (a.k.a. Joey Shithead)

Raised in Burnaby, Joe Keithley came to fame in the 1980s as the lead man in the seminal and world-renowned punk bank DOA. He's been active in politics, including two runs for provincial office as part of the Green Party. He is also started and is president of Sudden Death Records. They used to say James Brown was the hardest working man in rock and roll. Not sure if "they" ever met Joe Keithley.

As his nomination says:

"Also, he performs at peace events and environmental events and gives generously of his time. He's anti-poverty and DIY [do-it-yourself]. He's not a prima donna. I loved the way he showed gratitude to the event hosts at the one I attended. He gets my vote for being an all-around awesome human being and punk rocker "

Michael Kluckner

On historian and writer Michael Kluckner:

"I am nominating Michael Kluckner for his longstanding and ongoing work preserving British Columbia's history through fine art and meticulous research. I recently went on his Heritage Vancouver walking tour of the Grandview neighbourhood, and was impressed by his thorough knowledge of architectural and social history; he has a keen sense of what it takes to build a community...

"...[A]rtist and historian Michael Kluckner has authored 14 books since 1984, according to his website. (I think he can be forgiven for having published one book on Toronto). While he has won numerous awards for his work, including the Duthie Prize, the Vancouver Book Prize, the Toronto Book Prize (short list), the Hallmark Society (Victoria) Award of Merit, and the Heritage Canada Medal of Achievement."

He is the founding president of the Heritage Vancouver Society and a former president of the Langley Heritage Society.

Kalle Lasn

The #OccupyWallStreet protest is only the latest in a long history of culture jamming for the provocateur who started, in 1989, Adbusters Media Foundation and the magazine that bears its name and message. According to their website, Adbusters was started by Lasn and Bill Schmalz and is a "a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age."

As his nomination says:

"The filmmaker was born in Estonia in 1942. He spent his childhood in a German refugee camp and in Australia. In the 1960s, he founded a market research company in Toyko, and in 1970, moved to Vancouver, Canada. For 20 years, he produced documentaries for PBS and Canada's National Film Board. His 'realization' that he did not fit into modern life hit him in a supermarket parking lot. Frustrated that he had to insert a quarter into a cart to shop there, he jammed the coin in so that the machine became inoperable. This was the first (quite literal) "culture jam" -- defined as an act designed to subvert mainstream society."

Janos Mate

This Vancouver-based professor and environmental activist was recently honoured in Washington D.C. for his work with Greenpeace to protect the ozone and climate. According to the Vancouver Sun, " Mate, a psychotherapist, joined Greenpeace as an antinuclear activist in 1989 and in 1992 began to work with Greenpeace on ozone layer protection."

According to this nomination, his work also includes:

"... campaigns against keeping cetaceans in captivity, and ... work that resulted in Vancouver becoming a Nuclear Free City. He has had an amazing life, escaping with his family from Hungary and coming to Canada in 1957... Think about all of the work Greenpeace has done against Nuclear technology since he took over the campaign. Look at the current issues in Japan, that we could easily be facing in Canada. Thank goodness we have someone looking out for us."

Alexandra Morton

The salmon and orca whale researcher garnered a number of nominations. Many of them echoing these sentiments:

"Alexandra Morton has for many years sustained a selfless but articulate struggle against governments, industry and other financial beneficiaries of questionable ocean science. Her recent focus has been on fish farming techniques but she began living in isolation on the B.C. coast more than 30 years ago to study the marine environment of Orca whales. Her views have consistently called for preservation of natural ecology and application of the precautionary principle favouring preservation of natural order.

"She is a scientist, an author, an activist and, perhaps most importantly, a symbol of an individual's ability to peacefully confront larger and more powerful forces over issues of conscience. For most people, the combined strength of opponents would have been overwhelming but Morton has atypical perseverance and courage. She has added to the base of ocean science knowledge but she has mobilized countless ordinary citizens, including those not involved in scientific exploration, to take notice of threats to the Pacific environment. Citizen involvement may have moderated human sourced jeopardy but the marine environment remains at risk. Morton's actions are needed more than ever today."

The People of Hartley Bay

Just past midnight on March 22, 2006, the Queen of the North ferry struck Gil Island and sank. Nearby residents of Hartley Bay, population 200, raced to the scene in fishing boats and speed boats and helped rescue the passengers. Those left in town created a refuge for the ferry passengers in the local cultural centre.

As this nomination says:

"I say the award should be given to each and every member of the Hartley Bay band, for their heroic efforts at rescuing the passengers of the BC Ferries' Queen of the North. If it wasn't for their prompt action, it is possible many more passengers would have died when the ship went down. And considering that nearly five years have gone by, and that Hartley Bay has been all but forgotten, it is time to put the residents of that small community front and centre once again (and with any luck, forevermore). "

Roy Peterson

What more can we say about Roy Peterson than this from his nomination:

"Roy Peterson is arguably Canada's greatest editorial cartoonist and a living institution. He's an historian, mentor to dozens of North American cartoonists, a seven-time National Newspaper Award winner, [which is] more than any other journalist let alone cartoonist, and Officer of the Order of Canada."

Peterson collaborated on numerous books on politics and even wrote a children's book that teaches the alphabet using Canadian themes.

Brian Richmond

This theatre director in Victoria, B.C. garnered these words of praise from a thankful admirer:

"A few years ago, Brian Richmond decided Victoria, B.C. could support a repertory theatre company. His Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre Company has proven with three seasons of highly successful and professional productions that it was a brilliant idea... The Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre is heading into its fourth year. There is, of course, some doubt that such a theatre can continue to produce the highest calibre productions owing to an absolute lack of government funding. For his part, Brian Richmond has put his career on the line ... in support of his dream. Every year he directs at least one play and ensures that young actors are mentored and given a chance to prove themselves. This committed, industrious and talented man fully deserves to hold the honour of People's Order of British Columbia."

Noreen Robertson

Again, don't skip this nomination because you don't recognize her name. Take a moment and read about someone who gives selflessly but doesn't seek out the spotlight for doing so:

"Noreen is the consummate volunteer. She plays piano at her church, and for seniors' groups. She fills in at funerals if no pianist is available. She plays for a small vocal group that entertains (for free) at seniors' residences and such. She co-chairs her church's Pastoral Care team, which oversees volunteer visiting, household help, and so on for ill or injured church members. She volunteers for Hospice. She caters and cooks amazing meals for large numbers of people for various organizations. She helps seniors with housework, clutter cleanup and removal, moving, downsizing. She visits a number of seniors to bring them meals, or takes them home to her house for meals, and more. She is amazing and the most humble, modest helper one could ever meet. Noreen is one of those people everyone can rely upon. She never denies anyone a request, other than if it is beyond her capacity to grant. She does all this with unfailing cheerfulness and a sunny smile. She probably qualifies for sainthood, to tell the truth. "

Jean Swanson

Jean Swanson is an anti-poverty activist who lives and works in Vancouver. Coordinator of the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) and founder of the Group End Legislated Poverty, Swanson's work aims to help end poverty in Canada's poorest postal code, Vancouver Downtown Eastside.

As much as what she does, this nomination speaks of how she does it:

"Jean has also always made a point of working collaboratively with low-income people in order to ensure they are as involved as possible in issues that affect them. She endeavors always to ensure that poor people have a voice in the public policy issues that directly impact their lives. Jean Swanson has made a big difference in the lives of many of B.C.'s and Canada's lowest income citizens. She is widely respected. Jean Swanson is principled, tremendously hard working and very inspiring. It would be very fitting if Jean Swanson was awarded a 'People's' Order of B.C., since she has done so much for the people of the province."

Mary Tait and Susan Jones

According to this nomination, Mary Tait and Susan Jones, as long time co-chairs of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee, have been tireless defenders of the Boundary Bay eco-system, a key wetland in the annual north-to-south migration of shorebirds. They and the BBCC have worked to ensure the integrity of the Agricultural Land Reserve and Delta's farmlands.

According to the nomination, among other things, they have:

"...ensured that the BBCC submits a detailed and extremely well researched critique for the environmental assessments of all the recent major projects which are threatening Delta's farmland and wetlands (including Burns Bog), such as the expansions under way and proposed for Deltaport and the South Fraser Perimeter Road."

Bill Vander Zalm

Did Bill Vander Zalm do enough with his work on the HST campaign to erase or at least soften our collective memory of his tumultuous reign as premier of B.C. back in the '80s?

You be the judge. But this person seems to think so:

"Bill Vander Zalm should get the new order because of his excellent and inspiring leadership work with the campaign for the abolishment of the HST last year. Immediately the tax was introduced, Mr. Vander Zalm stood up in public and said words to this effect: "I don't think so!!", and then proceeded with associates to set up the "Stop the HST" campaign. Mr. Vander Zalm was the "face" of the campaign and he showed his usual leadership ability and willingness to get into a good fight with his political foes."

John Barney Weaver

Let's let this moving nomination tell the story of the Hope, B.C. sculptor:

"Mr. Weaver is one of the most underrated bronze sculptors in Canada. This man is 91 years old. He started sculpting at age 22. He has been a teacher and mentor to many, many novice artists and youth over the years. Even at this age he is still most interesting and knowledgeable and loves to pass that knowledge on to anyone who will listen. ... Mr. Weaver is a member of the Hope Artists Guild and the Hope & District Arts Council and attends many of the events held at the Hope Arts Gallery. From time to time his bronzes have been displayed in the Municipal Hall in Hope, B.C. A bronze called "Pacifica" is located in Victoria B.C. and his sculpture of B.C.'s very own WWI hero, "Piper Richardson," commissioned by the Chilliwack Legion, stands on the grounds of the old Chilliwack Courthouse. His commissioned Bronze Medallion of Terry Fox is proudly displayed in Vancouver, B.C. Mr. Weaver was born in Helena Montana, moved to Alberta in 1966 and to Hope, B.C. in 1973. "

Once you've chosen your top five, go here to cast your vote.

Follow our Twitter feed and Facebook pages for regular updates on vote tallies.

And if you want to get your friends to vote for your choices, use the tools at the top of the story to email to a friend, share on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter!  [Tyee]

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