The latest recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in the Cariboo admitted she was hesitant to accept the award.
“I don’t think it’s an award for me,” Sue Hemphill said at her award ceremony held recently city hall.
“I think it’s an award for all the stewards of the land. I want to thank all the people I work with, play with and dream with who understand that we are part of a very sensitive balance.”
Hemphill is an integral part of the Scout Island Nature Centre in Williams Lake, where she teaches environmental education to children, and said many of those children arrive at the centre with anxieties about the future left by her generation.
“They are full of energy and willing to change things,” Hemphill said.
She also thanked political leaders who run for office and are willing to tell the truth so citizens can demand governments to understand that “growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of a cancer cell.”
“Behind me stand many workers for government who do all they can to protect the environment, despite pressures on them right now to keep their mouths shut and their blinders shut,” Hemphill said.
Hemphill commended teachers she works with who take their students outside to learn about caring for nature in natural settings instead of just lecturing them about environmental concerns.
Known for her rants, she thanked her husband and colleagues for putting up with her, and allowing her one rant a day, even if hers aren’t as humorous as those of Rick Mercer.
Recalling the more than 200-person delegation that attended city hall on Dec. 4, led by the Tsilhqot’in National Government to oppose the New Prosperity Mine project, Hemphill said their intent was to reinforce that “we cannot in good conscience take what we want, not understanding what it’s doing for the future.”
Problems of today and in the future, cannot be solved in the same way we created them, she said.
Cariboo North Independent MLA Bob Simpson briefly described Hemphill’s achievements.
She arrived into the Horsefly area where she homesteaded and became an avid organic gardener.
“Living in the middle of the forest, she gained insight into the forest, which compelled her to go back into university, where she obtained Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Science in Biology and Botany Majors,” Simpson said.
During her second stint at university, Hemphill became the founding director of the Quesnel River Watershed Alliance. She made a living doing vegetation monitoring and working with the QRWA to establish a restoration project.
Between 1999 and 2003 she was the Cariboo Chilcotin stewardship co-ordinator promoting watershed stewardship through community consultation, and events such as the Horsefly Salmon Festival. Since 2003, she’s been the environmental education co-ordinator at Scout Island Nature Centre, teaching children and adults about the wonders of wildlife habitat.
“With this connection to nature, Sue encourages people to take the next step which is making personal and community decisions that will ensure a healthy environment in the future,” Simpson said.
Reading from a statement prepared by Hemphill, Simpson quoted her saying it’s hard to take political action, but action eradicates the feeling of helplessness.
“I work with the Williams Lake First Nation on a variety of conservation issues, take part in city meetings, write letters, and participate in the few places where the public is still allowed to take part,” Simpson read from a statement prepared by Hemphill.
Presently she is on the Horsefly Roundtable, Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society, and Williams Lake Environmental Society.
“All of us need to get more political to pay attention to what our governments are doing so last year I worked with the Council of Canadians to host a debate with our city council and mayoral candidates.”
Simpson thanked her for continuing to raise issues about the environment.
Mayor Kerry Cook also thanked Hemphill for all the work she does in the community.