By RON FANFAIR
As co-captain, defenseman Pernell Karl Subban set the tone for Canada’s successful championship run in this year’s World Junior hockey championship in Ottawa, scoring twice in a lopsided 15-0 win over Kazakhstan and netting the first goal less than a minute after the face-off in the final against Sweden.
Canada clinched its fifth straight title and its 15th overall with a decisive 5-1 victory over the Swedes, but it was Subban’s stellar play and leadership that caught the attention of federal leader of the Official Opposition, Michael Ignatieff, who was among the thousands of excited fans to watch the national side lift the crown at Scotiabank Place last January.
“I was there that night and he raised the roof on the place,” recalled Ignatieff at last Saturday’s prestigious Harry Jerome awards that honoured Subban and 12 other Black Canadians for their outstanding contributions. “I cannot remember a time in the past year when I have felt so proud to be a Canadian.
“He has a wonderful future as a sportsman and an ambassador and he has certainly made this Canadian very proud.”
Subban was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the National Hockey League’s 2007 Entry Draft.
The awards were launched 27 years ago. Jerome died of a brain aneurysm in December 1982 at the age of 42. He achieved much in his short life despite the challenges he faced, setting seven world track records and helping to create Canada’s Ministry of Sport.
“As a teenager, I saw Harry Jerome run and I recall the tenacity and endurance he displayed while struggling to succeed in the face of injury,” said Ignatieff, the Liberal Party of Canada’s interim leader. “For every young Canadian of my age and every young Canadian afterwards, Harry Jerome has been an inspiration. When be broke records, we all revelled in his success because we felt his success was our success.
“I have a feeling about Harry Jerome that he was a nation builder because he was one of those great Canadians who brought us together, who made us feel proud and who made us feel good about ourselves. For many of my Black contemporaries like Dr. Jean Augustine and others of her time, Harry Jerome was a groundbreaker and someone who proved that barriers exist to be broken. We have brought down many of those barriers in the past 40 to 50 years, but if we are honest with ourselves and if we are truthful, many barriers still remain and we will not honour Harry Jerome unless we bring them all down.
“I have a wonderful colleague in the House, Marlene Jennings, who is a friend and an outstanding Member of Parliament. But she remains the only Black MP in the House of Commons. We still have some work to do and some barriers to bring down and I pledge to do it with you.”
Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, said the awards encourage young people to contribute to this country’s shared future and also appreciate the significant role that Black Canadians have played in Canada’s history while Ontario’s New Democratic Party Leader, Andrea Horwath, noted that the Harry Jerome award winners demonstrate talent that is making a difference in the lives of others.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the awards honour outstanding individuals who have made a positive and lasting difference in their communities.
“Tonight’s honorees lift us up,” he said. “In the noblest tradition of Harry Jerome, you inspire us to work hard, live bravely and believe deeply in ourselves and in each other. We need your example today more than ever, especially when there is more work to do in our communities.”
The awards honour young people for their academic, athletic, leadership and entrepreneurial prowess and individuals who have excelled in community service, the arts, technology, business and the health sciences.
In addition to Subban, the other youth award recipients were Regine Debrosse, Cameron Semple and Mekielia (Miki) Nembhard.
Debrosse is a 23-year-old Psychology Honours student born and raised in North East Montreal. Semple is considered one of the fastest Black ski racers in North America and a young man who has used his leadership abilities to create and organize numerous group activities while Nembhard owns a clothing label and is pursuing a Masters in Corporate and Commercial Law at the University of London, England.
The other award recipients are as follows:
Ottawa resident, Chris Harris, has been actively involved in many community organizations, including the Jamaican Community Association which he founded, the National Capital Alliance on Race Relations and the Ottawa-Carleton Immigration Services Organization that he co-founded.
Trey Anthony is known for the ground-breaking theatrical production, Da Kink In My Hair.
Leesa Barnes is the only Canadian to be named among the 50 Most Powerful and Influential Women in Social Media.
Jamaican-born Wayne Isaacs is the co-founder, chief executive officer and chairman of Delta Uranium Inc.
Dr. Shelia McKenzie was recognized with the “Most Outstanding Person of the 20th Century” award at the 2006 World Organization of Natural Medicine Unity Congress.
Oliver Jones, considered one of the world’s best jazz pianists, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award.
Ontario Black History Society president, Rosemary Sadlier, was recognized with a Trailblazer award.
Toronto Argonauts Chief Executive Officer, Michael “Pinball” Clemons, was presented with the President’s award.
Canada’s first Black female judge, Corrine Sparks, was singled out for Professional Excellence.