Her plan last month was to vacation in St. Lucia and renew acquaintances with friends and family, some of whom live in the United States, Europe and elsewhere around the world, who would be on the island for the first Diaspora Homecoming Reunion.
Imagine Toronto-based health care professional Joan Lesmond’s surprise when she learned days before her arrival that she was one of 25 nationals residing in the Diaspora selected to receive the Governor-General’s Homecoming award.
“I was blown away,” said the former Registered Nurses Association of Ontario president who came to Canada in 1970. “To be honoured by one’s country is simply amazing. Better yet, this is the first time that an award has been given through the office of the island’s Governor-General and this honour makes me more committed to want to represent St. Lucia.”
The holder of a doctorate in health care policy education, a Master’s degree in community health nursing and a Bachelor’s nursing degree, Lesmond combines her vast experience in leadership, health and community service for the advancement of knowledge and charitable initiatives in home and community care at the Markham-based St. Elizabeth Health Care Foundation, where she’s the executive director of community engagement.
Regional Senior Judge Gregory Regis, community workers Mary Alcindor and Malcolm Hinkson, cultural activist Tony Ishmael and Roman Catholic Church deacon Eustace Beausoleil were the other Canadians recognized with the awards presented by Governor-General Pearlette Louisy, who graduated with a Master’s degree in Linguistics from Quebec’s Laval University in the mid-1970s.
Regis, who was unable to attend the event, is in St. Lucia this week where he will pay courtesy calls on Prime Minister Stephenson King and Louisy to thank them for the prestigious honour.
“I have received many accolades, but this is the first time that I have been formally recognized with an honour by St. Lucia,” he said. “It means a lot and I am extremely grateful.”
Alcindor came to Montreal for Expo ’67, received landed status a year later and relocated to Toronto in 1969 where she has been an active member of the community, volunteering with a number of organizations.
Beausoleil is a respected spiritual leader and marriage counselor.
Hinkson, who migrated to Toronto in 1966, is a St. Lucia Toronto Association founding member and Ishmael is a Caribana Junior Parade co-founder and costume designer.