The Honourable Iona Campagnolo was recognized as A Woman of Firsts as she was inducted onto the Comox Valley Walk of Achievement on Friday.
“Your contribution and work has been at a much higher level, yet the results of your efforts have significantly touched the hearts, the souls, the lives of all Canadians,” said Walk of Achievement Committee member Dave Durrant during the ceremony celebrating her induction at the Sid Williams Theatre.
“Your work was inclusive. You inspire others. You are a beacon of strength for many. You are A Woman of Firsts.”
Campagnolo’s plaque — which states those last four words Durrant said — will be laid into the sidewalk in front of Hot Chocolates on Fifth Street once the weather is a bit drier.
Campagnolo was B.C.’s first female Lieutenant-Governor, a position she held for six years from 2001. She had a long career as a Canadian politician, as well as a career as a broadcaster and activist.
She spent time in municipal politics in Prince Rupert in the 1960s, then moved into federal politics with the Liberals when she was elected MP for the riding of Skeena in 1974. She was appointed Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and was the first female president of the Liberal Party of Canada.
During her speech at the celebration, Campagnolo recalled a meeting she was at years ago when a man asked her who she was. When she replied, he was “shocked” and said he thought she was a “big Italian mama.”
While this story brought laughs from the audience and Campagnolo herself, (she is slender and was born Iona Victoria Hardy on Galiano Island), she noted there is a serious message underneath the story.
“Stereotypes, stereotypes, how much damage do we do to people by not seeing the real person?” she said. “Our children, and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, well they are our gifts to the future, and all we can do as educators and thoughtful human beings is open the door for them to walk through.”
Campagnolo’s daughter Jan Logan spoke about Campagnolo as a mother, noting the care and attention to detail her mother took in raising her children, and with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Her best friend Dove Hendren spoke about her sense of humour. Another friend, Marie MacGregor, spoke about her work around education, the environment and women’s rights.
“When I met, and heard Iona speak, I realized she had the ability to empower women, to make them believe in their own abilities and their own strengths and to change what needs to be changed, to encourage women of the future to stand up and be heard,” said MacGregor.
Campagnolo was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1973 and promoted to Officer in 2008. She received the Order of B.C. in 1998, as well as many other honours and designations over the years.
Campagnolo’s great-grandchildren attended her induction and she pointed them out as she spoke about the importance of community.
“No matter how small a town is that you are part of as a child, it has a great impact on your life,” she said, adding communities help form a person’s “entire basis of living from thereon, and so every day is important in terms of community and this one’s blessed with so many good community based organizations of people who give their time as volunteers.”
Runner Cam Levins from Black Creek was inducted onto the Walk of Achievement Olympians’ section earlier last week.