A former New Glaswegian was appointed to the Order of Canada on Dec. 29 by Governor General Julie Payette for her decades of work with disabled children.
Dr. Vianne Timmons, now President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Regina, began her career in 1976 at the now-closed Pictou County Children’s Training Centre.
“First of all I’m tremendously honoured and humbled by the award,” Timmons told The News. “I feel the award is the work of a lot of people and so I see the award as theirs as well.”
The children she once worked with at the Training Centre typically had severe and multiple disabilities. Many of her young clients had no language ability and behaviour challenges, as they were frustrated by being unable to speak, in addition to physical impairments.
While the Training Centre helped Timmons launch her career, she later joined the movement to close it down in the 1980s. Since then, disabled children have been increasingly integrated into mainstream education.
However, this has created new challenges, as children with disabilities can be prone to being bullied. Especially vulnerable are those with autism, a condition that makes it difficult for those affected to understand non-verbal cues and social norms.
Other children can lash out at disabled classmates if they do not understand why they behave in a certain way. Timmons said the best remedy was educating children about disabilities.
“Knowledge breeds compassion,” said Timmons.
Today, she sees more children and youth with anxiety or other emotional disorders, issues that were uncommon back in the 1970s.
Timmons said that a likely reason for this was a rapidly changing world and greater awareness of global events, together with increased worries about the future. Such worries triggering anxiety include jobs, pensions and climate change, to name a few.
“They care deeply,” said Timmons of the current generation.
Having earned the Order of Canada, Timmons now feels it’s her duty to guide a new generation of Canadians towards a more just society.
“With this appointment comes added responsibility, however, because many of Canada’s longstanding ideals – inclusiveness, tolerance and mutual respect – seem to be increasingly under threat. My hope is that as an Officer of the Order of Canada, I can continue to advance and promote these ideals for the next generation of Canada’s leaders, on whom we will depend so much in the years to come,” said Timmons in an earlier release.
Timmons will be formally invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
She has won numerous other awards for her work including being named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
While Timmons has come a long way since her time at the Children’s Training Centre, she still sees New Glasgow as home and often returns to visit both her mother and friends.