A Kitimat resident was in Ottawa this week, one of six people across the country being recognized for their work on gender equality and related matters within their communities.
Linda Slanina, the executive director of the Tamitik Status of Women, received one of this year’s Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case from newly-installed Governor-General Julie Payette at her official residence, Rideau Hall.
The Persons Case is so named when five women in 1929 won a court appeal stating that the word ‘person’ in a section of federal legislation included women as well as men.
Slanina’s involvement in Kitimat stretches back to close to four decades with one of her first commitments being part of the group to open the community’s first telephone crisis line in the mid-1980s. She served as president of the group from 1987 to 1993.
“We really had no money to do it,” Slanina recalls of the crisis line establishment. “We’d hold bake sales and have tag days.”
Telus installed lines to the homes of each volunteer so that when their turn to answer the line came around, they’d plug in a phone to that line.
Slanina, who moved to Kitimat with her family from Nanaimo as a 13-year-old in 1970, says her involvement in the community is rooted in her family’s philosophy of helping others.
“My parents would take in youth who were having difficulties with the permission of their families as well as extended family,” said Slanina of the influences of her childhood.
“So I’d say my philosophy is really modeled after my parents.”
She also grew more aware of disparities between girls and boys in the schoolyards and, as the years went on, in employment opportunities for women within the Kitimat workforce.
“I could see in our community little or no oppportunities for women. They were mostly jobs in the service industry,” Slanina continued. “The industrial jobs typically went to the men.”
Her community work continued into the 1990s, being one of the group which worked to open Dunmore Place, a shelter that continues to provide a safe place for women experiencing violence.
She’s been the executive director of the Tamitik Status of Women since 2003, having begun there as an administrative assistant in 1993.
One of the largest and more complicated projects Slanina was involved in was setting up the transition house.
“Since it was the first and specific for women, there was lots of backlash,” she said.
If Slanina is being recognized for her work, she also acknowledges the efforts of others.
“Every day I’m blessed to work with the women here,” she said of the Tamitik organization.
Slanina’s community efforts have extended to other groups such as the former Aluminum City Telethon Society beginning in the early 1980 which was transformed to the Kitimat Community Foundation in 2011.
Aside from the award ceremony at Rideau Hall, Slanina and the other recipients were introduced in the House of Commons and were guests at an official dinner.
The Persons Case Awards are timed to coincide with October being designated as Women’s History Month.