A Kamloops woman is one of 13 people appointed this year to the Order of British Columbia, the province's highest form of recognition.
Ruth Williams, who turned 81 this B.C. Day (Aug. 3), is a founder of All Nations Trust Co. in Kamloops, the Round Lake Treatment Centre in Armstrong and many other non-profit groups that help Indigenous people.
In 1939, Williams was born in Big Bar Creek, a remote and isolated community in the Cariboo, and raised, along with six siblings, by a single mother.
Williams never finished high school, yet become CEO of a trust company that went from a capitalization of $339,000 when it was created in the mid-1980s to just under $60 million when she stepped down in 2013. Since its inception, shares of All Nations Trust have increased, to $87 from $10.
“It was directly based on need,” Williams said of her effort in establishing the trust company. “Our people were unable to [access capital], both on and off reserve, were not really active participants in the economy.”
Her background was social work, not finance. Williams was a court worker from 1972 to 1984 and dealt with child welfare, alcohol and drug treatment, education and spousal abuse.
It’s all part of her experiential education, upon which Williams puts great value.
“I often wonder and ask myself, ‘Where would I be if I’d had access to education?'” she said.
“Where would I be today and what would my accomplishments have been? I don’t have an answer for that. Nor do I have an answer if there was a way of testing my knowledge base from experiential learning, what would the [academic] equivalent be?”
In addition to helping found All Nations Trust and the Round Lake Treatment Centre, Williams has been involved in numerous other endeavours:
• involvement a number of community and government committees for advancing a health-care system that supports Indigenous peoples;
• supporting families and children in care;
• promoting early childhood education for Indigenous children;
• developing health programs and services for Indigenous peoples;
• founding member and active board member on the first Urban Native Housing Society, which has 103 affordable and safe housing units in Kamloops and 94 units within the Thompson, Okanagan and Kootenay regions;
• advocacy work to increase the number of Indigenous graduates and students pursuing post-secondary education and decrease the number of students dropping out of school by ensuring supports were in place for them. This included the development of an Urban Native Alternate School to support the re-entry of Indigenous students and for single parents who needed flexible hours and access to daycare;
• consulted by federal and provincial governments to gain knowledge and insight into the issues, challenges and barriers faced by Indigenous peoples, which have resulted in a change to government policies, processes and structures;
• development of a day-care centre designed to promote Indigenous programs and culture for all children age groups.
In announcing the appointment of Williams and the other Order of B.C. recipients, Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, chancellor of the order, said: "They have helped us to grow as a province, taught us to care for our environment, enriched our lives with literature and art, helped us to address past injustices and inspired us to become a more caring and inclusive society. To recognize these remarkable people, who are changing our communities for the better in many ways, is an honour of great personal significance to me."
This year, 160 British Columbians were nominated. Since its inception, 460 British Columbians have been appointed to the Order of B.C. Members have been appointed from all regions of the province and in numbers generally proportionate to a region's population.
The Order of B.C. investiture ceremony will be postponed for 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and held for recipients and invited guests at Government House in Victoria in 2021.
Joining Williams as Order of British Columbia recipients in 2020 are:
This year's recipients are:
* Shashi Assanand of Richmond
* Ryan Beedie of West Vancouver
* Michael Bublé of Burnaby
* Shirley Chan of Vancouver
* Neil Cook, MGC, of Cranbrook
* Paul George of Gibsons
* Rusty Goepel of Vancouver
* John Malcolm Horton of Delta
* Mel Krajden, PhD, of Vancouver
* Janet Nadine Mort, PhD, of Brentwood Bay
* Tracy Porteous of Vancouver
* Carole Taylor, OC, of Vancouver
— with files from the Vancouver Sun