Three women from Newfoundland and Labrador were among 39 Canadians recognized Thursday at Rideau Hall in Ottawa by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.
The women — Bethany R. Downer and Michelle Sullivan of St. John’s, and St. John’s native Const. Leah Russell, who is an RCMP officer stationed in Alberta — were honoured during a ceremony for their “excellence, courage or exceptional dedication to service.”
• Russell received the Medal of Bravery — along with fellow RCMP Const. Dru Abernethy — for saving several people from a burning retirement home in Rocky Mountain House, Alta.
As Russell escorted the first victim out, Abernethy crawled into a blazing unit on the first floor but was forced back by the extreme heat. Russell re-entered the building, located a woman with mobility issues and carried her outside. Both constables then met on the second floor, where they each entered separate, smoked-filled units to rescue additional victims. They evacuated half of the residents from the home before the fire department arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, one of the victims did not survive.
• Sullivan was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) for her enthusiasm for preserving a scenic corner of Newfoundland. As a leading figure in the Brigus Historical and Conservation Society, she has been instrumental in raising funds for the relocation and restoration of a working forge, as well as several other projects that evoke the village’s past and its seafaring heritage. Thanks to partnerships she has built locally and provincially, Brigus continues to charm locals and tourists alike.
• Downer was presented the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. In 2014, Downer founded One Step Shoe Recycling, which collects thousands of pairs of footwear from across Canada and redistributes them around the world. Combining community involvement, sustainability and social justice, she has encouraged environmental engagement while helping those in need.