Highlands resident Bonnie Roe was recently awarded with the Orville Thacker Award by the Ontario Health Coalition for her dedication and work to protect public health care. /FILE

Highlands activist recognized with prestigious provincial award

By Angelica Ingram
Longtime community activist and Lochlin resident Bonnie Roe was recently honoured with a prestigious award from a provincial health organization for her advocacy on behalf of the elderly.
In October, Roe was presented with the Orville Thacker Award by the Ontario Health Coalition for her extraordinary work in advocating for long-term care reform and protecting public health care.
Chair and founder of the Haliburton Highlands Long-Term Care Coalition, Roe has been advocating for LTC residents for the past number of years, particularly throughout the pandemic. Some of the work she has accomplished includes meeting with local politicians, developing successful petitions aimed at improving overall care for the elderly, and attending and organizing events to highlight the need for action in long-term care.
Roe was selected for the award by the Ontario Health Coalitions’ board of directors for her passion and commitment to healthcare matters, said OHC executive director Natalie Mehra.
“Bonnie Roe was selected for the award because of her tireless work to improve long-term care for the elderly in her community and across Ontario. She was a co-founder of the Haliburton Long-Term Care Coalition and leads the group. Her work is truly exceptional. She wrote a petition to advocate for the federal government to take measures to improve long-term care and gathered a whopping over 5000 signatures on it. She has repeatedly met and corresponded with local MPP Laurie Scott and her staff on these issues. She organized local participation in dozens of actions and events to improve care levels in long-term care and save lives during the worst of the pandemic as COVID spread through the homes killing literally thousands of residents. She put up hundreds of lawn signs advocating to protect public health care and stop privatization leading into the provincial election. She is working with the local group and experts to advance proposals to modernize long-term care to be resident-centred, safe, home-like and provide dignity for the elderly. She always does what she commits to do, and she has worked to support every effort to win better care for the elderly. She is a joy to work with and a real community hero,” said Mehra.
Roe felt incredibly honoured to be recognized with the prestigious award, particularly given Thacker’s dedication to social issues.
Born in Kincardine, Ontario, Thacker was an active member in his community for more than 60 years. A member of the Royal Canadian Legion for more than 50 years, Thacker was also a member of Ontario Health Coalition and a founder and Co-Chair of Kitchener Waterloo Regional Health Coalition, according to OHC.
Roe says her dedication to the elderly comes from a desire to advocate for individuals who are not being respected or treated fairly, be it the elderly, education workers, persons with disabilities, our environment and the right to adequate housing and nutritious food, and a living wage, to name a few.
“As a society, we have truly lost respect for our elderly and for more than 30 years, and throughout the pandemic our current and previous government have blatantly shown this,” said Roe.
Since forming the HH LTC Coalition, some of Roe’s proudest accomplishments have been promoting awareness about the LTC system and advocating for change locally and provincially. “Our petition, Save Our Seniors-Fix LTC, has over 5,000 signatures and was presented to our MPP Laurie Scott’s office last year and sent to Premier Ford.”
Other accomplishments include a drive-by LTC rally, a radio campaign on Moose and Canoe FM, virtual protests and a current campaign aimed at putting a stop to the privatization of our health care.
She says first and foremost though, she must acknowledge the amazing and dedicated team of coalition members she works alongside, including Brigitte Gebauer, Terry Hartwick, Dorothy Owens and Lyn Ritchie. Hartwick and Roe were honoured with awards from The Institute for Change Leaders, Ryerson University.
“I feel so very proud of all that our team has accomplished,” said Roe, adding being the recipients of these awards is proof that all their handwork is being recognized locally and provincially.
Moving forward, Roe hopes to continue facilitating important work for seniors and has been partnering with Re:Think Policy Change on the project Aging Together As Community. Through community discussions, the groups are focused on creating a plan about creative options for aging.
“Our elders deserve to live their final years with respect and in dignity. The road is still long, so our advocacy work must still continue!” said Roe.
It is this passion and dedication that made Roe a clear choice for recognition, said Mehra.
“In the opinion of our board of directors, Bonnie›s contribution is truly exceptional. It brings alive those principles and the spirit that are foundational to our Canadian system of health care for all: that we take care of each other, regardless of wealth or income, with compassion and dignity. Orville would be proud to have his award given to such a deserving recipient.”