Karen Hira (left) and Ron Rice (right) are winners of the 2022 Medal of Good Citizenship award. (Photos provided by the BC Honours and Awards Secretariat)

This week, 15 British Columbians were awarded for their dedication to service within their communities.

Each year, hundreds of nominations are submitted by people from communities across the province.

This year the selection panel included six members from across British Columbia that were appointed by Lieutenant Governor, Jane Austin. 

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This year’s panel included: Michelle Bryant of Prince Rupert, Linda Alice King of Maple Ridge, Debra Lee Kozak of Nelson, Raymond Paul Louie of Vancouver, James (Kent) Macaulay of Quathiaski Cove and Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services and Minister of Tourism. 

Of the 15 people chosen by the panel, two Victoria residents, Karen Hira and Ron Rice were honoured for their inspirational work. 

Rice is described as a dedicated Indigenous community leader, volunteer and board chair, who has been recognized for his commitment as a role model for underserved urban Indigenous peoples

Rice currently serves as the executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC), after serving as a volunteer board chair for 14 years. 

During his time as a board member, Rice helped recover the VNFC from severe debt to an operating budget of $8 million, including three buildings dedicated to affordable housing. 

Rice’s experience surrounding indigenous relations has made him a well-sought-after leader, serving his knowledge on the board of Island Health, expanding health services for Indigenous peoples, and changing the culture of racial discrimination within the healthcare system. 

Hira, the other Victoria resident to be awarded, is described as a young woman raised by a single parent on long-term disability due to a traumatic brain injury that left her mom with significant cognitive challenges. 

Hira’s mom was supported by her grandparents and aunt and uncle who helped raise her and her older sister. 

At 16, Hira moved out of her grandparents’ home to escape childhood trauma and in search of independence. 

She was cut off from the family as a result. Since then, Hira has financially supported herself and her mother as well as covered expenses related to her educational goals by maintaining multiple jobs.

In 2015, Hira completed a bachelor of social work degree with distinction at the University of Victoria. She later went on to complete a master of public administration degree in 2018 and is currently working on her PhD in Public Administration.

Three years ago, Hira became the executive director of the Oasis Society, a non-profit organization serving Indigenous adults experiencing multi-generational trauma. Oasis was on the brink of closure due to the pandemic and high staff turnover rates.

In September 2021, she was hired as the executive director of VIRCS, and again stabilized an organization quickly crumbling from poor leadership and the weight of the pandemic.

In a press release, BC Premier David Eby said it is an honour for him to award those including Hira and Rice who are striving to support their communities through humanitarian work. 

 “Each one of them embodies the traits of generosity, kindness and sacrifice for the benefit of others. Their actions touch so many lives, creating better communities throughout B.C. I commend each one of them. They are an example to all,” said Premier David Eby, in a press release,

The recipients of this year’s award will be presented with medals at in-person ceremonies throughout the province in 2023.

Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted throughout the year with eligibility being open to current and former long-term residents of British Columbia are eligible for nomination for the medal. 

In addition to the Medal of Good Citizenship, BC residents can also be nominated for the Order of British Columbia. 

This award humanitarian award recognizes people who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in a specific field or endeavour, benefiting British Columbians and others throughout Canada.

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