Sunday, July 3, 2022

Lucille Harper named to Order of Canada

Champion of social change served as executive director of AWRC-SASA for more than 30 years

  • January 5 2022
  • By Corey LeBlanc    

ANTIGONISH – An unrelenting champion for women and their families and advocate for social change has been named to the Order of Canada.

Lucille Harper – who has called Antigonish home since the early 1980s – served as executive director of the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC) and Sexual Assault Services Association (SASA) for more than 30 years, until her retirement from the nationally acclaimed organization in late 2018.

Harper was one of nine Nova Scotians amongst the 135 appointments to the Order of Canada announced by Governor General of Canada Mary Simon on Dec. 29.

In an interview with The Journal a couple days after receiving word of the prestigious honour, she said, “I am still processing it.”

Harper stressed that she serves as a representative of the “work of many women over the years,” not only in Antigonish and the province, but also across Canada and around the world.

She credited the countless women who have been – and continue to be – “unrelenting” in standing up for change in areas such as inequality, violence and oppression.

Harper noted that their work and advocacy not only benefits women, but also families and broader communities.

“I am just thrilled to see Lucille being recognized for her tireless and inspired community leadership by being appointed to the Order of Canada by our remarkable new Governor General Mary May Simon,” Senator Mary Coyle – a long-time friend and colleague of Harper’s – offered when contacted about what she described as a “prestigious honour.”

“It is so well deserved,” Coyle added.

She said Harper’s “long-term leadership” of AWRC-SASA was “exemplary.”

“And, her ongoing support of Syrian and more recently Afghan refugees are among her many contributions to our community and the greater Canadian and global societies.”

Although she retired from AWRC-SASA a little more than three years ago, Harper remains active in her local and broader communities, including tireless contributions to Syrian-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE), a volunteer group that has facilitated the move of several refugee families to the area.

“It has been fantastic,” Harper said of her time with SAFE.

Under her leadership of AWRC-SASA, which has assisted thousands of girls and women with issues related to poverty, violence, social exclusion, health education and training, the organization has been instrumental in establishing a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, Sexual Assault Response Team, school-based Healthy Relationships Program and Lindsay’s Health Centre for Women.

While she reflected on achievements such as those, Harper – once again – focused on the immeasurable contributions of many, many women from the community.

“We have so many amazing people here,” she said.

And while referencing remarks she made to the Senate of Canada to recognize Harper’s retirement, Coyle noted that she has been “on the frontlines” for community organizations such as the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition, Antigonish Affordable Housing Society and Antigonish Community Transit Society; not to mention her pioneering contributions – on the regional and national stages – to Women’s Centres Connect, Feminists for Just and Equitable Policy, Women’s Action Network of Nova Scotia and the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women.

“Lucille is a gifted mentor of young women,” Coyle offered, noting that she has left a “strong team of next generation women leaders as her enduring legacy.”

Created as part of the country’s centennial in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes “outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.” Since its inception, more than 7,000 people – from all walks of life – have received the prestigious honour, one that is symbolized by the now-iconic snowflake presented to each recipient.

The Governor General of Canada – on the basis of recommendations provided by the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada – makes the appointments.

For more information about the Order of Canada, or to nominate someone, visit