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Timmins woman's work catches governor general's attention

Vanessa Génier is receiving a meritorious service decoration
Vanessa Génier with her letter awarding her a Meritorious Service Decoration.

A Timmins woman is being honoured by the governor general for her contributions and community work.

Vanessa Génier, the founder of Quilts for Survivors, is being awarded a meritorious service decoration (civil division) from Governor General Mary Simon for providing quilts and comfort to residential school survivors. 

Génier, a member of Missanabie First Nation, is amazed by the recognition.

“My phone’s been with messages and comments and congratulations,” she said. “It’s just unreal!”

Meritorious service decoration recognizes exceptional deeds or activities that bring honour to an individual’s community or Canada. Issues like education, poverty, and awareness campaigns have all been tackled by past recipients.

Génier’s work with Quilts for Survivors began as a personal project, and a Facebook group to complete 18 quilts to honour the children lost to residential schools after the discovery of unmarked gravesites at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia in 2020.

The mission expanded and Génier sent quilts to residential school survivors as a source of warmth and comfort. The volunteers for this work are spread across the continent, and they’ve sent out over 4,000 quilts.

“I didn’t do this to win awards, I started this to help my people,” said Génier.

There are over 40,000 residential school survivors alive in Canada.

That the representative for the crown in Canada is recognizing the work she is doing, 

“To know that the crown had a hand in these schools but is now honouring the work that we’re doing to provide healing, that means a lot, too,” she said.

Génier said the award was a complete shock to her, and she wasn’t even sure what it was about initially. She received a phone call informing her about the award.

“She was so excited and so happy to call me, and I was just so confused,” she said. “She explained a little bit to me, and she told me that someone had nominated me for the award and what it meant.”

She got the news about month ago over the phone. It was tough keeping the secret until she received the official letter.

“I love to share what’s going on at the studio, and it’s all really surreal,” she said. “I’m still a little in shock.”

The governor general will present the award at a future date in Ottawa, and Génier said plenty of supporters are looking forward to the trip.

“It will be several months, but I know the board is planning a road trip,” she said.

Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter

About the Author: Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter

Amanda Rabski-McColl is a Diversity Reporter under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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