Delta woman honoured
Inuvik's Bertha Allen accepts national award

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Oct 18/99) - When Bertha Allen heard her name had been submitted for the Governor General's Persons Award, she was thrilled.

When she heard she had won the award, along with four other Canadian women, she was ecstatic.

"I'm grateful for the recognition I'm getting for my life's work, but you never do things alone," Allen said.

"There has always been a group of Northern women that had a vision and we've always supported each other in our desire to achieve our goals."

In the past 20 years, the Persons Award has gone to 102 women who have made outstanding contributions towards promoting equality of women in Canada.

When Allen looks back over her career, it's with a sense of pride. When she looks forward, it's with a sense of hope.

"It touches my heart to see we now have women on municipal councils and band councils. Women are leaders in their communities and they are pushing for change," Allen said.

"The footwork is done. Now, I see more younger women working with leaders to tackle the difficult issues facing our people. It's going to take a lot of energy because social problems are here and they're not going away."

The Persons Award was initiated in 1979 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Persons Case. The 1929 case concluded when the British Privy Council declared women to be persons and thus eligible for appointment to the Senate.

Allen's achievements include being the founding president of the Native Women's Association of the NWT; serving as the only female member of the Bourque Commission on the creation of a new constitution for the Western NWT; and speaking on behalf of women and families at the local, territorial and national levels for the last 25 years.

One of Allen's greatest challenges has been to combat violence, especially violence against women. The effects violence has on Northern communities is something that remains one of her primary concerns.

"It took awhile but after we got brave enough, we started addressing issues of violence against women. The most difficult part was to come out and speak against the violence that was occurring in our homes and communities," Allen said.

"But with women united, we were able to convince each other that the most difficult things in our lives can be accomplished if we work together."

Although semi-retired, Allen is still an active member of the Standing Side by Side: Women's Voices in Leadership project, which is jointly funded by Status of Women Canada and the NWT Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Never one to let an opportunity slip by, Allen made sure to get one more message in before parting.

"This award isn't just an honour for me, it's an award for all women of the North. If we made any strides it was on the shoulders of all women in the communities, and I honour them all," Allen said.

"I'd like to remind all care-givers in all the communities to take care of themselves. And when you see a care-giver, make sure you say to them: 'Thank you for giving of your time. It's a difficult job you have,'" Allen said.

Allen will be receiving her award at a ceremony in Calgary, Oct. 18.