Program worthy of recognition

When this newspaper is published on Friday, the forecast is for outstanding weather. Hopefully, the forecast will carry forward for the entire weekend that features Fathers Day and the Manitoba Marathon. 

It is hard to believe that the flood gates are in operation as the summer approaches and mosquitoes make their presence known in great abundance. Fortunately for Winnipeg, the ability exists to control the water level of the fast-rising Red River at this time of year.

All Winnipeggers have one outstanding individual to thank for the floodway. Of course, that is none other than former Premier Duff Roblin whose first name is used honourably to refer to the best ditch ever built — “Duff’s Ditch.” 

A major upgrade is underway and this colossal effort of earth moving will result in savings of millions of dollars, and provide a giant security blanket for Winnipeggers. They can carry on with their daily lives during the spring thaw and rainy season without fear of seeing the Red at their doorstep.Blue is much preferred and the more of it these days the better.

This is also the time of year when many NHL fans are missing hockey action and may be tuning in the NBA playoffs. Up until the finals, all of them had a chance to see this year’s league MVP strut his amazing stuff. Steve Nash is the first Canadian to receive the prestigious award and his hometown of Victoria should be very proud of his accomplishments. He exhibited exceptional talent, skill and flair in leading the Phoenix Suns to first place in the season and into the semifinals in the playoffs.

Inevitably, his accomplishment will likely lead to more NBA scouts looking north for Canadian talent as they previously did with Winnipegger Todd MacCullough and, in years gone by, to King Carl Ridd. 

Many Winnipeggers, especially our younger folk, do not even realize there was a guard from Winnipeg that, not unlike Steve Nash, had incredible court smarts that resulted in him playing on Canada’s basketball team in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, being chosen as the only Canadian named to an all world all-star team in Rio de Janeiro in 1954 and being drafted by the NBA Milwaukee Hawks in 1952 and 1953. 

However, Winnipeg won out over the NBA and Milwaukee as Carl Ridd chose to pursue academic studies, among others. Besides being an outstanding contributor to the development of basketball in Manitoba for men and women, he went on to contribute greatly to the community in a number of substantive ways. One in particular was Ridd’s lifelong pursuit for justice, peace and human rights.

Human rights are being talked about more locally due to another outstanding Winnipegger who had a vision for a human rights museum, which is to be built at the Forks, very close to the river Duff Roblin is associated with. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the brainchild of Israel Asper, a visionary who has left a huge footprint on this city through many significant contributions. And, he will continue to do so through his foundation and family.

One of the more recent accomplishments before his death is the I.H. Asper Clinical Research Institute at the St.Boniface Hospital. Interestingly enough, one of the key players to help make this happen was Dr. Dhalla, a world-renowned cardio-vascular disease researcher based here in Winnipeg at the St. Boniface Research Centre. 

While Asper attended the 2000 Citizens Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Ivan Berkowitz, the co-ordinator of the 2001 World Heart Congress in Winnipeg,  indicated to 2001 inductee Dr. Dhalla, that Asper was keenly interested in supporting heart research. Not to miss a wonderful opportunity to further advance the development of heart research in Winnipeg, Dr. Dhalla followed up on this fortuitous moment and a new hallmark building with all sorts of exciting potential was built with a donation from Asper.

Of course, an important figure in making research a central part of the St. Boniface Hospital’s role in this city was Campbell Maclean, the chair of the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Foundation from 1979 to 1992. He also happens to be another Citizens Hall of Fame inductee who was selected in 1989. He also chaired The Forks North Portage Corporation in its earlier days. Three other inductees also have made notable contributions to making sure the Forks became a reality — former Mayor Bill Norrie, former city commissioner D.I. MacDonald and Dr. Arnold Naimark.

There have been 29 inductees since this unique Winnipeg Real Estate Board program was established in 1986. Carl Ridd and Lionel Lemoine Fitzgerald were last year’s inductees. 

The program celebrates the outstanding achievements of Winnipeg’s citizens and highlights how their efforts over a number of years have contributed to Winnipeg’s quality of life.

One of the most tangible results of this special awards program is a splendid site in Assiniboine Park that features sculptures of all the inductees. You can see a likeness of all of them with the exception of the bust of the 2004 inductees — they will be installed this year — and Leo Moll.

Mol has been commissioned to do some of the busts. The original intention was for him to do his own self-portrait. Not surprisingly, he has been too busy with other commissions and could not get around to sculpting his own. But, this will be rectified in time.

While many of you may take advantage of the wonderful sunshine at lunch this Friday, there will be others getting together to choose two more worthy inductees for their dedication to making Winnipeg a better place to work, live and play. REALTORS, who serve on the selection committee along with other community representatives, will look at how the nominees have made Winnipeg a place they are proud to call home.