She was there to give a presentation to members of the P.E.I. Nurses Union, when she was given the surprise of her life.
“Each year, we give out the Bread and Roses Award to a non-union member,” said Linda Silas, the president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
The award recognizes contributions in policy and decision-making, enhancing public awareness, participating in positive media coverage and other public events.
“The award itself is roses and wheat stocks engraved on a plaque and means we work hard for what we do and we deserve the roses, too,” Silas explained.
Boyd, sitting at her table at the PEINU annual meeting, put her hand to her mouth as Silas announced that she was the 2017 recipient of the award.
After accepting her award to a standing ovation, Boyd said winning was a shock.
“I was just asked to come and speak to the group about the Health Coalition. And I felt very honoured to come and share, but now it’s been taken to a whole other level,” she said.
“It’s so very thoughtful of the nurses to do that. I know that it’s an award that they give for a contribution, but I never deemed my contribution worthy of it.”
Boyd, a Blooming Point resident, has worked in social justice movements most of her life. She was the first woman to work as the director of social action with the Diocese in Charlottetown and is the longest serving member of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace executive.
In 1994, she founded the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice in Charlottetown. The centre works on developing a poverty reduction strategy for P.E.I. by addressing the root causes of poverty.
For more than 16 years, Boyd has chaired the P.E.I. Health Coalition while also being part of the national group.
“I started very early getting involved with health-care issues because there was a time in Canada when doctors started opting out of Medicare. And that’s when the coalitions began because the health-care system is the last real social program we have.”
She says it’s terrific to see first-hand how far Canada has come.
“But that’s why we need to be watchdogs to ensure that we don’t move backwards.”
Boyd, who never worked as a nurse, has two sisters and an aunt in the field, as well as an uncle who is a doctor.
“I feel quite honoured humbled by this award. It’s very cool.”
Mona O’Shea, the president of the PEINU, nominated Boyd for the Bread and Roses award.
“I know Mary on a professional level but also a personal level after getting to know her through working together.
“When I read over the citations of previous winners, I was, like, Mary Boyd is right there with them. She is such a passionate person that can advocate for everyone.”