Two North Vancouver women were among the 19 British Columbians recently awarded the province’s Medal of Good Citizenship for outstanding community service.
Lois Nahirney and Sylvie (Silvakantie) Pather were given the medal, first awarded in 2015, which “recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward,” according to a release from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. The medals reflect “generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life.”
"It is an honour to congratulate these community leaders whose commitment helps strengthen our society," stated Premier John Horgan in the release. "The Medal of Good Citizenship awards recognize these individuals and their remarkable contributions to our communities and our province as a whole."
Here are the bios that accompanied the awards release for the two North Vancouver recipients:
Lois Nahirney of North Vancouver
Lois Nahirney is a pragmatic visionary and tenacious activist for gender equality and the economic advancement of women. Her work has impacted thousands of women and girls to be champions of equity for themselves and others.
As a lifelong volunteer and community leader, Nahirney has founded and/or chaired numerous organizations dedicated to advancing women including the Women's Executive Network, Premier's Women's Economic Council, WE for SHE and Women in Technology to promote, educate, implement and accelerate systemic change for women.
In addition to her extensive volunteer work, Nahirney is a trail-blazing senior female executive in male-dominated industries including forestry, shipping and technology, pioneering change within the workplace.
She saw the importance of developing champions, sponsors and advisors to elevate women's careers and has been an activist in this area for 20 years. Now, as the CEO/founder of a DNA company, dnaPower Inc., she employs a team of women scientists and managers in the rapidly changing biotech world to apply personal genetics in the areas of diet, fitness and wellness to help people live healthier lives.
Nahirney is best known as the active chair of the Women's Executive Network in B.C. for 15 years, as the innovative inaugural chair of the Premier's Women's Economic Council, a founding member of the WEB Alliance and the visionary co-founder and co-chair of WE for SHE, bringing the focus of women and gender equity to the forefront in B.C. She has changed companies, advised government and inspired thousands of women in advancing their place in the economy.
As the co-creator of WE for SHE, Nahirney led an unprecedented collaboration of over 25 women's organizations, representing 10,000 women across the province. Together, they created ground-breaking annual forums and action plans for government, business and individuals focused on advancing women in non-traditional and emerging sectors. This annual forum brings together 1,400 people from high school girls to business leaders. It has spawned other events and mentoring programs in B.C., and has drawn in corporate, government and community partnerships to collectively take action.
Wherever Nahirney goes, she selflessly and tirelessly contributes to her community in many ways. She was a volunteer and director with Junior Achievement for over 10 years, chair of the Vancouver Economic Development Commission for five years, and is involved in the Vietnam Education Society, a family charity that supports children in Vietnam. It’s responsible for building over 10 rural schools, sends hundreds of at-risk girls to camp each summer, and provides 50 scholarships to girls each year.
Nahirney is also proud to be a transgender advocate in support of her son. She loves travel, hiking the B.C. forests and living in North Vancouver together with her husband, Tom and twin teen children Levi and Kailyn.
Sylvie “Silvakantie” Pather of North Vancouver
In 1973, Silvakantie Pather and her family left South Africa and emigrated to Canada fleeing the apartheid regime. She had experienced firsthand the poverty that the black population endured there. As a nurse, she developed a love, caring and empathy for people marginalized in the community, a compassion that would profoundly influence her throughout her life.
Pather continued her nursing career at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, where she worked for 30 years. During that time, she participated in various social activities at the hospital helping to organize retirement, Christmas and farewell staff parties. Pather volunteered for many service organizations as well, dedicating almost 40 years of her life to serving the community. Her volunteerism included working with the San Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement Society for over 23 years.
Over the years, she often donated eggs and cold meats, and participated in weekly preparation of sandwiches for the homeless and those in need in the Downtown Eastside. She also helped serve dinners during the Christmas season. Pather volunteered for the North Shore Crisis Services Society (NSCSS), (formerly known as Emily Murphy House), for 11 years. She also took part in campaigning and fundraising for a new and safe transition house on the North Shore, where women in crisis can go when leaving an abusive situation.
She volunteered for five years donating food to support the work of Harvest Project on the North Shore. Pather volunteered as an ambassador to the community, where she helped support the food-drive program with schools and other groups by giving presentations on the North Shore.
At the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, Pather volunteers as an ambassador and greeter, and helps transform a potentially stigmatizing space into a welcoming, non-judgmental environment where people are treated with dignity and respect.
Currently with North Shore Neighborhood House, Pather continues to demonstrate tremendous dedication in her volunteer work and commitment to their service program. Pather organized the Diwali celebration in North Vancouver for 15 years. Also known as The Festival of Lights, this event encouraged many in the South Asian community to come together in celebration with people of other cultures.
Pather’s work has helped transform the lives of hundreds of North Shore residents. They include single parents, new residents and others transitioning through serious crises in their lives. Her many contributions enabled individuals and families to reconnect and become more productive members of the community. Pather believes that the satisfaction of volunteering outweighs every other job that you can do. “It is just so satisfying.”