Georgina Advocate by Heidi Riedner
Photo: Steve Somerville/Metroland
Georgina resident Annabel Slaight has received one of the highest civilian honours in the country.
The publishing powerhouse behind the OWL multimedia empire and supreme “Lady of the Lake” championing Lake Simcoe was among 100 Canadians named to the Order of Canada Dec. 30.
“It was quite a surprise, actually, because someone in the community nominated me years ago so, I guess, it took them a long time to decide,” a thrilled Slaight says with characteristic modesty and humour.
Recognized for nurturing a passion for science and nature among generations of Canadian children, Slaight’s most recent project involves the Ontario Water Centre’s ClearWater Farm initiative on Lake Drive in Willow Beach.
“I get a kick out of seeing what kids can do,” the self-described ‘little old classroom teacher’ succinctly describes decades of publishing, teaching and environmental work that has engaged children to not only explore, but also change their environment for the better.
“They are the environmental leaders of the future,” the woman who used to run a circus in her Toronto backyard as a child to raise money for the Star Fresh Air Fund says.
“I guess I was born to do this kind of stuff,” she laughs, recalling her first “newspaper,” the heat street news, she started as an 8-year-old kid in Toronto.
Working on her high school and university newspapers followed in British Columbia before a teaching degree, co-founding OWL and numerous environmental initiatives.
Despite the fact she has earned one of the most distinguished honours in the nation, along with the likes of renowned novelist Michael Ondaatje, Former Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and McGill University astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi, Slaight accepts the latest accolade on behalf of the numerous people she has worked with over the years.
“Any success always had a lot to do with a bunch of wonderful people full of integrity, passion and heart; people doing the things they do because their hearts are in it. I’m no Steve Jobs for goodness sakes,” she laughs
Slaight also credits her father as her inspiration.
“He always listened and tried to open doors for me.”
Having already received the Order of Ontario, Canadian Film and Television’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Royal Canadian Institute’s Sir Sanford Fleming Award for promoting science education, and the Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s Environmental Heritage Award, Slaight will accept her Order of Canada insignia at a ceremony scheduled for later in the year.
Moving forward, Slaight says she would be quite happy to have the next big thing be making the dream of ClearWater Farm transforming people’s lives a reality.
Since acquiring the lease for the property in August of 2015, more than $2.5M in pledges, commitment and support has been raised.
A $100,000 grant from RBC and $750,000 from Trillium will develop young agriprenuer and place-based programming on the farm.
“You think receiving the Order of Canada was a thrill, that Trillium grant is pretty darn good, too,” Slaight laughs.
Slaight will also present the ideas raised by local youth for the future of the historic barn on the property to town council Jan. 18.
Heidi Riedner is a Reporter for the Georgina Advocate. She can be reached at HRiedner@yrmg.com.