Elaine Tanner, 1960s swimming superstar, cherishes rare medal that Canada wanted back
NORTH SAANICH, B.C. — She was once hailed as Canada’s best athlete and Elaine Tanner has the accolades to prove it as a teenage swimming prodigy known as “Mighty Mouse” at Olympic, Commonwealth and Pan American games.
But her most cherished medal came outside the pool. It’s a sterling silver Medal of Service, the forerunner to the current Officer of the Order of Canada medal.
When the Canadian government wanted it back, to switch for the replacement honour, Tanner, now 71, refused. She says she can’t let it let go because it tells the story of her life.
Tanner went to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics overwhelmingly favoured to win gold. Instead, with the weight of a nation on her 17-year-old shoulders, she came home with two silvers, in the 100 m and 200 m backstroke, and a bronze in the 4×100 m freestyle relay.
Tanner was devastated. At 18 she retired from competition. She suffered for years with panic attacks, eating disorders and depression.
Now, almost 55 years since Mexico, Tanner says from her Victoria-area home that she has turned losing gold into her greatest victory.
She says she hopes the way she emerged from the “black hole” that her life became after the Olympics can inspire other people facing hard times.
The service medal symbolizes that. She picked up the medal from a table covered with photos of her athletic achievements and explained the honour’s significance in her search for life’s gold.
“I thought my big quest in life was to win gold at the Olympic Games, but I realized that’s not the gold that hangs around your neck,” said Tanner.
“It’s the gold you mine within yourself. That’s my message.”
In 1970, Tanner became the youngest Canadian to be awarded the Medal of Service, created to recognize exemplary achievement and service to the nation.
The medal was introduced in 1967 and was awarded to 294 people before concerns about its modest appearance prompted a restructuring by the government in 1972, including the request to voluntarily return the award.
It meant too much to Tanner.
“My heart told me that this is the medal that was given to me by the government, actually by (former) governor general Roland Michener, and he pinned it on my dress, and I went, ‘This means the world to me,’ and I don’t want to hand it in,” said Tanner.
“I like it just the way it is,” she said from her living room overlooking a marina. “I’m so glad I kept it.”
Tanner had gone to Mexico City as a sporting and cultural phenomenon.
She got the “Mighty Mouse” nickname in 1965 after winning her first Canadian national swim title in the 100 m butterfly at aged 14.
“I must have been four-foot-nine and probably just under 90 pounds soaking wet,” said Tanner. “I was really small. I got up on the podium to receive my medal and the other girls were towering over me and a coach from Ocean Falls, the swim coach, yelled, ‘Way to go Mighty Mouse.’
“The crowd laughed, and the media picked it up and it just stuck.”
More national titles, world records, and gold medals at Commonwealth and Pan American games followed.
She was an unbackable favourite to win gold in Mexico City.
Instead, she placed second.
She may have been the first Canadian woman to win any Olympic swimming medal, but the headlines were “Tanner loses gold,” she said.
Tanner said she returned from the Mexico City an emotional and psychological wreck.
“Not only did I want to win for myself and my family, I had to win for Canada,” she said. “It was a heavy burden … In my own little mind, I let everybody down.”
Crawling out of the “black hole” took years. “I struggled for so long,” said Tanner. “I really did.”
She is now a mental health advocate and children’s book author and hopes she can help others.
“We all go through challenges in life,” she said. “We will meet defeat but keep going. The key of life is to keep going.”
Tanner wrote an open letter in 2017 to Olympic champion swimmer Penny Oleksiak, who won medals for Canada at 16 years old, advising to her to trust herself and listen to her inner voice.
Tanner and Olympic ski champion Nancy Greene Raine are likely among the few living Canadians who still have a Medal of Service, said Christopher McCreery, who has written a dozen books on Canadian orders, decorations and medals.
Of the original 294 medals, 104 were returned in the early years, McCreery said. About 30 people kept their medals but most have died, he added.
“It’s a super rare, scarce medal and it’s a very unusual story because she was so young when she got it and obviously retained a great attachment to it,” he said in an interview from Halifax. “It’s not just the medal, it’s the story behind it.”
Tanner said that despite breaking five world records, winning gold at Commonwealth and Pan Am games, and winning the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete at the age of 15, she considers the Medal of Service the prize that best honours her journey.
“It’s a symbol of all my accomplishments wrapped up in one, from the country I did it for,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2023.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
Once homeless and hungry herself, this retired nurse set up a low-cost meat shop to help those in need – CBC.ca
Ten years ago, Brigida Crosbie was homeless and eating out of the dumpster at the back of a KFC restaurant, but now she runs her own meat shop and goes out of her way to feed everyone who comes through her doors.
In 2020, Crosbie started Tydel Foods, a store staffed by volunteers in Chilliwack, a small city 90 kilometres east of Vancouver in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, that sells quality food cheaper than the big box stores. A rib-eye steak, for instance, goes for $8 less than at the supermarket. Striploin is $6 cheaper.
Her volunteers, many of whom became aware of her work through word of mouth or social media, say they signed up to help because they support what she’s doing for the community.
Crosbie’s store is often packed with customers, a sign of the deep need for affordable food as inflation hits record highs. The latest report from Food Banks Canada says the demand for food banks in B.C. increased by 25 per cent from 2021 to 2022, higher than the national average of 15 per cent.
She says she finds it surprising how easily she’s able to sell her meat for less than a large grocery store.
“The big thing in my mind is if I could give this price and I’m just a person off the street that’s just an advocate in the community, then how come the bigger box stores can’t give it at a much lower price?”
Crosbie has programs focused on helping seniors, people with disabilities and those who are homeless.
For seniors, she offers packages containing a selection of meats for $50. On Saturdays, the store offers free soup, stew or chlli.
Crosbie says she manages to ensure everyone leaves her shop with food.
“When someone tells me they couldn’t eat, I know exactly how that felt, and that’s how I got into meat,” said Crosbie, who says her business philosophy is “people over profit,” and she chose meat because it’s one of the biggest expenses on a food bill.
WATCH | Brigida Crosbie talks about how she came to open her low-cost meat shop:
Crosbie says she started Tydel because she remembers what it’s like to be hungry.
A decade ago, she left an abusive partner, taking her two daughters, Tyanna and Delana. Although Crosbie was employed as a nurse at Fraser Health Authority, the family of three was temporarily homeless.
“You’re sleeping on a concrete pillow, and then you had to eat out of the garbage — that was the worst thing,” she recalled.
Eventually, with help from a friend who loaned her money and her bank, who helped her access emergency funds, Crosbie found an apartment for herself and her daughters in the mid-2010s.
When she retired from Fraser Health in 2020, she decided to open a low-cost food store. She began by googling how to run a business and took out a small loan.
She named the store Tydel, a melding of the names of her two daughters.
Demand for low-cost food
Crosbie says her empathy and past experiences have motivated her to give. She says she also experienced hunger in her childhood. Her father was in prison, and her mother, who died at 49, had substance abuse issues.
When customers who come into the store can’t afford the prices or don’t have any money, Crosbie says she gives them food for free.
Crosbie says she’s able to turn a small profit because there’s a high demand for low-cost food. She says she sets her prices only marginally higher than her cost, but the high volume of customers manages to keep her in business.
“The need is so high in the community for this price point of affordable food … It’s the turnover of people that come in that helps keeps us afloat,” said Crosbie.
To help offset expenses, she says she uses the optional tips on her debit machine and pays for various expenses from her own pension cheque.
“So long as I meet my lease, that’s all that matters to me.”
Customers say they have come to rely on Tydel as the cost of living goes up.
“If it wasn’t for her, a lot of us wouldn’t eat properly,” said Joann Gianforte, a frequent customer who is in her 70s and spends most of her income on rent.
Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove says he has gone on a number of delivery runs with Crosbie.
“She’s a rock star. She provides an awesome service at awesome prices,” said Popove, who added that some local food processors donate to Tydel Foods.
Popove says there is a need for more organizations like Crosbie’s.
“The government’s got to play a role in it too. They have in the past and continue to do so, but they need to step up.”
Systemic Racism in Canada Healthcare Sector
In Canada, there is evidence of inequities for some races, especially racial minority groups. Health disparities are widespread among racial minorities like the indigenous people leading to the experience of subs-standard health outcomes by these communities compared to the majority races. The conditions of the indigenous communities are worsened because of the low socio-economic situation and lack of access to quality health care. Systemic racism within healthcare remains a huge contributor to lower health outcomes for racial minorities in Canada. There are documented pieces of evidence showing poor health outcomes among racial minorities because of systemic racism, failures of existing policies in mitigating systemic racism, and actions that policymakers can take to mitigate systemic racism.
There are many reported cases of improper health care given to racial minorities in Canada. Reports indicate that indigenous women are being coerced or manipulated into sterilization. The men have often been ignored when they seek emergency treatments; they are left to suffer for long hours, sometimes, die (Boyer, 2017). Boyer gives an example of seven women who contacted the Saskatoon Health Region Commission and confirmed to have been subjected to coercion to have them have a tubal ligation post-delivery (2017). Boyer (2017) continues to say that many of them consented to the procedure because they were manipulated to believe it was reversible. The women added that social workers, nurses, and the physicians in the hospital pressured them when they were either in the pain of labor or just after delivery (Boyer, 2017). During this period, the victims were most vulnerable and powerless to resist coercion and manipulation. The women have suffered immensely after the tubal litigation (Boyer, 2017). According to Boyer, the commission concluded that the health Centre encouraged discriminatory and racial health care for indigenous women.
Another example of systemic racism is portended after the inquest into Brian Sinclair’s death, a First Nations man. Brian Sinclair was a 45 years old man who died in 2008 after being neglected in the Health Sciences emergency department for 34 hours. He dies of a treatable infection in the bladder. In the inquest, the working group identified several racist events that led to his death (Gunn, 2020). For instance, Sinclaire was visible to all the emergency staff in the emergency room. Yet, they ignored him, assuming he may be intoxicated, homeless, or just hanging around the room. According to Gunn, he was not questioned for the entire 34 hours (2020).” Even when the public intervened,” Gunn (2020) continues, “the emergency staff quickly dismissed them by stating that Sinclair was intoxicated or sleeping and that he was not sick at all.” The working group concluded that Sinclair was a victim of racial stereotyping and that the emergency staff was guilty of his death.
The two cases are just a few examples that indicate that the current anti-racism policies have failed. The two cases demonstrate how healthcare seekers from minority racial groups face racial discrimination daily when seeking medical care. Mahabir et al. (2021) agree. He says that racialized healthcare systems, especially from Toronto, have significant ethnic and racial-based discrimination exacerbating the healthcare challenges to the already socio-economically disadvantaged racial and ethnic minorities. Mahabir et al. points out that these hospitals prioritize unequal access to care (2021). Discrimination and bias adversely affect the indigenous communities in Canada. Many suffered from worsened medical conditions, stigma and loss of human dignity and in some cases loss of life.
To mitigate the effects of systemic racism among racial minorities, Mahabir et al. recommend enacting anti-racist policies that address racial discrimination against minorities and, more fundamentally, address the unequal power in social relations and their relation to the healthcare systems (2021). Resources must be committed to the investigations to achieve structural so that when complaints are reported, accountability and punishment can be meted out to the perpetrators of racism.
In conclusion, despite the enactment of many policies and laws aimed at taming racial discrimination in the healthcare system, racism is still pervasive, especially in those situated in the indigenous community’s surroundings. There are many documented cases to prove that. Therefore, stakeholders should relook at the existing policies to improve them by modifying, overhauling, or enforcing them where necessary. Without taking these steps, racial discrimination will grow because the perpetrators will be encouraged, and the strides already taken in the fight against discrimination in the healthcare system will be reversed.
Boyer, Y. (2017, November 20). Healing racism in canadian health care. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne. Retrieved March 28, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5698028/
Gunn, B. (2020). Racism ignored. Ignored Racism, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108861915.003
Mahabir, D. F., OCampo, P., Lofters, A., Shankardass, K., Salmon, C., & Muntaner, C. (2021, March 10). Experiences of everyday racism in Toronto’s health care system: A concept mapping study – international journal for equity in health. BioMed Central. Retrieved March 28, 2023, from https://equityhealthj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12939-021-01410-9
Comedian Joe Avati Set to Bring Down the House on the Canadian Leg of His World Tour this Summer
Toronto, ON – Comedian, Joe Avati, will have Canadians roaring in their seats as he delivers his unique brand of comedy to audiences in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec this summer. When I Was Your Age takes the world-famous Australian comic’s reputation for pointing out the humour in generational and cultural differences one step further by putting a hilarious spin on the complexities of modern-day parenting, the minefield of cancel culture, and the woke brigade. Audiences are asked to leave their political correctness at the door as he delivers his side-splitting insights on how times have changed, for better or worse, since he grew up as a teenager in the 80’s. Avati’s comedic observations are not only deadly accurate but extremely relatable to all ages, guaranteeing a laugh-a-minute show that the whole family can enjoy.
A household name here in Canada, Avati is one of the original ethnic comedians. He first connected with his audience 25 years ago through his hilarious anecdotes about growing up in Australia as the child of Italian immigrants. That, along with his razor-sharp wit and priceless observations about generational differences, have since established him as a household name around the world as well as in Australia, North America and the UK where he regularly performs to sold-out crowds. Setting him apart from other humorists is the fact that Avati has endeared himself into the hearts of his fans by keeping his shows clean and free from profanities, which means that fittingly, all generations can enjoy his shows together!
“I have performed to comedy lovers of all ages—mums and dads, teens, and even kids because everyone can relate to my stories,” Avati explains. “I can’t wait to bring my new tour to Canada this summer because Canadians are the best audience!” And it’s no wonder. Avati has had the privilege of selling out Canada’s top venues many times over since he started touring here in 2001. He also boasts two number one live comedy albums here in the Great White North with one of those albums having held the top spot for 18 months straight.
Tickets for When I Was Your Age Canadian dates are on sale now at www.joeavati.com.
June 3 Vancouver, BC
June 4 Kelowna, BC
June 13 Winnipeg, MA
June 14 Winnipeg, MA
June 16 Edmonton, AB
June 17 Calgary, AB
June 17 Calgary, AB
June 18 Calgary, AB
July 6 Toronto, ON
July 7 Toronto, ON
July 8 St Catharines,
July 9 Windsor, ON
July 12 Thunder Bay, ON
July 15 Ottawa, ON
July 22 Montreal, QC
About Joe Avati
Heralded by The Globe and Mail as “one of the world’s hottest comics” and dubbed as Australia’s answer to Jerry Seinfeld for his unique brand of clean comedy, Joe Avati has become a household name over the course of his 25-year career. Establishing him firmly in the annals of comedy greats is his anthropological approach to humor, inspired by his life as a child of Italian immigrants living in Australia. One of the first ethnic comedians, Avati’s routine about growing up with a culturally diverse background propelled him to fame in Australia, and then on the world stage, as evidenced by his sold-out tours across his homeland, the UK, and North America. In 2014 he was nominated for Comedian of the Year, and he has been given rave reviews by the world’s biggest media outlets. In addition to his comedy routine, Avati is also a shrewd comedy producer and has been called “pure comic genius” for his successful productions, his prolific comedic output, and his marketing savvy.
For more information, high-resolution photography, or to book an interview with Joe Avati, please contact Sasha Stoltz Publicity at 416-579.4804 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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