British Columbia

Awards created in memory of young B.C. advocate killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash

Micah Messent was passionate about the environment, education and reconciliation. His legacy is being honoured through an endowment to support two awards for Vancouver Island University students and an award to be given annually by the Canadian Parks Council.

VIU scholarships and Canadian Parks Council prize named after Micah Messent

Micah Messent in a 2018 Facebook photo. Messent was en route to a UN conference in Kenya went the plane he was on crashed in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019, killing 157 people on board. (Micah Messent/Facebook)

The legacy of a young B.C. environmentalist and Indigenous education advocate killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March will live on in three awards created by the university he attended and his former employer.

Micah Messent, 23, was on his way to meet young leaders at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya when the Boeing 737 Max 8 he was on crashed south of Addis Ababa on March 10, killing all 157 on board.

Born and raised in Vancouver Island's Comox Valley, Messent studied environmental and Indigenous issues at Vancouver Island University (VIU) and worked for B.C. Parks as an Indigenous relations analyst.

Now, both the school and the Canadian Parks Council have established financial awards in his name for others who share his passions.

"He would be so honoured," said Messent's mother, Suzanne Camp, on CBC's All Points West. 

"Education was such an important part of his awareness of how to make a difference in the world."

After his death, the family received an outpouring of financial support from the community and, with the proceeds, created two financial awards at VIU:

  • The Micah Messent Memorial Indigenous Award will be given to a student from the Comox Valley entering the Indigenous Studies program.
  • The Micah Messent Memorial Environment Award will be awarded to an Indigenous student already enrolled in the university with a history of environmental advocacy, who needs financial support.

Camp said money was tight when Messent, the youngest of her five children, was pursuing post-secondary education, and community bursaries and scholarships were a huge help to him.

"We know there are other young people out there who have passion and dreams and want to succeed and don't always have the means to do it," said Camp.

Messent, who had Métis heritage on his mother's side, grew up watching his grandfather work as a warden at Pacific Rim National Park. He worked for B.C. Parks after completing his bachelor degree.

The Canadian Parks Council, with funding from B.C. Parks, has now created the Micah Messent Young Professional Award of Excellence to annually recognize an employee under the age 30 who has demonstrated leadership in environmental stewardship. 

The honours are some comfort to Camp as she prepares for the holidays without her youngest son, whose death feels acutely painful at Christmas, a time of year he loved, she says.

"He was only going to be gone for a few days and then he'd come back and tell us about his latest and greatest adventure. When it happened we had a hard time believing it because he was so far away and the news was just horrendous," said Camp.

"We are still working through it because it feels like we weren't ready to lose him. He was too young."

With files All Points West and Rhianna Schmunk