Governor General to honour B.C. community that rescued ferry passengers

Hartley Bay residents win Governor General's award for their role rescuing the passengers and crew of the doomed Queen of the North.

A tiny British Columbia coastal community is being honoured by Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean for its role in rescuing passengers from the stricken ferry Queen of the North.

Residents of Hartley Bay will receive the Governor General's Commendation for Outstanding Service next Wednesday. The commendation honours exceptional contribution by individuals or groups to their community.

B.C. Lt.-Gov. Iona Campagnolo will make the presentation on behalf of Jean.

The residents of Hartley Bay helped rescue 99 of the 101 passengers and crew on the Queen of the North after the B.C. Ferry ran aground March 22 on a rocky island just south of Prince Rupert, B.C.

Two passengers are missing and believed dead.

The commendation says Hartley Bay residents responded quickly to the call for help, rescued the victims and provided safety and comfort in the warmth of their community centre.

"The villagers of Hartley Bay demonstrated initiative, selflessness and an extraordinary commitment to the well-being of others, for which they can be very proud," the commendation says.

"The entire community, from children to elders, is to be commended for its tremendous spirit and the remarkable example it has set."

Many of the rescuers belong to the Gitka'a'ata First Nation.

Past recipients include firefighters who battled forest fires in B.C.'s Southern Interior in 2003 and members of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress who monitored the Ukrainian presidential election in December 2004.

"On behalf of the people of Canada, I sincerely thank the residents of Hartley Bay who, without knowing what to expect, pulled together and did all they could have done to rescue and care for the people on board The Queen of the North," the Governor General said.

"These types of actions have the power to change the course of a life."