Nfld. & Labrador

Helen Fogwill Porter collects Order of Canada

The acclaimed writer and activist received her award at a special ceremony in St. John's on Tuesday.

Writer named to order in December, didn't want to travel to Ottawa

At the ceremony, Porter said she accepted the honour "on behalf of all Newfoundlanders." (CBC)

Acclaimed author, activist and self-described "proud Newfoundlander" Helen Fogwill Porter was invested into the Order of Canada during a special ceremony in her hometown of St. John's on Tuesday.

"It's a great honour to be here. I'm very stunned to be getting this award," Porter said, addressing the crowd at Government House.

Porter was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in December, but didn't feel up to travelling to Ottawa where other inductees were invested at Rideau Hall.

"It was a complete surprise. I'm still trying to figure out who nominated me," the 86-year-old joked, suggesting it was probably someone at the ceremony, although she didn't name names.

Lt.-Gov Frank Fagan presented Porter with her medal. (CBC)

Porter did single out her late son in her short speech.

"It's a very happy occasion, but it's also a bit sad for me, because my son Johnny passed away in January. So he would've been here," said Porter, whose three other children were at the Tuesday ceremony.

The Governor General's office, in appointing her to the order, cited her contributions not only as one of the first women in the province to be published, but also her mentorship of up-and-coming writing talent, in addition to her long-standing, grassroots activism for social causes.

Porter began writing in the 1960s, with articles, short stories, and poetry.

Her memoir Below the Bridge, published in 1980, is based on her youth growing up on the south side of St. John's.

Her first novel January, February, June or July won the Young Adult Canadian Book Award from the Canadian Library Association in 1989. 

She was given the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council's lifetime achievement award in 1993.