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Geoffrey Lougheed: The noble values of the Knights of St. John continue to drive us

Geoffrey Lougheed reflects on the two years he served as chancellor of St. John Ambulance
Kevin McCormick (left), chair of the St. John Foundation Canada, gives gifts of recognition to Colette and Geoffrey Lougheed on behalf of the St. John Priory of Canada for his service as Chancellor. (Supplied)

June 24th is St John Day; it is historically the day to change officers in St. John Ambulance. My term as Chancellor for Canada was completed and I have graduated to Past Chancellor. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed the past two years. There have been many highs this past year: first aid training for more 500,000 Canadians; more than 10,000 volunteers providing more than one million hours of service; the best financial results in the history of the organization; new training protocols established in First Nations training, mental health training, opioid training, new online training available to the public, and; a strong government working relationship. 

There have been real challenges and COVID would be at the top of that list. Just as every charity, we have seen a major adjustment during this difficult time. What has impressed me is our people, volunteers and staff stepping up to serve. 

More than 1,000 volunteers helped coast to coast during COVID, working in nursing homes, airports and with health professionals in clinics and at testing sites. Many of our staff worked from home to ensure we can deliver our services and develop new and effective methods of training. 

I will continue to advocate that every 16-year-old in Canada should receive first aid and CPR training. COVID has reinforced my determination to make this happen. We can learn from this pandemic, that universal healthcare knowledge and training will make our society much stronger and more resilient to the next challenge. 

Normally my retirement would be celebrated at the investiture of the new Chancellor. This would be held in Ottawa at the Senate Chamber, under the authority of the Order of St. John Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth and our Prior, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette. 

Instead, with the new normal, a Zoom meeting did it all. Alain Laurencelle, a distinguished lawyer from Winnipeg is our new Chancellor. He is an outstanding leader and I am proud to serve with him. 

St. John was founded more than 900 years ago. Their knights were known as Hospitallers because they built hospitals, cared for the sick and the poor. Not as well known as the Templars, but far better at assisting those in need. 

Nine centuries later, those noble values of serving others continues to drive us. I joined St. John more than 40 years ago because of my father. He ran the ambulance system in Sudbury in the 1950s and 1960s. 

At that time, there was no training required for ambulance attendants. He worked closely with St. John to develop this training and was one of the first in Canada to require it of all his employees. As a true pioneer, he was knighted by the authority of the Queen. His legacy today is seen in the excellent training paramedics receive. 

That same legacy has been a driving force in my work with St. John. I believe my mom and dad will both be smiling from the next world on this special day. Finally, I would never have been able to take on such a large task without tremendous support from the St. John family and my own family. 

My great thanks to my extended family, the people I work with everyday who stepped up to allow me the time needed to do the work. My brother, Gerry, supported me in every way and my wife, Colette, devoted herself to my cause. I leave you with a Lougheed Motto I live by, “Greatness is not having your name written on a monument or in a history book. It is having your name written on the hearts of the people you touch as you pass through this life”.

Geoffrey Lougheed is longtime Sudbury volunteer and business owner, and the former chancellor of St. John Ambulance.