A late Irricana resident who was known in her community for her selflessness and tireless volunteerism is being recognized posthumously by the federal government’s Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) department in an online gallery.
The Women of Impact in Canada gallery, which was launched in 2018, is a celebration of the achievements of more than 150 influential women and girls, and Irricana's Carmela Hutchison, who passed away unexpectedly in 2019 at the age of 58, is one of them.
According to Judith Szabo, senior communication advisor for WAGE, whether well-known or lesser known, each woman showcased in the gallery has made a significant contribution to Canadian society and has served as a trailblazer in their field, whether it be art, science, politics, or human rights.
“The gallery is an education resource highlighting women of impact from coast to coast to coast through photos, biographies, timelines and quotations, as well as an interactive map of Canada,” Szabo said. “By sharing their stories, women and girls can cement their place in history and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”
Szabo added the gallery selection criteria is open to anyone who wants to nominate a Canadian woman or girl who has made a lasting impact through their achievements and contributions.
Successful nominees have dedicated their life to a particular social cause, achieved a level of excellence in their field, made their mark in a non-traditional sector, or distinguished themselves on the national or international stage.
She added nominees are reviewed by a selection committee comprised of women who are representative of diverse organizations.
“Carmela Hutchison was nominated as part of the most recent call for nominations and was selected as one of the 47 new women of impact who were added to the gallery in January 2022,” she said. “The committee selected Carmela due to her deep commitment to working to improve the quality of life of mental health consumers, and all people living with a disability.”
Szabo said Hutchison led initiatives for policy change and advocacy on some of the most critical issues facing women with disabilities, including violence prevention, housing, employment, and medically assisted end-of-life practices.
Hutchison served as president of DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada from 2006 until 2018, when she retired from the post. She also served as a member of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ Executive Committee.
“Her volunteerism spanned more than two decades providing advocacy and peer support on mental health, disabilities, poverty, addictions, disaster planning and tourism,” Szabo said. “We hope that Canadians learn about Carmela’s story and those of all the women of impact to become inspired by their commitment to upholding justice and advancing human rights and social causes.”
Prior to her non-profit work and advocacy, Hutchison graduated from then-named Mount Royal College' Diploma Nursing Program in 1983 and worked as a registered nurse specializing in mental health in Nova Scotia and Alberta.
In 1990, she was injured in a rollover vehicle collision that rendered her immobile, requiring a wheelchair. She soon after went on long-term disability after receiving a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, depression, and post-concussion syndrome.
Since that time, she was involved with 31 national, provincial, and municipal non-profit organizations and was called upon repeatedly to testify before parliamentary committees in Ottawa.
To learn more about Hutchison and other women of impact, visit the online gallery.