Awards of Excellence in Nursing

The Award of Excellence in Nursing celebrates the dedication, initiative and excellence of nurses employed by First Nations communities, Indigenous Services Canada and Inuit communities who work in partnership to improve the health of Canada's Indigenous peoples. It is presented every year during National Nursing Week and nurses are nominated for this award by their peers, to recognize the contribution of nurses to First Nations and Inuit communities.

Indigenous Services Canada's Annual First Nations and Inuit Health Branch Award of Excellence in Nursing

Three registered nurses who work in First Nations and Inuit communities are being recognized during National Nursing Week for their dedication and commitment.

Past award winners

2019: Award recipients

Barathi Vengadasamy

Barathi Vengadasamy has worked all over the world and in 2005, began her nursing career in Canada as a community health nurse in several Nunavut and Ontario communities. She has worked in medical surgical areas, anesthesia units and in long-term care facilities. After working with Indigenous Peoples in northern Ontario, Barathi realized that being a community health nurse was her true passion.

Barathi previously worked in First Nations communities in Sioux Lookout Zone and currently serves the community of Poplar Hill as a nurse-in-charge. The highlight of her nursing career has been her continued growing connection to the community. This has allowed her to become more sensitive to individual needs while providing nursing services from a community perspective.

Barathi graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing in 1996 and is currently pursuing a Master's in Public Health, with a specialty in Health Promotion.

She believes placing emphasis on population-based health promotion strategies can help empower and strengthen communities' health actions.

Video: Barathi Vengadasamy

Jenifer Bujold

Jenifer Bujold had always dreamed of working in a remote northern community. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Laurentian University, she worked for 16 years in conventional hospital nursing. She then took a position as a flight nurse, providing emergency transport from remote communities in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut.

While visiting the 5 communities in the region, Jenifer's passion for the North continued to grow. The experience inspired Jenifer to move to Baker Lake, Nunavut, to work as a community health nurse for the past 6 years. During this time, she also had opportunities to work in communities in the Kivalliq region. She has acted in a variety of roles including as a nurse-in-charge and as a mentor to community health nurses starting their career in the North.

While in Baker Lake, Jenifer created a pilot project: the Baker Lake Flex Schedule. The project helped reduce stress on the community health nurses working extended on-call hours. The result was an increased work-life balance for nurses, safer provision of care within the community, and increased patient satisfaction.

Jenifer has recently moved back to Cambridge Bay, the community where she started her northern career. She has transitioned into the role of Clinical Nurse Educator for the Kitikmeot region. She looks forward to the opportunity to spark the same excitement about northern nursing within those joining the Nunavut nursing workforce.

Video: Jenifer Bujold

Janet McKenzie

Janet McKenzie is a First Nations Cree nurse from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band community of Stanley Mission, in northern Saskatchewan. In 2016, Janet obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Saskatchewan and prior to that, obtained her Licensed Practical Nurse certificate in 2006 from Sask Polytech. She has been working in the Home and Community Care Program since 2007, first as a Licensed Practical Nurse and now as the Home Care Nurse and Coordinator.

Janet has been working with Stanley Mission Health Services for several years, leaving only to pursue further education. She is dedicated to serving the elders of the community and hopes to remain in her current position for as long as possible. Being raised in a northern community, Janet would like to keep working in the North for the rest of her nursing career.

Janet is passionate about supporting the health and wellness needs of her people. She also advocates for her clients to remain independent in their own homes, for as long as they are able to stay there. Janet feels very fortunate to continue her nursing practice in her home community. She hopes to inspire others with her story, while serving as a role model to youth in the area.

Video – Janet McKenzie

2018: Award Recipients

Cheryl Yost

Cheryl Yost is well-placed to support improvements to First Nations health as a First Nations and Inuit Health Branch employed Community Health Nurse and Nurse in Charge at Sandy Lake Nursing Station in remote northern Ontario.

Cheryl attended Perth Huron Regional School of Nursing, has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Western Ontario, and a Master’s in Education from the University of Toronto. Cheryl previously worked in acute, coronary, primary and emergency care, and also education. She held numerous Board of Directors positions and received the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario Provincial Staff, Leadership and HUB Fellowship awards.

Cheryl uses trust, respect, fairness and advocacy to guide decision-making in both her professional and personal life. She is an enthusiastic, dedicated, and adventuresome individual, excited by learning and the opportunities in healthcare.

Cheryl advocates for improving health processes and systems. She believes these improvements will enhance the healthcare experience for patients and providers. Cheryl also believes it is critical to treat all team members, including the patient, family and community, as the most important assets.

Video: Cheryl Yost

Bodiene Dussion

Bodiene Dussion is an Indigenous nurse originally from Cumberland House, Saskatchewan. She is of Cree decent and is from the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. Bodiene and her husband have three beautiful daughters and currently live in Battleford, SK.

For the past three years she has worked as a Community Health Nurse for the Saulteaux Health Centre on the Saulteaux First Nation. She works alongside the provincial health system to improve services by developing new programs and initiatives in the community.

In 2008, Bodiene earned her Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing from the University of Manitoba. More recently, she achieved the Canadian Nurses Association Certification in Community Health Nursing in 2017. As a lifelong learner, she continues to enrol in courses to advance her nursing practice and increase her skillset for her work in primary care. Bodiene is a valuable asset to any team. She is also an excellent mentor and role model for the young mothers she works with, as she understands their struggles and strives to motivate them.

Bodiene has spent her entire nursing career dedicated to First Nations communities. She is a strong advocate for First Nations people and believes everyone deserves access to equal health care services.

Video: Bodiene Dussion

Lyrithe Villeneuve

Lyrithe Villeneuve is a nurse in Kangiqsujuaq at the Ungava Tulattavik Health Centre, in the Nunavik territory of northern Quebec.

Lyrithe is originally from Saguenay and completed her college diploma (DEC) in nursing at Collège de Chicoutimi. Her desire to work with Inuit goes back to her childhood; the first time she saw a photograph of a young Inuit child, she vowed that one day she would work in Northern Quebec.

For Lyrithe, the goal of becoming a nurse was to be able to work in remote areas. Her work experience is in community health. Among other things, she conducts paediatric, obstetric, chronic pathology, and community health follow-ups, as well as consultations of all kinds. She loves her job because of its varied, interesting and enriching aspects. On March 22, 1976, at the age of 22, Lyrithe landed in Kangiqsujuaq in a DC-3 on the frozen bay. Of her 42 years practicing in the North, she spent eight years at the Tulattavik Hospital Centre in Kuujjuaq. When she first arrived in the village, the reality then was much different from what it is today: from 1976 to 1983, there was no telephone in the clinic. To contact the doctor, they had to leave the CLSC and go to a wooden hut, where the operator would put their calls through to Iqaluit. There were just two nurses for 250 people and when one of them left on vacation, they were not replaced. To add to that, the doctor only visited twice a year and stayed in the area for about a day and a half. Today, there are four permanent nurses, and the doctor spends an average of one week a month in the village.

Lyrithe believes that growing up in the country helped her to adapt to northern life, since she was already used to camping, hunting and fishing. She married an Inuk from Kangiqsujuaq, and they have two children. Her family has greatly contributed to her stability. Lyrithe feels extremely privileged to have been able to practice her profession in this way and live with these people who are so dear to her.

Video: Lyrithe Villeneuve

2017: Award Recipients

Joseph Redhead

Joseph Redhead was born in Grande Prairie, Alberta, and lived in Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation with his parents and siblings until he was five. Joseph’s family then moved to Crooked Creek where he grew up. At the age of 18, Joseph moved to Grande Prairie to pursue his dreams in the medical field by enrolling in the Grande Prairie Regional College. At that time, there were very little supports on campus for Indigenous students, but Joseph was determined to work hard in order to make his dreams come true. While in school, Joseph worked part time as a Youth Worker at the Grande Prairie Friendship Center.

Joseph later transferred to the University of Alberta, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Working in the Nursing field, his career eventually brought him back home to Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation as a Public Health Nurse and later as Nurse in Charge. Today, as a Board of Directors member and the President of the Friendship Center, Joseph continues to apply the lessons he learned throughout the years by advocating for youth and working hard to make sure they have access to a range of programs and supports.

Joseph is committed to his community and his people, and always finds time to give back. For instance, he can often be seen at the Friendship Center, visiting people and helping where he can. He also volunteers at the Sturgeon Lake Bingo Society and the Grande Prairie Elder’s Caring Shelter. Joseph’s volunteerism was recognized by the City of Grande Prairie where he was named an “Unsung Hero”, while his education and career were recognized by the Grande Prairie Regional College as a “Distinguished Alumni” recipient.

Even with all his accolades and accomplishments Joseph remains a humble and kind man, he is a role model for his community.

Video: Joseph Redhead

Terrilynn Flynn

Terrilynn graduated with a Baccalaureate Degree of Nursing from Western Regional School of Nursing in 2010. Since that time, she has dedicated her short but impressive career to remote and Northern Nursing.

With a passion for critical care nursing, Terrilynn worked as a Critical Care Nurse and completed her critical care certification via the Centre of Nursing Studies in Newfoundland. In 2012, Terrilynn embraced a new challenge in Iqaluit, Nunavut. At Qikiqtani General Hospital (QGH), her leadership abilities and nursing knowledge led to a quick promotion to Nurse in Charge and she became sought after as a mentor to nursing students and new graduates of the Nunavut Arctic College Nursing Program. On any given day, you can find Terrilynn delivering family centered care as families welcome their newborns, taking care of traumas in the Emergency Room and ICU, or providing dignified end of life care to an Elder. She has recently taken a leap in independent nursing as a Community Health Nurse in Baffin Island’s community health centres.

Terrilynn has endeared herself to many of the Elders and families she has worked with in her passion to learn their language and culture. Their appreciation extends beyond the walls of QGH, as she is often approached in the community by Iqalummiut. Both these unique patient relationships and her contribution to shaping new Nunavummiut nurses have been two of the most rewarding aspects of Terrilynn’s career.

Video: Terrilynn Flynn

Joanne Ogden

Joanne graduated in 1985 as an award recipient for bedside nursing from the Health Sciences School Health Sciences School of Nursing in Winnipeg. She nursed for over 17 years in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), assisting in the Emergency, as well as in the Labour Delivery Recovery and Postpartum (LDRP) rooms.

In 2003 she left hospital nursing to start a home care program for the 10 area First Nations in Fort Frances, Ontario. Always proactive, Joanne worked hand in hand with other area clinicians concerned about the issue of wound care and prevention of amputations, and an unofficial Wound Care team was developed. Joanne was also responsible for bringing Point of care testing to assist in preventing one of the key causes, high rates of diabetes. In addition to point of care testing, she also added a Vascular assessment machine to the home care program to ensure timely referral to vascular intervention and appropriate wound care

Joanne’s belief in equity in healthcare has led her to a role of advocate for a Wound Care Center of Excellence, spearheaded by the two communities that she currently works for as a Community Health Nurse, namely the Naicatchewenin First Nations and the Rainy River First Nations. This Wound Care Center will be linked with the extremely successful Wound Care Ontario LTD and Dr. Ron Linden.

Joanne is also an active Lions member, an advocate for the Ovarian Cancer Canada, a past clinical instructor for the local RPN program, a board member for her local hospital and has volunteered in both Haiti and Guatemala.

Video: Joanne Ogden

2016: Award Recipients

Sandra Chapman: Big Trout Lake, Ontario (Health Canada Employee)

A graduate of the Broadgreen Hospital School of Nursing in Liverpool, England, Sandra began her nursing career as a cadet nurse in 1964. She continued her education with her diploma in midwifery from Billinge Maternity Hospital in Lancashire. After emigrating to Canada with her husband and three sons in 1972, she attended Centennial College in Toronto and graduated with her Canadian certification. Sandra spent 32 years of her career at St Mary's Hospital in Kitchener, 16 years in Labour and Delivery, and 16 years in the Emergency Department, during which time she also taught obstetrics at Conestoga College School of Nursing.

In 2005 after retiring from St Mary's, Sandra realized how much she missed nursing, and embarked on an adventure to the North, spending 1 year in Kashechewan. She immediately loved the First Nations people with their quick sense of humour and honesty. She later moved to Kitchenuhmaykoosib, or Big Trout Lake, where she has worked for the last 10 years.

As a strong and passionate advocate for her community, Sandra has developed healthy lifestyle programs over the years. She participates in many community events and is the coordinator of the pre-natal program. One of her greatest joys is to see several of the babies she has delivered grow into fine young people.

Joyce Ball: Stoney First Nation, Alberta (First Nations Employee)

Joyce has been actively practicing nursing for over 40 years. Initially she worked as a staff nurse in a Tertiary level NICU in Calgary. Her adventurous spirit has led her to volunteer on a number of medical mission trips to Central America and to Brazil. In 1992 Joyce ventured out west of Calgary and found employment working for the Stoney First Nations Health services, where she has been working for the past 24 years.

With her strong leadership skills in the position of Home Care Coordinator, she was instrumental in the development of a comprehensive Home Care program. Joyce also earned her CDE (Canadian Diabetes Educator) credentials and spearheaded a Community Wellness program with an emphasis on addressing ways to decrease the effects of diabetes. Along with Diabetes Management clinics, Foot clinics, Walking Groups, she also organized and ran summer camps for kids.

Joyce is an exemplary role model in her belief of “Team Work”. She is eager to help others; to educate; to mentor; and support. Early in her career at Stoney Health Services she was given the nick name “Wha mnuska” by her First Nations colleagues, which in the Stoney dialect means busy ant. Her relentless hard work and caring attitude enables her to touch the lives of her clients and colleagues alike, and ultimately she has gained their trust and their respect.

Florence Wood: Pond Inlet, Nunavut (Inuit Community Employee)

After receiving her nursing diploma from the Prince Edward Island School of Nursing in 1977, followed by a BScN from Dalhousie University in 1997, Florence Wood completed the Critical Care Nursing Program through the Queen Elizabeth II Health Science centre in 1999. Prior to working as a Community Health Nurse, and later, Supervisor of Health Programs, at Pond Inlet, Florence had worked primarily in Labor and Delivery and critical care at various hospitals in Atlantic Canada. In 2012 she worked in Pangnirtung as acting Director of Health Programs for North Baffin, and returned to Pond Inlet until retiring in February 2016.

Florence was instrumental in the implementation of many health-related programs, such as the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program, school breakfast programs and numerous after school programs helping youth and adults make healthy lifestyle choices. As a member of the Nursing Recruitment and Retention Committee, Florence promoted Nunavut as a place for nurses to have an interesting and desirable career. From this committee a nurse practitioner pilot project was initiated that resulted in the creation of numerous Nurse Practitioner positions in Nunavut.

Through her experiences, Florence has developed a great respect for the Inuit culture and way of life, which emphasizes family values as well as their respect for the land, based on their unique knowledge of the environment. As a strong advocate of family-centered care with respect for traditional values, Florence believes in engaging individuals to be active participants in their care and giving them the knowledge and empowerment that enables them to make informed, healthy choices.


Donalda Stanley: Paul First Nation, Alberta

A graduate of the University of Alberta’s Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing program (June 2000), Donalda delivers care to community members with integrity and compassion and has strong, respectful relations with Band program leads and community Elders. Fluent in Cree, she communicates effectively with her clients and actively participates in community events. Her calm demeanor, common sense approach and sense of humour quickly endear her to staff members and engender trust among those she leads. She has actively mentored several nursing students from the University of Alberta and is a respected role model. Her commitment to lifelong learning is evidenced in her pending graduation from Yorkville University’s Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology.

Donalda has worked as Nurse in Charge at Paul First Nation since March 2012. Prior to that she worked as a community health nurse in Saddle Lake First Nation, served as Nurse in Charge at Frog Lake Morningsky Health & Wellness Society and was Nurse in Charge for Kehewin Health Services.

Elizabeth Henderson: Beausoleil First Nation, Ontario

Elizabeth Henderson has worked with the Beausoleil First Nation, effectively managing its home community care service since 2005. As an exemplary role model, Beth is well-respected among her peers, staff, senior management and the leadership and members of the community. She joined the Beausoleil Family Health Centre as a Community Health Nurse, assumed the role of Home Care Nurse and subsequently was promoted to the role of Case Manager/Coordinator managing the center's Circle of Care program. She actively takes on frontline nursing activities to support her staff and recently assumed a senior management role in the absence of the Health Director, assuming new challenges with enthusiasm and a high standard of professionalism.

One nominee said, "Beth puts her heart and soul into promoting health and wellbeing in the Beausoleil First Nation community and always goes above and beyond." Her vision, innovation and commitment to growing and expanding nursing services in the community was instrumental in the development of a seniors center, recently expanded to accommodate growing demand, personal support worker services and a nursing team comprised of 5 full-time and 2 part-time nurses who oversee a range of programs including Aging at Home, Foot care, Palliative Care, Diabetes Education, walk-in services and a variety of health education in-services.

Larry Thompson: Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories

Larry graduated from nursing in 1991, following a career as Company manger in the arts realm, working with companies like the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Canadian Opera Company. He has worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner with First Nations and Inuit communities throughout Northern Ontario, the Yukon, and since 2005 in the Beaufort Delta region of the Northwest Territories. Initially he worked in both Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, but since 2007 his home has been in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. He currently serves as primary nurse for clients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD), liaising with health professionals in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Edmonton and teaching clients, one-on-one how to manage their symptoms. One of his greatest strengths is his passion for nursing and primary health care. He is also one of the most recognized nurses in the community, actively participating in community functions and appreciated by many.


Alison Lynch: South Indian Lake, Manitoba

Growing up in Flin Flon, Manitoba Alison developed a sincere respect and appreciation for the plight of First Nations. In 1984 she graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing degree from the University of Manitoba and continues to expand her knowledge in nursing. She says accurate history taking and physical assessments are key to her nursing success, especially being located in a remote and isolated area.

Alison has worked as a Community Health Nurse (CHN) in South Indian Lake Nursing Station in northern Manitoba for the past 15 years. It's where she met and "fell in love with the area, staff and community members", as well as her husband George. Recently Alison and George relocated to Winnipeg; however, she continues to nurse in South Indian Lake on a part-time basis. Alison is an avid camper and boater who loves to fish and read novels by foreign authors.

Alison has had an adventurous and extraordinary nursing career. Soon after graduating she worked with Doctors without Borders, UNICEF and CUSO and practised nursing in several countries, including Sudan, Somalia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Brazil. The turmoil and devastation of war served to harden her resolve to provide quality healthcare to those in need. She took particular pride in training local staff to provide healthcare services to their people long after she left the country.

Alison says letting people know they are not alone, that someone cares and that she is there to listen has been central to her success in a nursing career that has spanned 30 years.

Lianne Mantla: Behchoko, Northwest Territories

Lianne graduated from the Northern Nursing Program in Yellowknife with her diploma in nursing in 2003. After working in various nursing positions, Lianne then took the opportunity to pursue her degree in Nursing from the University of Alberta, which she completed in 2012. To Lianne family is everything and to that end, she returned home post-graduation to her home community of Behchoko, NWT to a Community Health Nursing (CHN) position at the local health centre. She is the only person in her region to have completed a degree in nursing, which is viewed as quite an achievement. In particular, the Elders are very proud of her accomplishments especially since Lianne is so strong in her Dene traditions, language (Tlicho) and culture, as well as her ability to bring knowledge of western medicine.

Lianne says returning to her home community to practice nursing has offered both rewards and challenges as there can be high expectations when one returns to their home community after a long absence. Lianne is currently the acting Nurse in Charge (NIC).

Lianne, in her spare time, loves to read and go for long walks. It has been said about Lianne that she is "strong like two people" in that she has an abundance of determination and exhibits a high degree of independence. Combined, these characteristics make her a good community role model and enable her to embrace change and to be uniquely different. Lianne is a respected leader in her community and hopes that along the way she is able to "make a difference".

Rachel Munday: Aklavik, Northwest Territories

Rachel successfully obtained her RN Diploma from a hospital-based program at the Basingstoke District General Hospital in England in 1985. She then trained to become a Midwife graduating in 1987. Rachel, hearing many interesting things about Labrador, NFLD, decided to make the trek across the ocean to Canada in 1989. While she enjoyed her "new home", she decided to move back to England to complete her Masters in Midwifery in 1997 at the University of Wales. Since returning to Canada, Rachel has worked in a variety of remote and isolated First Nations and Inuit Communities. Rachel thrives on autonomous practice as a Community Health Nurse (CHN) and since 2005 she has been the Nurse in Charge (NIC) in Aklavik, NWT.

Being a true life-long learner, Rachel is currently enrolled in the Nurse Practitioner Program in Yellowknife. When she graduates in 2015, she will return to her home in Aklavik to continue to provide excellent nursing services to her adopted community. It has been noted that Rachel is a great role model and mentor to students, staff and community members. She believes that being a mentor to a student or a colleague "is a given". She strongly believes that it is important to nurture and support those around you and, in fact, it is your duty to do so.

Rachel loves to play the piano and recorder. She is also an avid reader and collects Canadian stamps. A hobby she inherited from her father. Rachel would like everyone to know that she has, and continues to, value her time in the north and that she has collected a wealth of information from its people especially the Elders. She encourages everyone to "go north", noting it has been an experience of a lifetime for her!


  • Joan Belanger: Bearskin Lake, Ontario
  • Gail Nahmabin: Chippewas of Sarnia, Ontario
  • Marie McPherson: Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territoires


  • Sophie Pamak: Hopedale, Labrador
  • Lori Monture: Hagersville, Ontario
  • Leslie-Ann Smith: Battleford, Saskatchewan


  • Goldie White: Makkovik, Labrador
  • Tracy Daigneault: Warman, Saskatchewan
  • Susan Siwik: Parry Sound, Ontario


  • Tina Buckle: Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Christi-Ann Poulette: London, Ontario
  • June Fry: Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador


  • Susan Stoneson
  • Judy Wilson
  • Liza Sam


  • Joyce Ritchie
  • Elaine Conacher


  • Margaret Levy
  • Paula J. Stefankiw
  • Gail T. Turner


  • Sandro Échaquan
  • Susan Jewitt
  • Gail Redpath


  • Edith Martel
  • Ada Benoit


  • Barbara Martin
  • Jan Kroll


  • Lillian Turzanski: Cold Lake First Nations, Alberta
  • Linda H. Paul: Edmonton, Alberta
  • Evelyn Voyageur: Comox, British Columbia
  • Margaret Webb: Nain, Labrador
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