A former Nanaimo councillor will receive the city’s highest civic honour.
The City of Nanaimo announced this week that Diane Brennan will be presented with Freedom of the City later this year.
“I was surprised and excited and pleased and really happy,” said Brennan, who sat on city council from 2002-2008 and then from 2011-2018.
British Columbia’s Community Charter allows municipalities to confer Freedom of the City status on individuals to recognize significant contributions. The decision to bestow the honour is dependent upon a unanimous vote of council.
“Throughout her career, Ms. Brennan has spent decades creating better lives for not only the citizens in our community but those throughout B.C.,” noted a city press release. “She is a community advocate with a substantial history of volunteer efforts.”
Mayor Leonard Krog said in the release that Brennan is a compassionate leader who has supported and inspired others, “making Nanaimo a better place for all.”
Brennan said she generally keeps up with the current city council’s decisions and said she thinks the council is doing a good job on the environment and other files.
“Their relationship with each other and the staff is excellent from what I can see. They’re respectful of one another,” she said. “And I just like the policies that they’re pursuing.”
Brennan, who has a background in social services and was a social justice advocate on council, was asked about the city’s approaches to issues around homelessness, social disorder and mental health and addictions, and suggested there was nowhere to go but up, so there has been progress.
She said sometimes all a city council can do is try to be a group of nine people making good decisions.
“You can press the provincial government, you can press the federal government and in the end, there are times when the city has to say, well, I know that’s not necessarily our mandate, but our mandate includes satisfying the needs of our city and our community,” Brennan said. “Sometimes you step past that boundary and do what needs to be done.”
She doesn’t miss sitting at the council table and said it would have been time for her to step away last election even if her last term hadn’t been as tumultuous as it turned out to have been. Looking back, she said she feels as though “it was obvious” to residents what was happening at city hall during that time.
“I think everybody knew. I think everybody could see what was happening. You just can’t hide those things,” Brennan said. “And I think in the end, the change that the community made was deliberate.”
Brennan is very much enjoying retirement, she said. She swims often and spends time with a big family of lots of children and grandchildren. She sits on Island Health’s board of directors and said though she won’t take on the same sort of active roles as before, she won’t ever stop contributing to her city.
“I would urge everyone to get involved. Not just in their city, but in the services the non-profits provide, sporting stuff with kids, just get involved,” she said. “You can make a difference and it’s very rewarding.”