In the company of close to 100 colleagues, social work students and community members attending a March 17 Social Work Week fundraising event at UNBC, longtime northern social worker, Deborah (Lunden) Pedersen, received the Bridget Moran Advancement of Social Work in Northern Communities Award.
This year’s ceremony was particularly special with the award being presented by Bridget’s daughter, Roseanne Moran, at the launch of a new UNBC social work student bursary in Bridget Moran’s name.
It was a surprise and an honour to be nominated, more so to have been selected for this award,” said Pedersen. “It’s particularly meaningful to me because I knew Bridget who was a friend of my family. At the time Bridget was involved in her more public efforts I didn’t really understand their importance in the way I appreciate them now. I’m grateful to have been influenced by Bridget and by some of her colleagues at the school district, (some of you may remember Judy Kennedy and Eileen Temperley) who demonstrated compassion for people and commitment to the work that I can only hope to emulate.”
Moran was a tireless northern social work activist who was fired from her job in the 1960s for speaking out against the provincial government’s lack of appropriate social services for children and families. Although she won her fight and was reinstated, Bridget never went back to that provincial government job. In other social work positions, she continued to be a powerful voice for the rights of those in need as well as an acclaimed author publishing books such as Little Rebellions and Stoney Creek Woman. The Bridget Moran Award was established in March 2000 by the Northern Branch of the BC Association of Social Workers to pay lasting tribute to Bridget’s exemplary struggle for social justice.
Pedersen was born and raised in Prince George. Having completed both a BSW and MSW, Pedersen has had a wide-ranging social work career that includes working with the provincial children and families ministry, running a group home for teenagers, serving as counsellor and program coordinator for a women’s sexual assault centre and team lead for the North Cariboo Aboriginal Family Program Society, and currently works as a Northern Health social worker in Quesnel with a focus on older adults.
“To be considered for this award has made me reflect on my career which has spanned more than 40 years, in Quesnel, having been hired as a social worker with what is now called MCFD at the age of 22 with a bachelor of history degree,” Pedersen said. “At that time, I was one of four social workers. The area was divided into four geographical quadrants; I was responsible for all social work services including adoption, financial assistance and the full range of child welfare services in the area from the city limits north to Hixon, east to Barkerville and Wells and all the territory in between. I would take all my amazing social work skills, jump in my government Chevy Nova and go off into the bush and complete the annual visits required for recipients of social assistance, deal with child protection concerns, recruit and support foster parents, deal with struggling teenagers.”
Pedersen has also been a valued social work instructor at UNBC and CNC as well as mentoring a huge number of social work students in field education.
But no matter what the situation or context, Pedersen lives and applies core social work values with an unwavering commitment to social justice and the rights of all persons. Often working away from the limelight, Pedersen is known for her compassion, caring and determination. She has been a staunch advocate for the social work profession and particularly its vital role in health care, especially in ensuring a person-centered approach. She has been exemplary in building collaborative relationships between local Indigenous peoples and service providers so as to improve access to services and also strengthen service providers’ abilities to provide care with awareness of cultural safety. One example is her successful advocacy was the inclusion of an Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Quesnel and making the local hospital more welcoming through the development of a spiritual room. Deborah is also well known for her strong voice on behalf of older adults living in northern B.C. – seeking to ensure that they receive the resources and services needed to enjoy a good quality of life as they age.
Pedersen is a consistent and unrelenting advocate for the social work profession, for her colleagues, for the individuals that she works with, and for her community – all the qualities of a most deserving Bridget Moran Award recipient.