Joy Ward-Dockrey pictured with the recent Premier’s Award for the STAR Elders program. (submitted photo)

Joy Ward-Dockrey pictured with the recent Premier’s Award for the STAR Elders program. (submitted photo)

‘Extreme honour’ for Surrey woman given Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers

Joy Ward-Dockrey says she’s ‘seen everything’ as Indigenous liaison with Surrey Women’s Centre

SURREY — Joy Ward-Dockrey’s award-winning work as a volunteer began at a young age.

“I started at age 10, volunteering for the SPCA, and I used to babysit kids for free, things like that, and it just went from there,” said the Surrey resident.

Today, she was among eight British Columbians given the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

The medal recognizes “the exceptional volunteer achievements of Canadians from across the country in a wide range of fields.”

This afternoon (Tuesday, Nov. 21) in Victoria, Ward-Dockrey and others were presented their medals by Judith Guichon, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, during a ceremony at Government House.

“It’s an extreme honour, and I’m so humbled,” she told the Now-Leader.

“I found out about (winning the medal) about a month ago in a phone call from back east,” she added. “The (Canadian) governor-general’s office phoned to tell me to put the date aside.”

Ward-Dockrey, whose paid job is working with children in the care of B.C.’s Ministry of Children & Family Development, has been the Indigenous liaison with Surrey Women’s Centre since 2009.

“This energetic team leader is also a long-serving member of the Aboriginal Veterans’ Association and has been acknowledged by the association for the role she plays in ensuring residents are involved in the community,” noted an event advisory from the provincial government.

A Cree elder, Ward-Dockrey has spent seven years volunteering with Surrey Women’s Centre, primarily as the liaison (“and the senior”) on its Mobile Assault Response Team, or S.M.A.R.T.

“I started volunteering there around the time the Olympics came to town, when there was a lot of media attention about human trafficking, and we knew that was going to happen with the Olympics coming to town,” Ward-Dockrey recalled.

“They put out an ad and it said it wasn’t a job just for anybody, because it was going to be working with the downtrodden and you’d see everything, and that was right up my alley,” she added. “That’s what I do. I love to help people, so I thought, I could do that. And believe me, they were right, I’ve seen everything, and we’re now doing pediatric sex assaults as well, so I’ve seen everything.

“But I mean, I have my own past, so I always think, ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’ you know. I like to concentrate on the good things in my past rather than the sad things, but I can relate to a lot of it, what I work with now.”

Ward-Dockrey spent the early years of her life living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. She was adopted at age five by non-Indigenous parents.

“I was living with my bio mother and she was having a rough time,” Ward-Dockrey elaborated. “My adoptive father was going to trade school and living in a boarding house in East Vancouver, and he was living with all these other people including my bio-mom, so it became known that she was giving me and my baby brother up for adoption.

“My adoptive mother and father couldn’t have their own children but were excited by the possibility of adopting the two of us. Unfortunately, the landlady got dibs on my baby brother, so that left me as the leftover, but I was blessed because I got a really good home. My dad said, ‘Well, we’ll take the girl – if we can’t have both, we’ll at least take the girl,’ and (when) I was five he brought me to Victoria where he and my adoptive mom were moving.”

A Surrey resident for the past 20 years, Ward-Dockrey’s other volunteer work includes more than 10 years as a unit facilitator and therapy dog evaluator for St. John Ambulance. For a decade, she has also volunteered with her own two St. John Ambulance-certified therapy dogs in cancer clinics, Surrey Memorial Hospital, libraries, schools, family court and youth detention centres.

“I have the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal, and a medal for being a member of the Order of St. John,” she added.

As a Cree elder, she’s frequently asked to support families, high-risk youth and homeless women and men. Also, Ward-Dockrey has more than 25 years combined as a volunteer on the crisis line and for hospice.

A navy vet, she served in Esquimalt during peace time, “so I didn’t see any action. I would have gone over had I been called, and now I’m just a manager of the Aboriginal veterans, mostly in the Lower Mainland. I keep them organized. That’s another volunteer thing that I do, I don’t get paid for it.”

She added: “Your name gets out there when you’re an elder that will help people, so I do a lot of volunteering with children and families, and men – homeless people, the oppressed, the great oppressed.”

In Victoria, Ward-Dockrey stayed Monday night with her mother, who is 90 years of age.

“I also have my grandson here, who enlisted in the air force when he was 19, so he’s flown out from Trenton, Ontario to be here for the award ceremony, in full dress,” she added. “I’m so proud of him.”

Other winners of the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers this week are Catherine Clement of Sechelt, Burnaby resident Michael MacDonald, Pauline Terbasket of Westbank, and Vancouver residents Steven Hanuse, Richard Lavallee, Desiree Sparrow and Collin van Uchelen. Also honoured during Tuesday’s ceremony is Vancouver resident Karen Joseph, given the Meritorious Service Decoration (Civil Division).

Nominations for the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers can be made online at

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