Last week, the Province of Manitoba announced its inductees to the 2020 Order of Manitoba. Although pushed back significantly from its typical mid-May unveiling – due to the current COVID-19 pandemic – the 2020 announcement went without a hitch. Included in the 12 names is CBC sports reporter and Winnipeg resident, Scott Oake.
“It is a very humbling recognition,” Oake told Game On Magazine. “If you look at the list of people being honoured this year, there are research scientists, professors, educators and doctors, and then there is me. It is really nice to be honoured, but I was not expecting it – not in the least. I’ve never thought of my career as award-winning by any stretch of the imagination. In fact I just feel lucky to have had a job for 40-plus years, especially in this shrinking industry. Having been able to work for as long as I have has been good; it’s been a blessing.”
Awarded annually in recognition of individuals who have demonstrated exceptional achievements and high levels of success in their respective fields, the Order of Manitoba is presented to candidates who continually work to better the social, economic and/or cultural wellbeing of those within the province. It is the highest ranking honour in Manitoba, and lasts for the duration of the recipient’s lifetime. Initials O.M. are to be used after the spelling of one’s name, acknowledging the achievement.
“I had no idea that I was in the running,” Oake said. “I have been told that the way the process works, someone has to nominate you. And just knowing that, it’s such an incredible privilege. Quite frankly, I never really followed that closely as to who had previously received the Order of Manitoba, but I do know that there are some very impressive names on that list. I had no notion of it, wasn’t expecting it and was completely surprised.”
Nomination papers for the 2020 Order of Manitoba had an official submission due date of December 31, 2019, where they were vetted by Manitoba’s protocol office review staff, in order to be considered for the recognition. Despite “having a good idea” as to who brought his name forth, Oake was still taken aback when he received the invitational call from Lieutenant Governor Janice C. Filmon in early July.
“This year, as Manitobans have been tested and have responded with courage, creativity and hope, we are even more aware of the importance of commitment to community,” Lieutenant Governor Filmon said in a Province of Manitoba press release. “The community leaders to be invested into the Order of Manitoba in this, the 150th anniversary of the province, will continue to inspire their fellow Manitobans through their personal achievements and their dedication to our province, our country and our world.”
Despite his award-winning work with the CBC, Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada, Oake knows that this honour is also a testament to his diligence towards another significant project in his life, not at all related to sports broadcasting.
“Obviously my career is part of the recognition, but the other more important part of it would be the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre,” Oake reflected. “Construction actually started in late January and the roof is set to go on in August. We launched the capital campaign on (late son) Bruce’s birthday, August 22, 2019, and had set a target of $16 million. Our first $10 million came in roughly six-to-seven months. We saw that as the will of the community – a community vying for the need of a facility like the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre.”
Following the drug-related death of his son Bruce in 2011, Oake and his wife Anne turned their attention to the Winnipeg’s desperate need for more ‘safe places’ within the city’s residential neighbourhoods.
“We are caught in the hard grip of a real crisis,” Oake said. “Meth is tearing a hole in the heart of the city. The opioid crisis has existed now for years; deaths continue to mount, so we wanted to be part of the solution. The solution for us is the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre, which is a 50-bed, long-term care facility. Long-term is the key here. You can stay in the program for as long as it takes to get it right. It could be a year, it could be two years. But the continuum of care is everything. It’s not a 21-day program and ‘good luck’. So that’s one of the cornerstones. The other cornerstone is that anyone who can’t afford to pay will not be turned away.”
For Oake, the idea of recovery at no cost for those without financial resources is of utmost importance to the success of the facility. Those without money who want to live better lives will have that opportunity at the soon-to-be completed establishment on the site of the old Vimy Arena in St. James.
“This has been a long journey. If we knew some of the obstacles that we were going to have to clear, we probably would have never done it,” said Oake candidly. “But once we got into it, there was no turning back. We fought for two years to get that piece of property. It took a while, and there were some days in which we were discouraged, but we always had people around who would keep encouraging us and not let us give up on this.”
The Oake family did encounter some anticipated opposition in their pursuit of establishing a recovery centre within a residential neighbourhood, but the challenge gave the Oakes the chance to provide explanation and reasoning on the desired site.
“The fact is, recovery centres like this one work incredibly well in residential neighbourhoods, because there is a connection for the people who are seeking recovery,” Oake said. “Connection and inclusion is everything; to be a part of a community and to be a good neighbour is paramount in recovery. It’s going to be a gorgeous facility. It will fit beautifully into the neighbourhood and improve the neighbourhood. We just went down to the site and took a quick walk around this past week. When we stood there and looked at it, we were just fully overcome with emotion.”
While the facility is not expected to open to the community until approximately late-May of 2021, Oake and his Board of Directors continue to remain focused on the inspiration behind the recovery centre’s planning, building and serving processes.
“We started this project in our son’s name,” Oake said. “Bruce lost his battle with addiction in March of 2011, and it would definitely be easy to just say ‘Bruce Oake’, and not know who he was, or why we chose that name. Bruce was a kid like anybody else. He had a lot of talent, but addiction grabbed hold of him and never let go. Sadly the last five years of his life was a rollercoaster ride through active addiction, recovery and relapse. He wanted a better life and fought hard for it. He had three stints in treatment centres, and eight or nine in detox, but the outcome was tragic. So we wanted to make his life mean something. Now, he can be a part of the solution to the crisis that claimed his life.”
Nearly 10 years to the date of Bruce Oake’s death, the recovery centre established in his name is set to open its doors to the local community of Winnipeg before summer of 2021. Following the completion of construction, the final step will involve outfitting the facility to fully-operational status – a job Oake knows wouldn’t be possible without his hard-working team members.
“This project has seen a lot of very talented people gravitate towards it,” he said. “What Anne, (son) Darcy and I are best at right now is shaking hands – or bumping elbows – at this time. The real heavy lifting is being done by other people. When it comes to something like the Order of Manitoba, I would accept it given that this project is part of that honour. I would accept it but only on behalf of all the people who have worked so hard to keep this going. It’s a very long list, but it’s really all the others who continue to do the real heavy lifting here.”
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the date of the now significantly delayed Order of Manitoba bestowment ceremony at the Manitoba Legislature has yet to be determined. Alongside the 11 other recipients, Oake will proudly take his place amongst Manitoba’s finest, whenever it is deemed safe to do so.
“Just make sure you address me as either ‘Your Worship’ or ‘My Lord’ from here on, as required,” Oake laughed. “Other than that, being named to the Order of Manitoba hasn’t changed me one bit.”
The full class of the 2020 Order of Manitoba includes: