INDUCTION OF HARVEY FRIESEN TO CANADA’S AVIATION HALL OF FAME
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In 2016, the former President and CEO of Bearskin Airlines, the late Harvey Friesen, was nominated by his peers for induction into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. While his nomination was not successful, it was tabled by the nominating committee for future consideration.
Harvey Friesen passed away in 2014, and as full and rich as his life was, it can best be summed up by two words: aviation and altruism. His remarkable legacy as an aviator, business leader and philanthropist stems from having married those two great passions of his to touch and improve the lives of untold thousands across Canada and in particular in communities in Northern Ontario and Manitoba.
With the Hall of Fame about to begin its annual review of worthy candidates, we are writing to reiterate our support of Mr. Friesen’s nomination and urge its consideration for posthumous induction.
A life dedicated to aviation and helping others
Harvey Friesen passed away suddenly on February 2, 2014, days after announcing he was stepping away from most of his professional responsibilities to embrace a well-deserved (partial) retirement.
Harvey Friesen was first and foremost a pilot, but he was also a visionary and a builder.
He took Bearskin Lake Air Service, a small air charter operator serving remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario and built it into one of the most successful regional carriers in Canada.
Under his leadership, by the late 90s Bearskin Airlines was providing scheduled service to all the major northern Ontario communities and not long after, expanded operations to northern Manitoba.
More important, he built bridges – bridges in the sky -- that reinforced the fabric of our country by connecting North to South and small and remote communities to our largest urban areas. His vision of safe, efficient and accessible air service for the North helped make a reality of the ideal of a Canada united, from sea to sea to sea for thousands of Canadians.
As president and CEO of Bearskin Airlines from 1977 to 2011, he did not just help connect communities and families across the North and with the rest of Canada, but he opened new markets and created new job opportunities for thousands of Canadians.
He also built a sense of community and giving among all those around him that continues to this day.
Harvey Friesen would no doubt say that it was his great fortune to be a pilot and to grow an airline that would serve his beloved North, but he would likely also say that he was blessed to be able to parlay that good fortune to help others.
His vision for Bearskin Airlines extended beyond its role as a good and reliable mover of people and goods, it involved also being a good and reliable corporate citizen. Not only was he personally heavily invested in the good works and activities of local service organizations, but he encouraged his employees to do the same in each of the communities they served.
Seven years after his passing, much of what Harvey Friesen built, from the Bearskin Airlines brand to charitable sporting events, to a generous sense of community, stand as a reminder of his extraordinary achievements as an aviator, a business and community leader and as a philanthropist.
A common vision
Given its vast and rugged territory and its often-harsh climate, important chapters of Canada’s history were, and will continue to be written by extraordinary aviators. Rightly, their accomplishments and contributions to aviation and to Canada have been recorded and given pride of place by the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.
However diverse their personal and professional histories, or how different their accomplishments, these extraordinary aviators shared two things: a bold vision and the desire to make a difference. Harvey Friesen was cut from that same cloth. He deserves to take his place among the pioneers and the heroes and the builders of Canada’s aviation system.
ERIC EDMONDSON, Pivot Airlines, ATAC Chairman
BRUCE MacDOUGALL, Paterson MacDougall, LLP
MASSIMO BERGAMINI, Former President and CEO National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC)
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