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Former Coquitlam school trustee to be invested with Order of Canada

Among those who will be presented with their insignia at investiture ceremonies next year will be Diane Sowden.
Diane Sowden in a workshop for the Children of the Street Society, an organization that the former Coquitlam school trustee founded in 1995.

A former Coquitlam school district trustee is now an Order of Canada recipient.

Today (Dec. 29), Rideau Hall unveiled the names of the additions and promotions to the federal honour, which recognizes outstanding achievement, community dedication and service to the country. 

Among those who will be presented with their insignia at investiture ceremonies next year will be Diane Sowden “for her leadership in raising awareness of and preventing the sexual exploitation of human trafficking of children and youth.”

Now a resident of Powell River, Sowden founded the Children of the Street Society in 1995 and retired in June 2019 when PLEA Community Services took over the organization.

"After more than 25 years, it is wonderful to see the fight against sexual exploitation is being recognized nationally," Sowden told the Tri-City News on Tuesday. "I have happily retired knowing the fight is in the good hands of the staff at PLEA Community Services."

Sowden started the non-profit after her then 13-year-old daughter turned to drugs and prostitution.

Over the years, the society hosted a series of prevention workshops aimed at educating kids from being drawn into the sex trade.

The workshops then expanded to inform parents, caregivers, teachers, service providers, police, community agencies and the hospitality industry.

Children of the Street also worked with the B.C. government to bring changes to the Child, Family and Community Services Act, as well as the federal government to advocate changes to the Criminal Code of Canada.

In 2000, Sowden testified before the federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights about the lack of support for addicted teens and their caregivers.

Her evidence led to changes in the Criminal Code to raise the legal age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 — eight years later.

Her new title as a member of the Order of Canada follows numerous accolades including the B.C. Solicitor General Crime Prevention and Community Safety Award, the Soroptimist International of the Americas Woman of Distinction Award and the Anthony J. Hulme Award of Distinction from B.C.’s ministry of Attorney General.

Sowden’s appointment to the Order of Canada was one of 135 made by Gov.-Gen. Mary Simon on the recommendation of an advisory council.

"Canada is defined by the people that make up this great country," Simon stated in a news release.

"These most recent nominees to the Order of Canada are shining examples of the commitment and outstanding contributions Canadians have made to the well-being of communities throughout this land, whether it be social, environmental, scientific, economic, cultural or related to mental and physical health."

More than 7,000 Canadians have been named to the Order since it was created in 1967, Canada’s centennial year.