July 20, 1927February 19, 2017

BIOGRAPHY – Mildred (Millie) Canessa written on March 14, 2010

I was born on July 20, 1927 at my Grandfather and Grandmother Rogers home on the banks of the Pembina River, in the small farming community of Manola, Alberta. My parents Charles Elmer Rogers and Alice Cecelia Rogers (nee Brock), named me Mildred Irene Rogers.

I was the eldest of three Rogers children, Donald Eugene, born September 18, 1928 and Elaine Eleanor, born June 4, 1930. Much of my brother and sister’s childhood was spent among family members, due to my illness and lengthy hospitalization. Our parents spent much of their time looking for work and the demands on their time concerning my health.

My family moved to Vancouver in 1941. I left school because of continuing medical problems and went to work at age fifteen to help pay my hospital and medical costs. With no experience and limited education, I went to work where I was responsible for a small office, for a salary of $11.00 a week. I worked for several different private sector companies from 1943 until joining the provincial government public service in 1967.

Following the end of the Second World War, in 1945, I met a native son of B.C. named Jack Canessa, who was born and raised in the East Vancouver neighbourhood where I lived. On September 18, 1948 (my brother Don’s birthday), Jack and I were married. We lived in East Vancouver for six years before moving to Carson Street in Burnaby. Our son Dennis Grant was born January 3, 1951 at Vancouver General Hospital, and our daughter Donna Louise was born on April 16, 1954 (Good Friday) at Burnaby General Hospital. Dennis and Wendy have two sons, Steven Michael, born May 25, 1980 and Robert John, born November 4, 1982. “Canessa” is one of the oldest recorded names in British Columbia history.

In May 1967 I applied for employment in the provincial government service and worked as a Clerk at Woodlands in New Westminster. I transferred to the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission in October 1976 as Office Manager. Retired July 31, 1985.

I became a member of the Government Employees’ Association in 1967, prior to the certification of the B.C. Government Employees’ Union on March 8, 1974. I was active in the Woodlands Branch of the then Mental Health Branch of the Association. I served as Officer and Steward of my Local and the Administrative Services Component of the BCGEU from 1969 until retirement in July 1985. Was a delegate to the New Westminster and District Labour Council for several years. I attended the Harrison Winter School and attended BC Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress conventions. As a delegate from the B.C. Government Employees’ Union, in May 1976 I attended the founding convention of the National Union of Provincial Government Employees’. I attended BCGEU conventions from 1970 to 1985, and am honoured to continue to be invited to attend its conventions since my retirement.

I received Life Membership from the BCGEU in June 1987.

I am an active member of the New Democratic Party since joining in 1975. I’ve worked in all provincial and federal election campaigns since. I served a 3-year term on the provincial NDP Oversight Committee. I was awarded Honourary Life Membership in the New Democratic Party by the Burnaby-Willingdon Constituency Association, represented by former MLA Joan Sawicki.

On retirement in 1985, I joined the B.C. Government Retired Employees’ Association - New Westminster and Fraser Valley Branch #800, and served as secretary and treasurer for five years. I attend monthly meetings and until recently, maintained the Branch’s membership records. I received Life Membership in the Branch in October 1998.

In 1988 I was appointed by Mayor Bill Copeland as a founding member of the City of Burnaby Heritage Advisory Commission, and served as a community representative. I completed a six year term in 1994.

I joined the Vancouver Pioneers’ Association in 1985. I served in several positions before being elected President 1999-2001. This organization was incorporated under the Society’s Act in 1926 and collects Vancouver pioneer family histories and places them in the Vancouver City Archives. I was awarded Honourary Life Membership in 2003.

I am a member of Br.12 Edmonds, B.C. Old Age Pensioners’ Organization since 1987. I served as secretary and president for nine years. This branch received its Charter on July 14, 1942, addressing issues of concern and well being for older Canadians. I remain actively involved as past president. The Branch awarded me Life Membership in June 1995.

I joined the Burnaby Historical Society in 1987 and served as Vice President from 1994-1996. I resigned in 2003.

I was appointed by City of Burnaby Mayor Doug Drummond as a seniors’ community representative to the Burnaby Traffic and Safety Committee in 1992. I received a Civic Achievement Award for service to the community in 1992. I completed a 6-year term in 1998.

I was appointed to the Board of Directors of the BC Forum of Retired Union Members (BC FORUM) by the B.C. Federation of Labour in 1996, and represented the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union until February 2004. (She was awarded Life Membership in February 2017.)

I was elected to the Board of Directors of the New Vista Society in Burnaby, in 1993 and I served two 2-year terms, 1994-1997. I am still a supporting member.

I was elected as a delegate to the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia (COSCO) in 1990, by the New Westminster & District Branch of the BC Government Retired Employees’ Association. I was appointed as secretary in 1991, but did not seek re-election in 2002. I served on the Editorial Committee for the COSCO Newsletter. I received “Outstanding Volunteer Retiree Working for Seniors” Award, in 1995.

On behalf of Burnaby Citizens Support Services, I drove seniors to lunch two or three times a month for eight years. I resigned in September 2003 because of my concern for the safety of these individuals while in my car. In 2001 I received a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Burnaby for this volunteer service.

In 2001, through the New Westminster and District Labour Council, I was appointed to the United Way of the Lower Mainland - Retired Union Members Committee. This committee gives retired unionists an opportunity to participate in informing citizens of programs sponsored by and available through the United Way. In this way many retired trade unionists contribute their time and skills to the communities in which they live. The committee is currently involved in planning the establishment of a Trade Union Heritage Museum in Burnaby and it encourages all unions, if not already doing so, to begin recording the history of their union. This is only one of several committees whereby the United Way provides assistance to Lower Mainland communities.

In October 2000 I received Certificate of Honour from Brock House Society, Vancouver – for “British Columbia Senior Award for Outstanding Voluntary Community Service.” I was nominated by B.C. Government Retired Employees’ Association – New Westminster Branch #800.

In 2002 I received “Local Hero Award” by City of Burnaby for outstanding contributions to Burnaby Citizens Support Services.

In 2004 I joined the BCGEU Active Retired Members Committee (ARM) with the goal to encouraging retiring union members to remain active in union affairs and become involved in putting their valued skills to work in many important community projects and activities that are part of the United Way of the Lower Mainland.

A celebration of Millie's life will be held at 1:00pm on Friday, March 3rd, 2017, at First Memorial Fraser Heights Funeral Chapel - 14835 Fraser Highway, Surrey, BC. A reception will follow the celebration at Willoughby Hall - 20809 83rd Avenue, Langley, BC.

In Lieu of flowers, donations to the Kidney Foundation would be greatly appreciated.



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Emet Davis

March 3, 2017

I had the privilege of working with and meeting Millie last year, along with a small group from BCGEU's PE women's committee, when we undertook the ambitious documentary film project about women in the BCGEU. Millie had a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face as she recalled her activism with the union. She was modest, gracious, and committed to the advancement of working people and to social justice. RIP.

Lorraine Logan

March 1, 2017

Millie was a great friend and mentor to me as she passed her torch to continue with her enthusiasm and passion toward systemic barriers for all but mostly seniors. Her angelic smile fooled many. Millie is going to be missed ,our memories will hold her truth, dignity, respect,integrity and in particular her sense of humour. Time now to rest and let us go forward with her messages. Donna and Dennis, my thoughts are with you at this difficult time - you have an awesome Mom!

sav dhaliwal

February 28, 2017

Millie: Altruistic Always.

gord larkin

February 28, 2017

Millie was a fighter for the rights
of working people. Her contributions to those causes will
live on in her memory.
RIP Sister!

Joan Sawicki

February 27, 2017

Kind in spirit and in deed, consistent in values and beliefs, Millie was an inspiration to all who seek political activism as a vehicle to bring about positive change.
For many years, Millie was the glue that helped build Burnaby-Willingdon into the strong constituency that it was. She was always willing to serve and do whatever was needed; she was never judgemental and she was often the voice of calm reason when we needed it most.
To me personally, Millie was a mentor, confidant and friend. From the time I ran for the nomination through to the end of my political career, Millie was unwavering in her personal support. Especially during tough political times, I often turned to Millie when I needed some clarity, wisdom and perspective.
Even these many years later, Millie continued to call me from time to time and we would talk about the political issues of the day - and I would once again be reminded of her unshakable faith in the power of political activism and, above all, of her uniquely kind and generous nature.
I will miss those telephone calls but I will continue to cherish the influence Millie had upon my life, both personally and politically.

February 27, 2017

Our family members want to convey how saddened we are to hear of 'Millie's' passing on 2/19/2017.
A remarkable woman who will be fondly remembered by many individuals she met and served with over the years. The dedication and involvement within the various organizations speak volumes about who she was throughout her life.
We were grateful for the help and interest she offered regarding the family's past to create a bronze sculpture bust of 'John Canessa'. Millie would have been intrigued to see the final work upon completion although a permanent placement has not yet been fully realized.
Do know that we are appreciative for the encouragement given by her abundant knowledge of the 'Canessa' genealogy.
On behalf of the Vincenzi Family and Peg Vogan, who kept in touch with Millie, please accept our deepest condolences to each of you.
John, Cliff, Ed, Donna, Peg and families.

Svend Robinson

February 25, 2017

Millie was a kind and gentle woman with a heart of gold and a passionate commitment to working people and social justice. Whether in the BCGEU or COSCO or in so many NDP campaigns, including every one of my campaigns as Burnaby's MP, she always fought with determination to make the world a better place. Condolences to her family, be proud of this amazing sister.

February 24, 2017

Millie was a very good friend of mine. She did lot for working people as an activist with BCGEU. She created a forum for all retired GEU executives and staff to meet twice a year. It was a real pleasure to see her at retirees lunch which she arranged. She will be missed for long time by all her friends and co-workers. Mohammed Alam, Surrey BC

Rudy Lawrence

February 24, 2017

I am proud to be able to call Millie my friend. Millie was my secretary d during my term as President of the Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of BC (COSCO). She was an amazing woman standing up for the rights of all people and will be missed.

Rudy Lawrence

February 24, 2017

With Millie's passing, I have lost a very good loyal friend. Millie was my secretary during my term of President of The Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of BC (COSCO) and was a great inspiration to me to stand up for the rights of all human beings. She made huge imprints on COSCO, BC Forum, BCGEU, etc. etc. a remarkable human being and I am proud to have had her as a friend and supporter . Rudy Lawrence