Shelley Brown receives Order of Canada

Brown grew up south of Moosomin, went to school in Fairlight & Maryfield

April 3, 2020, 11:11 am
Kara Kinna

Shelley Brown receiving the Order of Canada on Nov. 21 from Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada.

Shelley Brown, who grew up in the Doonside area east of Kelso, has received the Order of Canada.

Brown received the Order of Canada on November 21 in Ottawa and was the only person from Saskatchewan to receive the honor in 2019.

Brown is the daughter of Mike and Berniece Wielgoz. She went to elementary school in Fairlight and high school in Maryfield, and married Murray Brown from the Ryerson area. Shelley still has lots of family connections in the area. Her brother Mark Wielgoz lives in Maryfield with this wife Wanda, and her sisters Laurie Crossley and Pam Foy live in the Moosomin area. Her mother-in-law Jean Brown lives in Moosomin and her sister-in-law Sherry is married to Brad Metz of Fairlight. She also has several nieces and nephews.

Brown is an accountant who now lives in Saskatoon. Her accomplishments are lengthy and she has been recognized for her professional and community contributions to the accounting profession and non-profit sector.

Brown has more than 25 years of board experience serving on not-for-profit, association, and for-profit corporate boards, including Deloitte Canada, the Accounting Standards Board Oversight Council, and the University of Saskatchewan Board of Governors. She is also an independent director on the international Stantec board, and chair of the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Brown’s expertise is in strategic planning, good governance, finance, and risk management. During her distinguished 40-year career in accounting, she was a partner in two of the world’s largest professional services firms. As chair of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, she played a key role in uniting Canada’s accounting profession, culminating in the creation of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

She is also a recognized leader in diversity and inclusion, having been listed on Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women for four years, earning her a position on the Women’s Executive Network Hall of Fame.

Brown graduated from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Commerce, now the Edwards School of Business, in 1979. She retired last year after 30 years in public practice.

Brown says the day she was notified she’d be receiving the Order of Canada was a good day for her.

“I was feeling pretty good because I can remember the day that I got this call,” she says. “We were in Hawaii and the first call I got was about 5 am in the morning. It was a text message from my daughter-in-law telling me that she had passed her CPA exams.

“So that was the first piece of good news, and then a few hours later I got a call from the B.C. CPA Institute telling me that they were awarding me a lifetime achievement award, so that was the second piece of good news.

“And so I was feeling pretty good, and then I get this call from the Governor General’s Office saying that they were awarding me the Order of Canada, and I honest to God thought it was a joke. Then she went on and started going through all of these details. She was reading my resume and she said ‘did you do this and did you do that?’ And I said ‘yes, yes,’ and so she convinced me. I was totally overwhelmed. So then we cracked the champagne that day.”

Brown, who has humble roots, says she is proud of the things she has achieved over the years.

“One of the things I was very proud to be involved with and was a huge accomplishment for our profession in Canada was the unification of the accounting designations in Canada,” she says. “We used to have three separate designations—the CA Chartered Accountant, CMA Certified Management Accountant and CGA Certified General Accountant—and there were 40 different governing bodies across the country that oversaw the government of these three professions and we were all doing the same thing pretty much.

“There had been initiatives many times over the years to try and merge two of the designations. During my time as chair of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, an initiative to merge the professions came about so I was involved in that during my term as a chair, and then I was the first chair of the new designation of the CPA.

“That I would say was a huge accomplishment for the profession and I was very proud to be involved in the profession, in the leadership of the profession at that time. So I would say that is one of my most interesting career challenges.

“My greatest accomplishment is my family but from a career standpoint I’ve always been a champion of diversity,” she adds. “Particularly gender diversity. Hopefully people will say that I have made a difference in the organizations that I’ve been involved with in terms of furthering the diversity agenda.

“With the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, I’ve been involved with that organization before the foundation. I’ve seen the hospital become a reality and I really don’t believe it would have happened without the support of the foundation and the money that we’ve spent that we’ve raised to put towards the construction through that hospital. So that has been something I’m very proud to do and been involved with.

“I’m currently chair of the University of Saskatchewan Board of Governors. It’s an organization that I’m very proud of and proud to be affiliated with, and I think we are doing such amazing things at the university in terms of research and the indigenization agenda that is now underway at the university. There are lots of things on the list. I’m very to proud to be involved in so many great things.”

Brown says she credits her small-town roots for her eagerness to be involved and see change.

“We grew up on a farm south of Moosomin and I went to elementary school in Fairlight and high school in Maryfield. We did all our grocery shopping in Moosomin. I played a lot of basketball and volleyball in Moosomin in my high school years.

“I think it’s largely attributed to my roots. When I was growing up, we were encouraged to be involved. We lived out on a farm, so the nearest town was half an hour away, and yet my parents were always driving us to something or another, whether it was some sporting practice or game. We were always involved in different community initiatives and school initiatives, school papers, school council, different things. So I think it was very early that we were encouraged to be involved, to give back to our communities, and that just continued.

“When we went to university it was the same thing. I got involved largely in sporting activities but also student council. I think when I continued on with my career that just became a natural part of it.

“I can also say throughout my career the organizations that I’ve been involved with—and I’ve always known my career was in public accounting—first with Ernst and Young and then Deloitte, both organizations encourage their people to be involved in their communities and give back. A lot of people just tend to give money. I tend to do both because I think volunteering and actually committing time to different organizations is just as important, if not more important, than giving money. So much of our economy certainly in the non-profit sector is driven by volunteers.”

Growing up on the farm south of Moosomin, Brown says she never would have imagined herself receiving the Order of Canada one day. She says her mother convinced her it was important to go to university.

“No, not in my wildest dreams,” she says of the thought of receiving the Order of Canada. “In fact when I graduated from high school there was only, I think, one person at the time in my graduating class that was planning to go to university and that wasn’t the plan on my radar.

“My mother convinced me that it was the right thing to do and I applied and got accepted. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I thought something in business might be interesting, and so I went into the College of Commerce in the University of Saskatchewan. I didn’t know what area or field that I would be interested in going into. I liked accounting and there seemed to be people getting jobs out of that particular major, so that is where I gravitated to and ended up getting a few job offers prior to graduation, and so the rest is history.”

Brown says she was lucky to be able to bring a number of family members to the ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 21, including her granddaughter, who the Governor General’s office made a special exception for.

“It was really interesting. It was at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. They tend to keep the ceremony fairly small because there are probably about 30 inductees at the ceremony I was at, including Donald Sutherland and William Shatner,” she says.

“Each recipient is allowed to bring three guests to the ceremony which was a bit of a challenge because I wanted to bring the whole family. I talked to the organizers, the lovely lady from the Governor General’s office, and I said my children and spouse are coming and asked if there was any possibility of extra tickets, and she said closer to the coming event there are generally some cancellations so she will keep me posted.”

“A couple weeks before the ceremony she called me and said we have an extra ticket, and so that gave me four. So the way we decided to do it was we decided my daughter and her husband, and then my son and his wife, would come to the afternoon ceremony and my husband would stay with the grandkids, and they would come to the gala dinner in the evening. Everyone would have a chance to meet the Governor General and to see Rideau Hall.

“Then a week or so before the ceremony my daughter was telling me that my granddaughter who was six was getting really excited about going to Ottawa. She had been talking about the Order of Canada. My daughter said she went to pick my granddaughter up from school—she is in Grade 1—and the teacher came out and she said to my daughter that Anna has been telling her classmates that she is going to Ottawa because her grandma is getting the Order of Canada, and my daughter said ‘actually, that’s true.’

“I called the office again and said ‘My granddaughter is really quite interested in this whole Order of Canada ceremony, do you think it would be possible to get one more ticket?’ and she said ‘oh for sure.’

“So Anna came with us to the ceremony. It was really special because there were two other little girls there and the Governor General actually made a big deal of them being there. She did a separate little ceremony with each of these little girls and gave them a pin and shook their hand and it was pretty special.

“It was a pretty special day. The Governor General is a lovely lady—very down to earth and very warm and welcoming.

“It was great, but you know, listening to accomplishments of some of these people that were being inducted, it was quite overwhelming and humbling to be part of such a prestigious group. It was well beyond Donald Sutherland and William Shatner, because there were scientists, artists, writers—quite a diverse group of people that were being recognized. It was pretty special.”


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