ISLE AUX MORTS — Elizabeth Harvey got the biggest surprise of her life on Aug. 31 when she opened her mail and discovered she was the recipient of a Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
When she read the accompanying letter stating she was being awarded the medal for what she did for more than 1,000 families in this province and Quebec, she took great pride in her efforts being recognized, but felt there was some irony in the accolade as well.
Harvey became the driving force in a case that hinged on how much tax fish harvesters should have been paid on their 1999 licence-buyout packages through a deal with the Department of Fisheries.
In 1999, her husband Douglas Harvey sold his fishing licence for $110,000. He paid close to $24,000 in taxes on that buyout, but Harvey heard that others were taxed more favourably and started a campaign to learn more.
For six and a half years, Harvey kept up the fight against the Canada Revenue Agency for fishermen to be reimbursed for what she felt was an unfair tax that had been imposed on the buybacks under the Atlantic Groundfish Licence Retirement Program, a federal program established following the cod moratorium.
It was eventually ruled there was an injustice done by the revenue agency and 1,086 people from Newfoundland and Labrador and another 52 from Quebec were reimbursed the taxes and collected back interest because of Harvey’s fight.
All of them received different amounts, which ranged from $5,000 to $60,000.
The irony for Harvey is that for two years the then federal government corporation — the Canada Revenue Agency — refused to reimburse the harvesters, but that through a court ruling was ordered to make payment with retroactive interest and now the federal government is recognizing her for what she had done through the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
“I’m so honoured to have received this award,” Harvey said. “However, had I had to go have it pinned on my blouse ... I think they would have had to pick me up after I landed on the floor.
“It’s something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Harvey said through her fight she learned of places in Newfoundland that she didn’t know existed and during the past summer had a lot of people come visit her and thank her for what she had done.
She said it was nice to meet the people she had fought so hard for and hear them thanking her for her effort.
“There was a good many days that I cried, learning of the distance that some of these people drive just to meet me,” Harvey said.
She said her mother always told her that if you helped people, some day you will be rewarded and now this medal is proof of that and something her husband told her that she really deserves.
“The feeling you get seeing something like that goes right through your body, knowing that what you’ve done is so important and that it’s being recognized,” she said.