Elizabeth Harvey wasn’t expecting any mail on Aug. 31. So when her husband brought back a parcel among the usual letters and bills, she was anxious to see what was inside.
© Brodie Thomas photo
Elizabeth Harvey holds her Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. She was awarded the medal for her part in fighting the Canada Revenue Agency over taxation on fishers’ buyout packages.
"I was shocked,” said Mrs. Harvey, who opened the parcel to find a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Mrs. Harvey waged a six-year battle against the Canada Revenue Agency over unfair taxation against fishermen who sold their licences in 1999. Her husband was one of those fishermen.
The fishers had been wrongly advised to pay capital gains tax on their buyout money.
Last year a federal judge ruled in favour of the fishers and ordered the federal government to pay them back.
Mrs. Harvey led the fight in the media. Her story eventually gained national attention. Journalists with CTV’s news magazine show “W5” recently travelled to Isle aux Morts to profile her battle.
The vast majority involved in the case were Newfoundlanders, although a few fishers from Quebec were also involved. The 52 Quebec fishermen chipped in at Christmas time to buy her a new big-screen TV and a microwave to thank her for her hard work.
While the attention was nice, the medal was unexpected.
“It is surprising,” she said, “fighting the government and then to turn around and here is a medal for what you did.”
Mrs. Harvey still has a pile of names and addresses in a bundle of paper much thicker than the Western Newfoundland phonebook. She said there are 1,086 names and addresses in her documents. Not all were eligible for the case against the taxman.
“There were so many communities I didn’t even know existed when I started this fight,” she said.
Mrs. Harvey said she is still getting calls. One recent call was from a fisherman’s wife in New Brunswick. Her husband had sold his licence in 1999 and she was looking for advice on how to challenge Revenue Canada.
“What hurts me is the ones who have passed away,” she said.
One widow called her just days ago. She told Mrs. Harvey her husband had lived to see the cheque arrive in the mail, but he didn’t get to enjoy it.
Mrs. Harvey was nominated for the Jubilee Medal by Newfoundland Senator Ethel Cocharane, from Lourdes.
In her letter, Senator Cochrane credits Mrs. Harvey for finding justice for the fishermen.
“Your persistence and dedication to the fishing licences issue was instrumental in bringing justice to so many who had been unfairly taxed,” she wrote. “Your efforts produced a monumental result that benefited people far beyond your own community.”
Canada will award 60,000 of the medals to citizens for their contributions to society.
Mrs. Harvey’s medal even came with a short guide on when and how to wear it. Rules include wearing it in order of importance with other medals, and always wearing it on the left breast above the heart.
She said the medal is something she will cherish forever.
“We fought for six and a half years but it was worth it,” she said. “Justice was done.”