Remembering the Honourable Erminie Joy Cohen, C.M., O.N.B Founding Chairperson of the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation
In February 2019, New Brunswick lost one of its greats, the Honourable Erminie Joy Cohen. Erminie’s passion to help others, often the most vulnerable, and her ability to inspire and engage so many others from all walks of life undeniably had a ripple effect.
The impact Erminie has had on the Saint John and New Brunswick community has been outstanding in many areas. The Saint John native began her contribution as an active member of the Jewish community as a local and national board member of different organizations and has been active in the larger community since the 1970s when she helped found the non-partisan Saint John Women for Action, which helped bring attention to many of the challenges women and girls of the time were facing. Organizations she has participated in range from being a founding member of the Board of Hestia House, a trustee of Saint Joseph's Hospital, member of the Saint John Human Development Council, member of the initial Council on the Status of Women in New Brunswick and First Steps Housing. Her efforts to improve our quality of the life included serving as Chair of Opera New Brunswick as it undertook a series of productions and as a member of the National Capital Commission in Ottawa.
In 1993, she was appointed to the Senate of Canada. Representing the senatorial division of Saint John, she would quickly become known for her compassion, activism and poverty reduction publications, fighting to prohibit discrimination based on social conditions under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
After concluding her work as a senator, Ms. Cohen went on to become the founder and Chair of the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation (NBAF). Under her guidance, the NBAF was able to increase the number of children adopted out of the province's care system by 100 per cent, giving the movement spirit and helping more than 1000 children find their “forever families” and permanent homes.
Erminie's efforts have been recognized by numerous groups including a Doctorate of Laws from the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, the Humanitarian Service Award from the Salvation Army, the North American Council on Adoptable Children 2010 Activist Award, the Red Cross Humanitarian Award, the Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow and with the Order of Canada where she was recognized for her voluntary service in 2010 with the citation "For her contributions to improving the lives of women and children in New Brunswick, and for her social activism as a senator" and the Order of New Brunswick.