SASKATOON -- Janet Carriere never thought she’d ring in 2020 as Prince Albert’s Citizen of the Year, an honour given out by the Kinsmen Club and Prince Albert Daily Herald newspaper.

“I was shocked. Totally, totally shocked. It’s not anything I ever dreamed of in my wildest dreams that I would be Citizen of the Year. It just hit me out of left field and took me a while to start thinking again because what had just happened was incredible.”

Carriere is the executive director of the Prince Albert Indian Metis Friendship Centre. She began at the centre more than 20 years ago and worked her way up to become the executive director. Carriere’s skills in leadership inspired an employee at the centre, Georgett Arcand, to nominate her for citizen of the year.

The general manager of the Northern Lights Casino, Richard Ahenakew, supported Carriere’s nomination and admires how dedicated Carriere is to helping people marginalized by society.

“She works with those people we may not notice all the time, that we may not pay attention to. She’s there, she listens to them and tries to get them to a better place,” said Ahenakew.

The coffee pots at the Indian Metis Friendship Centre are always on. Outreach workers see clients through the day and help those who are struggling with issues such as poverty, abuse, addiction and homelessness.

Carriere also promotes reconciliation and cultural awareness.

“I think if a lot more people in our community learned the history of Indigenous people in Canada, it would give them more empathy for Indigenous people of why and where they are. And the people who enjoyed white privilege need to be the people who create the change.”

Carriere sits on the board of the Prince Albert Police Commission, the Community Advisory Board for Homelessness, the Native Coordinating Council, Prince Albert Community Housing, Prince Albert Indigenous Coalition, Advisory Board for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman, and is the president of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres.

“I want to make people think a little bit more about how their decisions affect people as a whole and those who are really struggling in life,” Carriere said.

Carriere’s kindness in the community and advocacy efforts will be celebrated at the Citizen of the Year banquet held later on this winter.