Former prime minister Paul Martin participates in Rotary Club of Lantzville’s Zoom meeting Thursday, June 16. (Photo submitted)

Former prime minister calls in to Vancouver Island Rotary club’s Zoom meeting

Paul Martin talks indigenous education with Lantzville service club members

It’s something out of the ordinary for Rotary club members to be addressing someone as “right honourable” at one of their meetings.

But that happened earlier this month, as former prime minister Paul Martin called in to the Rotary Club of Lantzville’s weekly Zoom meeting.

The former PM talked about his charity, the Martin Family Initiative, and its efforts to improve educational outcomes for indigenous elementary and high school students through supporting targeted programs.

Michael Ribicic, a Lantzville Rotarian, arranged for the special guest after it occurred to him that speakers might have greater availability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the first few weeks [of the pandemic] we were still adapting and didn’t even really have speakers, but then we started to try to make our weekly meetings as regular and normal as possible,” Ribicic said.

When the club got word that the former PM would indeed be calling in, Rotary of Lantzville invited neighbouring Rotary members to participate, and Rotarians from Nanaimo, Nanaimo Daybreak and Nanaimo North clubs were also part of the call.

Ribicic said Martin spoke at length about his charitable initiative, and also talked about his childhood experience contracting polio, as Rotary International has been working for more than 30 years to eradicate the disease worldwide.

“He seems to be a very nice individual and was not in a rush at all, he was willing to answer all the questions at the end…” Ribicic said. “He seemed genuinely happy to be speaking with us that morning.”

Ribicic said the club has stayed active during the pandemic. All meetings have been online, but there have been some opportunities for service work, including volunteering with the 7-10 Club and Nanaimo Foodshare and cleaning up the E&N Trail and Lantzville’s Rotary Park.

“We have done several things in person, but in an appropriate, distanced-type way,” he said.

For more information about the Rotary Club of Lantzville, click here.

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