The late Joanna Miller is the 2016 recipient of the Meewasin Conservation Award which is presented annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the heritage resources of the Meewasin Valley.
Known for her work with UNICEF and the Peace Movement, Joanna Miller is less well known for a piece of activism which has had a lasting impact on Saskatoon and has helped change the City of Saskatoon’s relationship with its South Saskatchewan River; that is, the creation of the Meewasin Valley Authority.
Born May 18, 1926 in Vancouver, Joanna Miller grew up on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. She moved to Vancouver for high school and on to the University of British Columbia where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. While at university, Joanna met her husband Len. They were wed in 1949, moving to Saskatoon in 1961 where Len became the chair of the philosophy department of the University of Saskatchewan.
Joanna had a passion to help other people and to make the world a better place. In 1974, the threat of private development along Saskatoon’s riverbank prompted concern by citizens. The Saskatchewan Environmental Society campaigned to protect the riverbank area between the weir and what is now Meewasin Park. Private citizens led by Joanna Miller organized a petition. It all resulted in a public hearing with the City of Saskatoon were it was made clear that the public was unwilling to allow development along the river inhibiting public access to the river valley.
On September 23, 1974, Saskatoon City Council passed a motion asking the Government of Saskatchewan to enter into an agreement with Saskatoon similar to its agreement with Regina for Wascana Centre that would bring university, provincial and city lands under one management body. It took a few years and much planning; however, May 5, 1979 the Meewasin Valley Authority Act was passed by the Government of Saskatchewan, all possible because of the activism and leadership of private citizens represented today by Joanna Miller.