Myra Ava Freeman
Myra Freeman was the first Jew to be appointed lieutenant governor of a Canadian province and the first woman to hold the office in Nova Scotia. From 1970 to 2000, Freeman was an elementary teacher in the Halifax public schools, where she gained a reputation as a gifted and innovative educator. Serving as Lieutenant Governor from 2000 until 2006, Freeman made her mandate the redefinition and democratization of the largely ceremonial office. In 2003 she was named First Honorary Captain (Navy) of Maritime Forces Atlantic, Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces. She held this appointment until 2015, and in 2012 she was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for her distinguished service in this role. In 2008, Freeman was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.
Family and Education
The first Jew to be appointed lieutenant governor of a Canadian province and the first woman to hold the office in Nova Scotia, Myra Freeman was born in St. John, New Brunswick, as were her parents, Anne Golda (Freedman) Holtzman (1916–1986) and Harry Holtzman (1912–2004). Her mother was a homemaker and her father a businessman. Freeman left St. John when she enrolled in Dalhousie University (B.A., 1970, B.Ed., 1971) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the year of her graduation she married Lawrence Allan Freeman (b. 1949), a lawyer and native of Halifax. Freeman has one brother: Norman Holtzman (b. 1943), a businessman. She and her husband have three children: Daniel Marc (b. 1976), an investment banker, Jonathan David (b. 1979), a lawyer, and Debra Beth (b. 1981), an associate advertising account manager.
Teaching and Community Service
From 1970 to 2000, Freeman was an elementary teacher in the Halifax public schools, where she gained a reputation as a gifted and innovative educator. At the same time, she volunteered in a variety of public service agencies in the Jewish and general communities. She served on the Education Committee of Beth Israel Synagogue in Halifax and chaired the committee that oversaw the renovation of the congregation’s social hall; she chaired the UIA Partnership 2000 Committee in Atlantic Canada and the CRB Foundation Gift of Israel Program for Atlantic Canada, co-chaired the Small Communities Committee of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and served on the Congress national executive. (Her husband served two terms as president of the Atlantic Jewish Council.) She served on the boards of the Kidney Foundation and the Grace Maternity Hospital Foundation in Halifax, the Nova Scotia Division of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and the Nova Scotia Talent Trust Fund, and also as Festival Chair of the World Figure Skating Championships (1990) and chair of the G–7 Spousal Program, when that group met in Halifax in 1995.
Serving as Lieutenant Governor
In recognition of her leadership and accomplishments, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Freeman Lieutenant Governor in 2000, the thirtieth person to hold the post since Confederation in 1867. As Lieutenant Governor, Freeman made her mandate the redefinition and democratization of the largely ceremonial office. She opened Government House to more than 20,000 visitors a year, encouraged young people to take an active interest in Canadian heritage, volunteerism, and public service, established provincial Heritage Fairs for students in every school board across the province, and established new awards to encourage excellence in a number of fields: the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Arts Foundation and Master Award; the Lieutenant Governor’s Greenwing Award for Wetland Conservation; and, with the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union, the Lieutenant Governor’s Teaching Award. She also established the Lieutenant Governor’s [Annual] Symposium, the topic of which in 2004 was “Women and Leadership—Helping Nova Scotia Grow.” As lieutenant-governor, she was also the honorary patron of more than 90 not-for-profit organizations. Freeman served as Lieutenant Governor until 2006.
Jewish Community Involvement
Freeman is particularly notable for the high Jewish profile she maintained as lieutenant governor. In 2003, she was the main speaker at the annual Chabad dinner in Toronto and in 2004 she delivered the inaugural lecture of the “Women in Public and International Affairs” series at New York’s Yeshiva University. While she and her family were in residence in Government House, the kitchens were Term used for ritually untainted food according to the laws of Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws).kosher (kasher).
Honors and Awwards
In recognition of her vigorous leadership as lieutenant governor, Freeman has been granted honorary degrees from Mount Saint Vincent University (2004, Doctor of Humane Letters), Cape Breton University (2005, Doctor of Laws), Acadia University (2007, Doctor of Civil Laws), Saint Mary’s University (2007, Doctor of Civil Law), St Francis Xavier University (2008, Doctor of Laws), and Dalhousie University (2011, Doctor of Laws).
In 2001 Freeman was named Dame of Justice and National Vice-Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The next year she became the first recipient and Chancellor of the Order of Nova Scotia. Also in 2002, Freeman received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires Distinguished Service Medal, and the Royal Canadian Legion Seventy-fifth Anniversary Medal. In 2003 she was named First Honorary Captain (Navy) of Maritime Forces Atlantic, Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces. A year later, she was designated a “Trailblazer” and one of Canada’s Hundred Outstanding Women by the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario (London) and the Women’s Executive Network, and a recipient of the Women in Action Humanitarian Award of the Israel Cancer Research Foundation.
In 2008, Freeman was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. She held the appointment of Honorary Captain (Navy) to Maritime Forces Atlantic until 2015, and in 2012 she was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for her distinguished service in this role.
Since the end of her tenure, Freeman has continued to serve in an impressive array of capacities. She is chair of the community leadership advisory council to Maritime Forces Atlantic, national council chair of the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, and director of the Canadian Forces liaison council. Freeman also serves with Save the Children Canada and the chairperson’s advisory group to the Canadian Judicial Council. She is on the board of governors of Mount Saint Vincent University and served as adviser on the legacy committee of the 2011 Halifax Canada Games. Freeman wrote the foreword for the 2019 book by John Boileau, entitled Amazing Atlantic Canadian Kids.
“Amazing Atlantic Canadian Kids: Awesome Stories of Bravery and Adventure.” Atlantic Books, February 10, 2021, https://atlanticbooks.ca/books/amazing-atlantic-cdn-kids/#
Gindin, Matthew. “Myra Freeman: The First Female, and First Jewish, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.” The Canadian Jewish News, May 15, 2019, www.cjnews.com/perspectives/opinions/myra-freeman-first-female-first-je…
“Lieutenant Governors of the Province of Nova Scotia since Confederation.” Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, Province of Nova Scotia, October 2, 2020, https://lt.gov.ns.ca/history
“Myra Freeman: May 2011 Honorary Degree Recipient.” Dalhousie University, www.dal.ca/academics/convocation/spring_grads/history_traditions/honora…
Preyra, Leonard. "Myra A. Freeman." The Canadian Encyclopedia, March 4, 2015, Historica Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/myra-a-freeman