Parliament Hill crowd attends male-driven benefit in support of ovarian cancer research

Nearly 3,000 Canadian women to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, with less than half surviving five years
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From left, Bobby Sutherland, executive director of government affairs at Innovative Medicines Canada, George Wamala, director of regulatory and government affairs for RBC and Greg MacEachern, senior vice president of government relations at Proof Strategies, were the driving force behind a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held Thursday, January 23, 2020, at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Okay, there's three men in a pub, all of them government affairs professionals.

It sounds like the beginning of a cliché bar joke, but there was nothing funny about it when the trio got together last November at the Métropolitain Brasserie, a popular Ottawa watering hole and political hangout on Sussex Drive.

They were discussing the recent loss of Greg MacEachern’s sister from ovarian cancer. The conversation led to them wanting to organize a charity event, one that would support research into finding a cure for one of the most deadly female cancers around.

What emerged from the three-blokes-at-a-bar night was a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada held this past Thursday. It took place, by no coincidence, at the Métropolitain Brasserie, commonly known as the Met.

The benefit also brought the Parliament Hill community together to socialize, before the House of Commons resumes sitting next week. 

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From left, former television journalist Tom Clark, chair of Global Public Affairs, with his wife, Jane, along with their son-in-law, Jarett Lalonde, policy advisory with Shopify, at the Métropolitain Brasserie on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, for a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada. Photo by Caroline Philliper
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From left, John Paul Tasker, a reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa, with Liam Daly, manager of public affairs at the Canadian Construction Association, at the Métropolitain Brasserie on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, during a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada. Photo by Caroline Philliper
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From left, Mary Anne Carter, senior consultant at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, holds up the donated cake that she won, while joined by Sarah Chown, managing partner of the Métropolitain Brasserie, at a fundraiser held there on Thursday, January 23, 2020, for Ovarian Cancer Canada. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Hill+Knowlton Strategies vice president and group leader John Delacourt with Greg MacNeil, who also works in government relations, at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips

MacEachern, who originally hails from the Cape Breton town of Port Hawkesbury, is the senior vice president of government relations at Proof Strategies. He used to work for former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

His sister, Andrea, passed away Oct. 23rd in Halifax at age 58. She had been a long-time employee of the Royal Bank of Canada and also voluntarily raised money for Ovarian Cancer Canada during her five-year battle with the disease.

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Tara Frotten, community engagement and events manager for Ovarian Cancer Canada, with charity event co-organizer Greg MacEachern at the She Was Right There: A Fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Research, held in Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Back for a moment to that November night when MacEachern raised a drink to his sister’s memory. He was joined by Bobby Sutherland, executive director of government affairs at Innovative Medicines Canada, and George Wamala, director of regulatory and government affairs for RBC.

Wamala lost his mother, Florence, 52, to ovarian cancer in 2001. 

“When we were here talking about ovarian cancer and my mother and Greg’s sister, it just made sense to do this,” said Wamala, who has a history of giving back to the community. “We thought it was a great way to honour our loved ones and, hopefully, help other women in the future. That’s how it all came about.”

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Event  co-organizer George Wamala, director of regulatory and government affairs for RBC, with Amanda Bell, vice-president of regulatory and government affairs for RBC, at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.

The benefit was called She Was Right There. That's because, despite all of Andrea’s aggressive cancer treatment, the disease kept finding ways to come back. Her death snuck up so quickly that, when it was all over, it was hard to believe she was gone, MacEachern explained.

The benefit received financial support from RBC, as well as a generous donation from Innovative Medicines Canada. The national association represents more than 40 brand-name pharmaceutical companies that are doing research in Canada, and at the forefront of fighting diseases such as ovarian cancer, said Sutherland.

Sutherland grew up not far from MacEachern in another little Cape Breton town: Port Hood. He used to be chief of staff to former Nova Scotia health minister Chris d'Entremont, now the province’s lone Conservative MP. 

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Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, with Sheamus Murphy, vice president of federal advocacy for Counsel, at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips

While speeches were brief, the room did hear from Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Gudie Hutchings, parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality, and from Tara Frotten from Toronto-based Ovarian Cancer Canada.

Nearly 3,000 women are diagnosed in Canada each year with ovarian cancer. "Sadly, 55 per cent of those women will not live to see another five years," said Frotten.

Advocates scored a major victory last year when the federal government announced a $10-million investment for ovarian cancer research.

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Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Gudie Hutchings, parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality, at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Later in the evening, organizers drew names for prizes. As well, Air Canada donated for auction a pair of plane tickets. You could almost here the Hawaiian ukulele music playing softly in the background when interior decorator Kelly Mounce won the tickets, for $1,700. She plans to use them to visit The Aloha State.

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Government relations consultant Jim Patrick with Kelly Mounce, who was the highest bidder on a pair of donated Air Canada tickets, at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Stacey Noronha from spark*advocacy and Ashton Arsenault, a researcher with Crestview Strategy, at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Katy Craner, an associate with Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG), and Ian McCarter, a management consultant with Deloitte, at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Liberal MP Geoff Regan (Halifax West) with Sarah Chown, co-owner of the Métropolitain Brasserie, and her husband, Anthony Carricato at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Scott Simms (Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame) with his partner Nicole Waintraub at a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada, held at the Métropolitain Brasserie. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca