Mayor Jim Watson and Ward Councillor Doug Thompson today presented the Mayor’s City Builder Award to Mark O’Neill for his outstanding community service and public advocacy leading to the implementation of the 911 universal emergency phone number, the advanced-care paramedic system and the adoption of mandatory CPR training in local schools.
June 22, 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of 911 service in Ottawa and the National Capital Region. Before that date, residents had to navigate a total of 27 emergency numbers.

In 1984, as a 21-year-old political science student at Carleton University and community activist, Mark O’Neill joined Ottawa General Hospital doctor Justin Maloney, his brother Mark, and Geri Migicovsky to form Action 911, a grassroots organization with one goal: to convince local leaders to establish a 911 system for the capital region.

The group rallied public support over the next four years and, on June 22, 1988, the 911 system took its first call. In 2012, the 911 call centre answered 290, 976 emergency requests for service.

In 1993, Mr. O’Neill again helped found a public advocacy campaign called Action Paramedic, aimed at lobbying the Ontario Ministry of Health to upgrade the skills of all ambulance attendants to advanced-care paramedics, which would bring hospital-level care to the site of emergencies and save more lives.

One of the members of Action Paramedic was then-Ottawa South MPP Dalton McGuinty. Five years ago, as premier of Ontario, he spoke about the success of Action Paramedic:

“It just speaks to the power of a community,” he said, adding that his experience with Action Paramedic informed the province’s decision to put CPR training into high schools in 1994 and the new pilot program in Ottawa to put defibrillators into schools. “All of that started because of our community-based experience in Ottawa.”

Paramedics were made the norm in Ottawa in 1994 following a study, which led to paramedics being approved not only for Ottawa, but 12 other municipalities in Ontario.

A CPR project inspired the Ontario government in 1999 to make CPR part of the province-wide curriculum.

Mr. O’Neill has said he never forgot the lessons he learned from his work with Action 911 and Action Paramedic: “If you have the right issue, a small group of concerned citizens really can have a huge impact.”

Today, Mr. O’Neill is President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, which includes the Canadian War Museum.

Throughout his professional career, Mr. O’Neill has been an enthusiastic and dedicated community volunteer. He is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa, and has been the Secretary-Treasurer of the Club since 2011. He has been actively engaged in his parish, St. John the Evangelist in Osgoode, since 1998.

In 2012, he received the Diamond Jubilee Medal for his commitment to the Friends of the Canadian War Museum.