Remembering a community advocate and outspoken champion for justice
Courtney Bragg (BA’13) always looked up to her big sister Meghan Bragg (BScHP’09). Five months after Meghan’s passing, Courtney finds comfort in Meghan’s daughter’s presence, and in the legacy of community service Meghan created.
By Courtney Bragg
When I graduated from Dalhousie with a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) a few years after my sister, Meghan, our mother requested graduation photos. A very reasonable request, but one that we (mostly me) couldn’t pull together. Last year, Meghan had a great idea — let’s get the grad photos as a gift to our mom for the holidays.
On Dec. 25, 2022, our mother, Cathy, opened up the wrapped frames with tears of joy. Her girls, decked out in their Dalhousie graduation robes and sashes, looked back at her.
We didn’t realize that would be our last Christmas together. Meghan was diagnosed with cancer in June 2023. It progressed rapidly. Her illness was swift and terrible. She was strong, funny and practical throughout — in very typical Meghan fashion. She explored every treatment option and was ready to fight however possible. It was just too late.
My best friend
I think we all look up to our older siblings. They have the best taste in music, great style, cool friends. We spend our lives trying to emulate our big sister or big brother while undoubtedly annoying them each step of the way.
Growing up with my older sister, Meghan, this was absolutely the case. I wanted to spend all my time with her. She was smart, funny and kind. She was my best friend.
When she was moving away to attend Dalhousie University, I was heartbroken. I knew a big and exciting life was out there, and that Meghan was destined for incredible things. Nonetheless, I would miss her.
Meghan moved into Risley Hall, having a great time as she started her post-secondary journey in Halifax.
Welcoming daughter Arley
The stakes became much higher in 2007. Meghan became a mother at the age of 21, welcoming her amazing daughter, Arley, into our world. As challenging as young motherhood was, Meghan felt completing her studies would be essential to shaping the life she wanted for her and her daughter.
Six weeks after Arley was born, Meghan went back to class. With renewed determination and the support of her family, friends, professors and peers, she dove into the work in her Bachelor of Health Promotion program and excelled. Her graduation, with Arley in her arms, was such a joyful moment in our family.
Meghan set up roots in Pictou County and got to work. Over the next decade, she forged friendships and partnerships with colleagues and community members. She put her health promotion education to work in programming to build healthy and happy communities in her area. She stepped into an unknown world of running a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Truro, once again excelling in a new role and challenge.
Meghan enters politics as a true advocate
In 2020, my sister was approached to run for office in the Town of Westville, N.S. Meghan jumped into
action and built an incredible campaign. She knocked on every door and connected with her community in a genuine way. Meghan won the most votes, becoming a councillor and deputy mayor at age 35.
Meghan’s work in her community was transformative. She brought equity and inclusion to the forefront of discussions and meetings. She fought for accessibility. She challenged her fellow councillors to think differently. She was a true advocate, never afraid to speak up against the unjust.
Creating “Meghan’s Place”
Prior to her passing, she asked that if any donations were made in her memory (we assured her there would be many) that the funds go toward building a fully accessible recreation space in her community of Westville. She was told by Westville Mayor, Lennie White, that this money will be raised, the park will be built, and it will be named “Meghan’s Place”. This fund, with local fundraisers, individual and corporate donations, has now raised close to $100,000.
Meghan was incredibly touched by the idea that she could leave a legacy in her community. If she had only known the outpouring of kindness and support that has come forward in her memory. Countless stories tell of her action and resilience, and the way she has inspired others. As a former colleague told CBC News, “…we’ll hold Meghan in our heart when we’re nervous to speak up or speak out about something that we see that’s wrong or unjust — it’s the only way we’ll change things.”
Meghan’s voice will be with me, and so many others, every day — inspiring us to help others, challenging us to break down barriers, and doing whatever we can to lift each other up. Arley, who now lives with me and aspires to study at Dalhousie like her mom and aunt before her, reminds me every day of her indomitable spirit.
I continue to look up to my sister even as she’s no longer with us. As it turns out, many others do as well, and want her hard work and strong character to be remembered and celebrated — just as her family does. This Christmas, I’ll look at the graduation photos we gave to my mom a year ago, thankful that Meghan suggested we finally get the pictures taken, and grateful for every moment we shared together.