City awards recognize achievements and mark anniversary of human rights charter
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Friends, families and colleagues gathered this evening to honour 10 award recipients at Toronto’s annual Human Rights Awards ceremony. The ceremony marks Human Rights Day, December 10, and celebrates the efforts of three organizations and seven individuals to advance human rights in Toronto.
“I'm proud that Toronto is at the forefront of social change - and it's important that we celebrate how far we've come,” said Toronto Mayor David Miller. “But we must never lose sight of, or become complacent about injustice, oppression or inequality.”
Mayor Miller was joined by Councillors Janet Davis (Ward 31 Beaches-East York), Paula Fletcher (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth), Pam McConnell (Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale), Kyle Rae (Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale) and Gord Perks (Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park) to make presentations to community activists for their human rights volunteer work. In one of her first appearances as Toronto’s new Poet Laureate, Dionne Brand paid tribute to the recipients for their efforts.
Seven residents and three organizations received awards. Their work is contributing to the elimination of violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, homelessness, hate crimes, hunger, poverty and illiteracy in Toronto. The 2009 recipients of the Access, Equity and Human Rights Awards are:
- Aboriginal Affairs Award: Kimberly Murray
- Access Award for Disability Issues: John Rae, Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre, Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment
- Constance E. Hamilton Award on the Status of Women: Ann Buller, Sonja Greckol
- Pride Award for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Two Spirited Issues: John Campey
- William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations: Adrienne Shadd, Paul Nguyen, Scadding Court Community Centre
Biographies of the recipients can be found on the City’s website at http://www.toronto.ca/civicawards/2009winners.htm.
(The biographies are also provided below.)
Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.
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Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, Manager, Diversity Management and Community Engagement,
City Manager’s Office, 416-392-6824, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Clark, Strategic Communications, 416-392-7542, email@example.com
Profiles of the award recipients
Kimberly Murray- Aboriginal Affairs Award
Kimberly is a member of the Kanesatake Mohawk Nation and a lawyer. Since attending Osgoode Hall Law School and being called to the Ontario bar in 1995, she has worked at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST).
Her human rights practice is largely focused on protecting the rights of Aboriginal people who have been detained by the police and/or incarcerated in provincial or federal jails. She has appeared before the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Since being called to the bar, Kimberly served as counsel or co-counsel on 14 Coroner’s Inquests. On behalf of the ALST, she was the instructing counsel at the Ipperwash Inquiry (from 2004 to 2006), counsel at the Goudge Inquiry (from 2007 to 2008) and the Frank Paul Inquiry (from 2007 to 2008) in British Columbia.
Kimberly is the mother of two daughters. She is an Adjunct Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, where she co-facilitates the Aboriginal Land Resource and Government intensive program. Previously, she was an Adjunct Professor at Ryerson University, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, where her research looked at Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Bichmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre - Access Award
Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre (BBNC) is a multi-service, charitable organization that offers wellness, social and learning programs to a diverse population, including infants, children, youth, adults and seniors. Its mission is to provide programs and supports and foster social inclusion, with a focus on individuals that face a barrier to service.
The centre has a history of advancing access and social inclusion for community members with physical or intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries or illness-related conditions. Through a program called Active and Able Programs, it has worked with community partners to expand wellness, leadership and civic participation among persons with disabilities, serving over 400 people annually. Among its offerings are social and wellness programs, accessible youth services, workshops, support groups, advocacy, outreach, and community consultations.
To reduce barriers and foster integration, the centre has a strong inclusion policy that provides people with different abilities a “right of access” to the centre’s mainstream activities. This means that community members who may have MS or paraplegia, or who are stroke survivors, commonly participate in the many wellness and leisure programs alongside the non-disabled, with program staff providing integration supports. BBNC also offers affordable adapted programs such as Chair Tai Chi and staff-assisted aquatic programs that improve health outcomes for over 120 people with disabilities.
BBNC advocates with diverse stakeholders for disability rights, and for the right of persons with lived experience to share in the leadership of initiatives that affect them. Through engagement in forums, consultations and project steering groups, people with disabilities and their allies are at the forefront of the centre’s work to help build an inclusive, equitable society.
Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT) - Access Award
Formed in 1999, the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT) is a coalition of more than 40 Ontario-based organizations as well as individuals with HIV/AIDS. The group’s mission has been to improve the treatment and access to services for marginalized people with HIV/AIDS (PHAs). Working co-operatively with people in the health, legal, settlement and HIV/AIDS sectors, CAAT has been at the forefront of education, research, service co-ordination and advocacy on issues related to HIV/AIDS, immigration and access.
Over the years, CAAT has conducted community based research, hosted skill development forums, coordinated community planning sessions, and conducted in-depth policy analysis on issues affecting immigrant, refugee and non-status PHAs. Through its innovative community action research, CAAT brought together many stakeholders to create a compassionate drug access program for people with HIV/AIDS without drug coverage and developed a training module on HIV and Immigration issues and service access skills. More recently, CAAT has completed another research project to explore ways to improve mental health services for immigrant and refugee PHAs. This has resulted in a number of new initiatives working towards PHA empowerment - the newly-funded Legacy Project, which provides structured mentorship support to facilitate PHA learning, practice and leadership; as well as a community engagement strategy to mobilize ethno-racial leaders to combat HIV related stigma and discrimination.
John Rae - Access Award
John Rae has spent a lifetime effecting change by taking up issues that have been relevant to persons who are disabled and specifically who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted. His courage to improve the lives of others has been an asset to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC). His dedication to these causes has, in turn, benefited everyone in Toronto.
John’s work on issues such as making municipal elections more accessible, expanding access to print information in multiple formats, fighting poverty, and promoting an improved climate of social justice has profoundly helped the causes of persons with disabilities.
From 2002 to 2007, Mr. Rae served as the President of the AEBC. In 2003, the AEBC appointed John as their representative to the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD). He currently serves as 1st Vice Chair and member of the Social Policy Committee of this national, cross-disability coalition, and previously served as CCD’s treasurer.
He has served on many boards of directors, and was a co-founder of the Canadian Legal Advocacy Information and Research Association of the Disabled (CLAIR). He served as its President from 1995 to 1998.
He is a former editor-in-chief of the Canadian Blind Monitor (one of the publications of the AEBC), as well as a former board member of the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies. Between 2002 and 2006, he participated in consultations that informed the Government of Canada’s position on the development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Though known most as a disability rights activist, John prefers to call himself first and foremost a human rights activist.
John Campey - Pride Award
John’s work on behalf of the queer community dates back over 25 years. In 1987, he was the first out gay candidate nominated by a major political party in an Ontario provincial election.
At the Toronto Board of Education, first as a trustee’s assistant (1985 to 1990), and then as a trustee (1991 to 1996), he was instrumental in transforming the Board’s attitudes and policies around homophobia and heterosexism.
As trustee, he won approval of the Board’s first resource document challenging homophobia (“Sexual Orientation: Homosexuality, Lesbianism, and Homophobia”), and the repeal of policies banning "queer speakers" in schools. He was a strong supporter of strengthening the Human Sexuality Program (which offers counselling to queer youth and their families).
In 1992, he inaugurated an official Board Consultative Committee on the Education of Gay and Lesbian Students. Building on the results of the committee’s work, he facilitated the establishment of the Triangle Program, Canada’s only public school program dedicated to meeting the needs of queer youth. Today, the Triangle Program has more than forty students and three full time teachers. John continues to sit on the program’s community council.
The strong foundation represented by these programs and policies within the public school system served as a foundation and template for anti-homophobia and anti-racist efforts in schools across Toronto, and have been a model for other school jurisdictions across the country.
Ann Buller - Constance E. Hamilton Award on the Status of Women
Ann Buller is currently the President and CEO of Centennial College. Throughout her career, Ann has focussed on empowering girls and women, helping them to transform their ideals into actions and showing them by example that they can achieve goals well beyond what they may have imagined. At Centennial College, she established a Women in Skilled Trades Office and introduced the Women’s Skilled Trade Opportunities Program, which has helped 25 women take the first steps to become automotive service apprentices.
She is a founding faculty member of the National Executive Leadership Institute, through which she mentors and promotes women in leadership and teaches and supports the next generation of college presidents with a focus on the implications of gender.
She holds positions on several influential committees and boards, including the board of trade. In June 2005, she chaired the Governing Toronto Panel that advised the City of Toronto on how to restructure governmental powers. In February 2009, she was appointed co-chair of Invest Toronto.
Ann Buller promotes an expansive vision of diversity, equity and inclusion and seeks out students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. She established the Signature Learning Experience (SLE), an innovative learning experience which is focussed on diversity, social justice and global citizenship.
Sonja Greckol - Constance E. Hamilton Award on the Status of Women
For nearly four decades, Sonja Greckol has been in the forefront on equity issues and gender studies. She has lent her considerable intellectual abilities to the development of policies and programs relating to equity issues.
Sonja was a member of the City of Toronto’s Task Force on Community Access and Equity, and a member of the City’s Status of Women Committee between 2001 and 2003. She has continued her work at the municipal level through the Toronto Women’s City Alliance.
In her professional life, Sonja Greckol developed the first employment equity models used for setting goals and timetables at the City of Toronto during the 1980’s and also prepared technical manuals on the implementation of equity programs. She has also undertaken work on human rights complaint systems, and pay equity. She has provided research expertise and data analysis to many organizations across Toronto and the province of Ontario.
Her body of work has influenced change and has improved the lives of women and girls across the city, the province and beyond. She acts as a mentor and guide to young women and has dedicated all her efforts to making the city and the world one that is free from discrimination.
More recently Sonja has begun to apply her talents to the creative arts and recently published a highly acclaimed book of poetry, “Gravity Matters.” She is also the Poetry Editor for Women and Environments International Magazine.
Scadding Court Community Centre - Hubbard Award for Race Relations
Scadding Court Community Centre (SCCC) is a multi-service community centre with a long history of innovation and leadership in race relations. The agency’s long-time focus on race relations intensified in 2002, when, in response to local tensions, it brought together 13 local stakeholders to form the Alexandra Park Community Race Relations Taskteam to promote positive race relations. Along with an awards program and a children’s poster contest and campaign, the task team identified systemic issues at play locally. This inspired the development of projects that continue to have a public and positive impact on race relations, both locally and across the city.
At Scadding Court, race relations and other social issues are dealt with in two ways. Specific and targeted projects, programs and events tackle issues of race relations head on. Other programs use recreation, education and social programming to create inclusive environments and opportunities which provide safe spaces for dialogue and mutual understanding.
In response to tensions between local youth and police, again, the SCCC tackled the issue head-on. The Community Education & Access to Police Complaints (CEAPC) project made the complaints system more accessible. Partnering with 39 other agencies across Toronto, the service combines public education with support for complainants.
Other programs that promote the elimination of inequity and racism include sending youth to work with marginalized communities in other countries, summer camps that emphasize the integration of newcomers and children with disabilities, and work with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for equity-related change.
Adrienne Shadd - Hubbard Award for Race Relations
Adrienne Shadd has been a major contributor to Toronto in the field of race relations for more than two decades. Her work as a curator and historian of numerous exhibits in Toronto, Hamilton, Chatham, and Dresden has been noteworthy and her record of leadership in heritage research and preservation is exemplary. Her record in African Canadian arts organizations has also been fulfilling and contributory to many important projects.
With Afua Cooper and Karolyn Smardz Frost, Adrienne co-authored The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto, the only book ever published on Toronto’s Black history. From 2000 to 2004, Ms. Shadd, Drs. Cooper and Smardz Frost again collaborated on a research project for Parks Canada’s landmark exhibit, the Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Freedom, which launched at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Over the last 15 years, Adrienne has co-authored and co-edited four books on Black History and race, ethnicity and language. In 2010, her book Journey from Tollgate to Parkway: African Canadians in Hamilton will be published by Dundurn Press.
She has received awards and grants from the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada, and the Ontario Heritage Foundation.
Paul Nguyen - Hubbard Award for Race Relations
Paul Nguyen has served as an inspirational role model to racialized and marginalized youth across Canada. In (2004), Paul created the inspirational website Jane-Finch.com, which provides a strong voice to residents within the community in response to racial discrimination in the broader community. The website is a virtual hub of community resources, history, art, youth forums and local news. The website has broken down myths and stereotypes about minority youth groups and was one of the first to pioneer the internet youth engagement model. Many other organizations have studied his website as a successful model for youth engagement - well before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter became the mainstream.
Paul’s work has raised awareness about youth issues and poverty, as well as break down racial stereotypes in vulnerable communities. He has given numerous lectures, engaged the community and used the power of the internet and social media to create a bridge where racialized communities can connect with the outside world and vice versa.
In recent years, he has served as a co-producer for several television documentaries that address issues concerning the Jane-Finch area. He has worked on The Fifth Estate documentary Lost in the Struggle, as well as Global’s upcoming Fear of the Gun. His latest endeavour involves convincing Rogers Community Television to do a live, on-location to promote the Jane-Finch community and its history.