2019 Human Rights Award
During a ceremony at Government House in St. John’s, the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission presented the 2019 Human Rights Award to
Jessie Lawrence, 2SLGBTQ+ Advocate and Youth Activist.
Growing up in a small town in Newfoundland and Labrador, Jessie has seen how a community can shape youth. At 14 years old, she decided to ensure that the community shaping was to be a positive one. Jessie became the Co-Founder and Director of Camp Ohana, which is an innovative 2SLGBTQ+ focused summer camp, by youth for youth. At camp, there are no wait times for counselors, no hatred, simply education and inclusion. Jessie strives to further acceptance in schools and promote the need for effective action against the discrimination of diverse individuals. Jessie is also part of the vibrant francophone community and holds the position of Vice President of Franco Jeunes de Terre-Neuve et Labrador, leading the way for accessible resources among the francophone community and people of French expression.
Bridget Foster was named Human Rights Champion. The Human Rights Commission grants this recognition to someone who has made a meaningful, lifelong contribution to human rights in Newfoundland and Labrador. The recipient is generally chosen by members of the selection committee.
Bridget was awarded the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2014 for over 30 years of service in the immigration/settlement sector. Her accomplishments include receipt of the Paul Yuzyk Lifetime Achievement Award for Multiculturalism in 2012, as well as Her Majesty’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals in 2004 and 2012. Bridget has been involved with the Canadian Council for Refugees, the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women and the RCMP Race Relations Committee. She was also the driving force behind the formation of the Atlantic Region Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies and the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance. Furthermore, she championed bringing the Metropolis project to the Atlantic region, a project that played an important role in supporting research that sought to inform government decision-making on immigration policy. Bridget began her work in the area of immigration as a volunteer with the Friends of Refugees, the forerunner of the current organization the Association for New Canadians (ANC). On the photo from left: Jessie Lawrence, Toby Rabinowitz, Howard Foote, Bridget Foster
2018 Human Rights Award
The 2018 Human Rights Award winner was Kim White. Kim was born and raised in the rural community of Twillingate, but currently lives in St. John’s. At age three, she acquired a disability due to a spinal cord tumour. Experiencing life with a disability has definitely fed her desire to help create a “just world” but she also credits her parents’ passing along a strong sense of altruism and compassion. Educated at Memorial University with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education, Kim fulfilled a life-long dream to become a teacher. Fate intervened and led Kim on a career journey that was definitely engrained in justice, but was outside her original vision of being “a traditional classroom teacher”. Kim’s life’s work has been mainly in the non-profit sector focusing on adult education, employment and career services, poverty reduction, and community development. Kim is the former Executive Director of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities. While with the Coalition, Kim’s work focused heavily on education and awareness; leading task forces, developing resources and facilitating info sessions and workshops for projects such as Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities, Inclusive Electoral Processes and Inclusive Customer Service.
Kim is also passionate about making change through volunteering. Kim’s past volunteer work has ranged from being a Sparks and Brownie Leader to holding various positions with literacy organizations/ committees (including the PGI Golf Tournaments for Literacy) to being Chair of the provincial government’s Buildings Accessibility Advisory Board. Kim currently sits on the board of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as well as being Chair of Power Productions which is a new non-profit focused on making the performing arts more inclusive and accessible.
Kim has used every available platform – at work and in her personal life – to “teach” people how to shift the way they think about accessibility. Kim’s message is that all existing barriers we face in society have been created and they can be removed and prevented if people choose to remove and prevent them; if people choose to change their attitudes, if they choose to work together and if they truly understand that in doing so, they are choosing to make the world better for themselves and everyone.
Anastasia Qupee and Joanne Thompson were named Human Rights Champions
Anastasia Qupee is a role model in her community. An Innu from Sheshatshiu, Labrador, she was the first female chief of her First Nation, serving two terms from 2004 until 2010, and the first female Grand Chief of Innu Nation from 2014 to 2017. She is a mother of three and a grandmother of two. She is the Chair of the board of the Charles J. Andrew Youth Treatment Centre, and a board member of the Labrador Wellness Centre. She has previously served as board member of Labrador Grenfell Regional Authority and Innu Nation. A strong advocate of healthy living, she always makes a point of doing things to take care of herself to avoid illness and to provide a good balance between work and home life. She is currently working as Social Health Director for Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation.
Joanne Thompson is the Executive Director of The Gathering Place: a non-profit, street level, community service centre that provides a primary health care collaborative to persons who are homeless or precariously housed, through health and social supports in an inclusive, low barrier setting. Joanne has been involved with TGP for over13 years as a volunteer, board member and volunteer Registered Nurse. She has assisted to engage multidisciplinary professionals and agencies within a collaborative primary health initiative. Joanne has championed for the most marginalized, the invisible homeless, with our society.
2017 Human Rights Award
The 2017 Human Rights Award winner was Susan Rose. Susan is a former teacher, current National Vice-President of EGALE Human Rights Trust, and lifelong advocate for LGBTQ2S rights, protections, and visibility in education and beyond. At a time when it was not popular or safe to do so, she pushed for changes in the school environment and curriculum. She developed workshops, helped organize gay-straight alliances, facilitated research on homophobia and transphobia in education, and was a personal support to countless families and educators. Beyond the classroom, Susan dedicated her own time and resources to improving the lives of LGBTQ2S people across the island.
This year two people were also named Human Rights Champions.
Dr. Lloydetta Quaicoe is founder and CEO of Sharing Our Cultures, an organization that encourages intercultural communications between students. Dr. Pauline Duke is an award-winning physician, educator and advocate for refugee healthcare.
2016 Human Rights Award
The 2016 Human Rights Award was presented to Mark Gruchy, a St. John’s lawyer who is a vocal advocate for those with mental health issues and for better public services. In addition to extensive professional and community experience in promoting mental health, Mark also has lived experiences of mental illness and has frequently spoken publicly about his journey.
Gemma Hickey was named the 2016 Human Rights Champion. Gemma is a widely known St. John’s-based activist and up-and-coming poet. Gemma has championed many causes but is best known for co-leading the movement that legalized same-sex marriage and more recently, for walking across the island portion of the province in support of survivors of clergy abuse.
2015 Human Rights Award
The inaugural NL Human Rights Award was held on December 10th, 2015 at Government House in St. John’s
The recipient was Sister Margie Taylor, a dedicated human rights advocate who has worked with female prison inmates to assist them in transitioning to permanent housing and employment. Sister Margie has also worked with newcomers, including refugees and immigrants, and has served on a number of committees, including the Newfoundland and Labrador Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and international organizations dedicated to human rights and social justice.
Mr. Calvin White was named a “Human Rights Champion” at the December ceremony. This recognition is granted to someone who has made a meaningful, lifelong contribution to human rights in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the recipient is generally chosen by members of the Selection Committee. Mr. White has advocated for the rights of Mi’kmaq people of this province since the 1960s and has made a lifelong commitment to social justice causes. He is a recipient of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. Remzi Cej, Chair of the Commission, attended the 10th Annual Bay St. George Mi’kmaq Powow with the Honourable Frank Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, to present Mr. White with the Champion Certificate on July 9, 2016.