NL Government: Human Rights Commission Announce 2022 Human Rights Award Nominees
November 23, 2022
The following is being distributed at the request of the Human Rights Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador:
Today, the Human Rights Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the nominees for the 2022 Human Rights Awards. The annual awards recognize individuals who have made and/or continue to make meaningful contributions to advancing and furthering human rights in the province.
The Human Rights Commission does not nominate people. Instead, nominations come from people in the community who see the value in the great work individuals are doing.
The winner of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award will receive an original painting by Grenfell Visual Arts student, Jennifer Donaldson. Biographies of the nominees and artist can be found in the backgrounder below.
The 2022 Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award and Human Rights Champion recipients will be announced at a virtual ceremony at Government House on Thursday, December 8 via zoom at 3:00 p.m. The timing of the presentation coincides with International Human Rights Day.
To request a link to the ceremony, please email Hilary Hennessey at HilaryHennessey@gov.nl.ca
For more information on the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, please visit www.thinkhumanrights.ca.
You can also follow us on Twitter & Instagram @nlhumanrights
Hilary P. Hennessey
Public Relations Specialist
Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission
Biographies of the 2022 Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award Nominees
Andrea Augot (she/her) has worked with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, Newfoundland and Labrador for the past 11 years as the Coordinator of Client Services. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree and is a Certified Occupational Hearing Conservationist. Andrea also has first-hand experience as someone living with hearing loss and understands the daily challenges that hearing loss presents to people of all ages. To help break down barriers for members of the hard of hearing community, she provides support in finding hearing accessible solutions. As the Chair of the CHHA-NL Advocacy Committee, Andrea is passionate about equal access to services within private and public sectors for everyone.
Bernice Hancock (she/her) was born and grew up in Corner Brook, NL, in a large family of 9 children. In 1984 she moved to Stephenville to attend College, where, as a student of the Community Studies Program, she began her journey as a community activist and advocate for human rights. She met her spouse, a fellow student of the program, and together they raised their two sons who are now making their own contributions to improving the lives of others in the fields of teaching and family medicine. Throughout her career she has worked and volunteered for many organizations and agencies including the John Howard Society, Canadian Red Cross, College of the North Atlantic, Department of Justice Victim Services Branch, Bay St. George Status of Women Council, Violence Prevention Southwest, NL Association of Family Resource Programs, NL Housing and Homelessness Network, and has served on numerous committees and boards at the local, provincial, and national level.
Bernice currently works as the Executive Director of the Community Education Network for Southwestern Newfoundland, a collaborative, inclusive community-based organization committed to the provision of life-long learning opportunities through stakeholder engagement and the facilitation of a coordinated and flexible approach to service delivery based on identified needs. She has been with the organization for over 25 years, serving as Program Director for Early Years Initiatives for 19 years and as Executive Director for the past 7 years. For over 35 years she has volunteered with the Bay St. George Status of Women Council and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors, continuing her commitment to advancing gender equality throughout her adult life. She is a tireless advocate for human rights, working to ensure equitable access to services and the development and implementation of inclusive, diverse, and flexible programs, services, and supports for children, families, youth, and adults living in the southwestern region of the island and throughout the province.
Dr. Sulaimon Giwa (he/him) is an associate professor and Associate Dean of Social Work at Memorial University, as well as the endowed chair in criminology and criminal justice at St. Thomas University. Dr. Giwa’s professional experience as an interdisciplinary scholar-educator-activist includes research and policy work, anti-Black and anti-racist community and organizational change, and direct practice at the community and federal levels.
Dr. Giwa is a sought-after speaker and trainer on equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism (EDI-AR). Many individuals and organizations have benefited from and continue to benefit from his expertise in firmly embedding EDI-AR in organizational policies, structures, and cultures. Dr. Giwa, as a community builder, contributes to the advancement of human rights in the community in a variety of ways, including his work as co-chair of the City of St. John’s Inclusion Advisory Committee, chair of the City of St. John’s Anti-Racism Working Group, and key advisor in the development of Community Justice Connect.
Dr. Giwa’s research to support LGBTQ+ newcomers is helping to reshape the province’s settlement and integration landscape, toward the creation of positive spaces that are inclusive and welcoming of the LGBTQ+ newcomer population, while ensuring their access to services and programs that address their unique needs. Dr. Giwa has been a critical voice at public inquiries such as the Mass Casualty Commission, where he was invited to participate in a policy roundtable on community policing, safety, and wellbeing. In addition, the Independent Civilian Review of Missing Persons Investigations commissioned Dr. Giwa to investigate systemic bias in police investigations involving racialized 2SLGBTQIA+ people, following the murders of several gay men of colour in Toronto between 2010 and 2017.
Dr. Giwa is a member of the National Advisory Committee to Address Anti-Black Racism in Research and Research Training Programs for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC); a member of the African, Caribbean, and Black National Expert Working Group, Rapid Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 on STBBI Care and Prevention, Public Health Agency of Canada; and a member of the National Guideline Development Expert Advisory Committee for SOGIESC/LGBTQIA+ Newcomers and Refugees. Dr. Giwa is the author or coauthor of four books, all of which address EDI-AR and the human rights of marginalized groups both domestically and internationally.
Greg Parsons (he/him) is a 51-year-old firefighter, public speaker, mental health advocate, and a member of Canada’s wrongfully convicted. In 1991, Greg was falsely accused with the killing of his mother, Catherine Carroll, and was soon tried and convicted based on evidence that was primarily based on hearsay from the community. When developments in DNA technology found that it was not Greg, but an unknown person, he was then exonerated of all charges. From that day, he vowed to continue fighting for justice for his mother, and was given some sense of relief in 2003, when Brian Doyle was charged and sentenced to life for the killing of Catherine Carroll.
Despite the victory, Greg was changed by the events of the 90s, he saw how based on no evidence, a community could turn on one of their own. With numerous encounters of harassment by law enforcement based on a criminal incident he had zero involvement in. This has led to Greg developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in combination with his heavy involvement in emergency responses. He has taken it upon himself to help uplift the community again, by being a vocal advocate for Mental Health access across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
With all these hardships, Greg still wished to find a way to give back to his community. He found himself working in the fire department, where his co-workers became a family dedicated to uplifting and protecting our community. In 2021, Greg was awarded the Fire Fighter of the Year award, for his implementation of education over the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as his many years as a dedicated member of the St. John’s Regional Fire Department.
Today, Greg still continues the fight for justice within our system. He has recently featured on a special with CTV’s W5, to further the information of his case, and to advocate for fair sentencing within our justice system. He has participated in conferences with AIDWYC (Association in defense of the wrongfully convicted) as a guest speaker. He was also invited to address members of the RNC recruitment class as well as the Rotary club and more. His story has been featured in media outlets all over Canada. Greg was also approached by a United Kingdom production company and was featured in an International documentary.
He continues to work with his family in the Fire Department, while being a source of mentorship and expertise for all those around him.
Ijeoma Nicole Obiodiaka (she/her) is an anti-racism and Black inclusion activist. She was the first Black Student Representative on the NL Canadian Federation of Students Provincial Executive Committee. During her role as the President of the Black Student Association, she founded Newfoundland’s first-ever black-owned market. This gave black entrepreneurs access to financial and business capital resources that they did not have access to. Nicole continues her advocacy work by being a voice for underrepresented groups.
Jenn Deon (she/her), of settler background, has worked and volunteered in many capacities within the province since the early 90’s. A long-time community advocate and theatre arts practitioner, Jenn returned from attending the 2017 Women’s March in Washington DC with an idea to use the power of storytelling to help change hearts and minds to promote feminism. From this, the PerSIStence Theatre Company was founded and rapidly became a local change agent with a myriad of projects responding to and reflecting on issues relevant to woman and girls in the province.
Jenn was the lead conceptualizer behind the multi-faceted VOTES FOR WOMEN 100 project in 2021 that commemorated and reflected upon 100 years since women in St. John’s first achieved the right to vote in municipal elections. During this year, seven free Ladies Reading Room events were held, highlighting and unpacking the themes of Women and Politics; Women and Image; Women and Health Care; Women and Immigration; Women and Work; Women and Violence; and Women and Legacy.
In addition to leading that year’s activities overall, Jenn also directed a production of a new play, THE MIRROR, written by Trudy Morgan-Cole, that highlighted the contributions of Armine Nutting Gosling to the local suffrage movement.
An offshoot of the Votes for Women 100 year included work to realize the first statue to a named woman in the City of St. John’s, and in 2022 the ARMINE NUTTING GOSLING STATUE received a green light, to be erected in Bannerman Park in 2023. It will also be the first public statue designed under commission to a woman, Sheila Coultas.
Recently, Jenn oversaw the development and production of the province’s first professional play written and performed entirely by Indigenous women, with a local Indigenous theme. Supported by Jenn’s vision and leadership, STOLEN SISTERS, a story of the Beothuck, written by L’nu playwright Leahdawn Helena and performed by Inuk performer Deantha Edmonds, premiered in 2022 and will tour across Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland) and up-and-down communities of coastal Labrador in 2023.
Kimberly Churchill (she/her) and Todd Churchill (he/him) currently reside in Portugal Cove – St. Philip’s with their two sons, Hunter and Carter. They both have been very vocal advocates for the past six years for the rights of Deaf children, like their own son Carter, to receive an education equitable to that of hearing children, particularly in their first language, American Sign Language (ASL). The Churchill’s have raised awareness around the lack of support in place in mainstream schools to provide Deaf children full access to quality education and full social inclusion following the closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf (NSD) in August 2010. As a result of the extensive media coverage of the Churchills’ advocacy, their name has become synonymous with the pursuit of equitable education for Deaf children in Newfoundland and Labrador. Kimberly and Todd have been very active advocates engaging in countless media interviews to promote awareness of these issues as well as challenging policymakers within the provincial government and school district to make necessary changes.
As a support to other parents of Deaf children, the Churchills founded the non-profit organization Children’s Language Acquisition Support System Inc. This was to support families of deaf, hard of hearing, and non-orally speaking children. The Churchills lobbying efforts have seen many positive changes such as engaging the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate to initiate a province-wide investigation on the education of Deaf and hard of hearing students in NL. In June 2020, a publication of their findings in a report “The Sounds of Silence: Perspectives on the Education System’s Response to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children” detailed how Deaf children were not receiving an equitable education compared to hearing children.
Both Todd and Kimberly Churchill are past recipients of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association-NL President’s Club Award. In addition, Todd was awarded the Caring Canadian Award by His Excellency Governor General David Johnston after being nominated by Mr. Shoemaker’s Grade 6 class at Beachy Cove Elementary for his charitable work with “Reason for the Rink”. Todd has also received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from the Governor General’s office as well as the Senate 150 Medal for contributions to the community. Kimberly has been the recipient of many awards including the Canadian Diabetes Distinguished Dedication Award, Youth Volunteer Corps Role Model of the Year and Flare Volunteer of the Year.
Khadeja Raven Anderson (she/her) is a Trinidad and Tobago national, currently based in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador. She is passionate about advocacy, Black Liberation, and Healing. She focuses on Anti-Racism, Anti-Black Racism, with an emphasis on the ways in which race seems to intersect between power and perception. Raven has studied at St. Francois Girls’ College in Belmont and Sixth Form Government Polytechnic Institute; and at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus. There, she graduated with honours with a special bachelor’s degree in History. Raven moved to St. John’s in 2018, and graduated, with honours, with a bachelor’s degree in Education (Intermediate/Secondary) from Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Education remains a driving force of Raven’s life. Since graduating, Raven is an activist, current cofounder and co-president of Black Lives Matter NL, active member of the Anti-Racism Coalition NL, a Director of the board of Girls Rock NL and an anti-racism consultant at her agency, Ravensong Consulting NL. She is currently a producer at CBC Radio-Canada and a workplace DEI specialist at Women in Resource Development Corporation (WRDC).
Laurabel Mba (she/her) is a Communications, Marketing and Fund Development Specialist and a mom to a 3-year-old boy. She recognizes and has lived experiences of the disparities in society for BIPOC, marginalized and underrepresented communities. She lends her voice and leverages her experiences to bring their concerns and struggles to the decision-making table. She is one of the hosts of Rogers TV show “Out of the Fog.” Laurabel enjoys shining light on those working hard and smart to make Newfoundland and Labrador a more welcoming province as well as those striving to improve the lives of all who call it home.
As a member of the Anti-racism Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador, a member of both the St. John’s Status of Women Council and Happy City St. John’s. She works with a wide variety of like-minded individuals to improve the experiences of marginalized communities in our province. Her activist spirit became public after the murder of George Floyd. The unfortunate incident inspired her to write a series of poems focused on the black experience of fighting racism and prejudice.
Laurabel Mba is involved in numerous campaigns focused on advocacy on issues about 2slgbtq+ representation, inclusion and diversity in politics and mental health. She lives her life showing that the effects of barriers faced by marginalized communities is far-reaching and works tirelessly to deconstruct them systematically.
Leisha Toory (she/her) is an international undergraduate student at Memorial University, pursuing a major in Political Science with a concentration in Global Studies, a minor in French for Francophones and a Certificate in Public Policy with concentration in Governance.
She is the founder of the Period Priority Project which aims at fighting period poverty by making period products accessible to everyone who needs them. Within 6 months, over 12,500 menstrual products have been distributed across Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Prince Edward Island and Alberta.
Leisha has also partnered with the Prince of Wales Collegiate to host reusable cloth pads sewing workshop for students. In collaboration with the Social Justice Cooperative NL, Period Priority Project is also distributing 100 menstrual cups. 24 period underwear have also been distributed to students who expressed interest. 6 free menstrual products stations have also been set up in the gender inclusive washrooms at Memorial University to send the message that not all cisgender women menstruate and not all those who menstruate are cisgender women.
A Period Positivity Series is in the works which will feature radio interviews aimed at breaking the normalized culture of silence around menstruation and dismissing the gendered language when it comes to menstruation.
Michael Duffy (he/him) graduated from Holy Trinity High School in 1984. After that, he attended Memorial University of Newfoundland graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce (honours) as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1990. Following that he attended Dalhousie Law School graduating in 1993. He was called to the Bar for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1994 and has practiced law here since that year. He is a proud husband and father to three children, and has a deep connection to his community.
He has served on the volunteer Board of Directors with Easter Seals NL since 1994. He is currently the Provincial chair. Since 2004 he has also served the volunteer board of Easter Seals Canada and is currently the immediate Past Chair of the National Board. In 2010 he led a large team from the board of Easter Seals to Ottawa to successfully lobby for ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In 2011 he participated in a successful multinational effort to add Easter Seals Mexico to the group of Easter Seals organizations including Canada, the USA and Australia. In 2015 he led a group from Easter Seals Canada to Ottawa to consult with the Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities on creation of the Accessible Canada Act, bill c-81.
Michael is currently chair of the 100th-year anniversary committee organizing events in 2022 to mark the 100th year of Easter Seals in Canada.
Since 2018 Michael has been Chair of the Buildings Accessibility Appeal Board for NL. Recently, Michael has served as an Adjudicator with the NL Human Rights Commission and is also currently an Adjudicator on the Law Society of NL, Disciplinary Panel. Michael created and manages an affordable housing project in Torbay.
In 2013 Michael received the “Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal” in recognition of public service. Michael has served as President of the Cape St. Francis LDA and a member of the Board of the St John’s East LRA.
Matt Barter (he/him) is a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walking in nature, and volunteering in the community. Growing up, Matt lived in Burgeo, Deer Lake, and Conception Bay South.
Matt has made many efforts to meaningfully contribute in advancing and furthering human rights in the province. From the time he first arrived on campus seven years ago, Matt has worked to have an indelible positive impact on the community, working as a MUN Students’ Union Board member, a journalist, and a writer. He has advocated for the responsible use of public funds by the University and affordable, accessible education. Matt’s protesting and activism have put him at risk academically, emotionally, and financially. However, he continues to advocate for accessible education.
Matt currently resides in Torbay but spends most of his time in St. John’s. He runs an independent newspaper that champions student rights and has a focus on reporting the activities of Memorial’s administration. Matt is particularly critical of high administrative salaries and deteriorating infrastructure on campus. He has written over 100 articles. A fierce believer in giving back to the community, Matt continues to volunteer as an usher at the LSPU Hall.
St. John’s Status of Women’s Council (SJSWC) is a feminist organization that, since 1972, is continually working to achieve equality and justice through political activism, community collaboration and the creation of a safe and inclusive space for all women and non-binary people in the St. John’s area. Every day the organization speaks up for and advocates on behalf of the most marginalized in our community, speaking truth to power and standing in solidarity with movements across the province for human rights.
Visual Artist – Grenfell Campus, Memorial University
This year’s winner of the Human Rights Award Art Prize is Jessica Donaldson (she/her).
As a pedestrian and artist, Jessie continuously looks to slow down and partake in life with more presence. Ktaqmkuk / Newfoundland is her chosen home, and through walking, she has connected with people and this land in unpredictable and delightful ways. She is drawn to both nature and the built environment, and is compelled to artistically share some of these moments and glimpses.