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 nominees for the 2020 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.
This year’s nominations came from community members, professional contacts and others who sought to recognize the nominees’ efforts. The timing of the presentation coincides with International Human Rights Day. Biographies of the nominees can be found in the backgrounder below.
The winner of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award will receive an original weaving by Memorial MFA student Anie Toole.
The 2020 Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award and Human Rights Champion recipients will be announced at a virtual ceremony at Government House tomorrow (Thursday, December 10) via WebEx at 3:00 p.m. To confirm your attendance and request a link, please email Carey Majid at email@example.com.
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For more information on the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, please visit www.thinkhumanrights.ca.
You can also follow us on Twitter @nlhumanrights.
Carey Majid, Executive Director
Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission
Biographies of the 2020 Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award Nominees
Paul Walsh is a lifelong disability advocate who is the Past-President of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (COD-NL) and a Past-Chair of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities. A lifelong resident of St. John’s, Paul has channeled his lived experience as a person with a mobility impairment as motivation to lobby and advocate for a more accessible, inclusive and diversity society. In addition to his on-going role on the Board of COD-NL, Paul serves as Vice-Chair of the St. John’s Transportation Commission with a special interest in accessible and para-transit issues. He is also very active in his church, serving on multiple committees including Diversity, and helped lead the work toward his church becoming an affirming congregation. Paul is also actively involved with inclusion and diversity efforts with his employer, including making presentations to senior management. Paul resides in St. John’s with his wife, Robin Bartlett. He is the proud father of two children, Brendan and Kelly.
Jenn Deon is an active community volunteer and advocate. She is a founder and the producing artistic director of PerSIStence Theatre, a charitable organization that responds to the persistent and universal need for promoting, understanding and embracing the core beliefs of feminism through professional theatre and related initaitives. She has served terms as Treasurer for the YWCA-St. John’s and the NLNDP; as chair/vice-chair respectively with the Shakespeare by the Sea Festival and the Resource Centre for the Arts; and was a founding member of parent groups for both Bishop Feild Elementary and Brother Rice Junior High Schools. She is also currently the Secretary for Branch 56 of the Royal Canadian legion. In 2013, Jenn was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal to “honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians,” and in 2018 was named a Woman of Distinction by YWCA St. John’s. Jenn is also a CHRC-trained facilitator of Respectful Workplace workshops for arts and non-profit organizations.
Blair Curtis is a 20-year-old university student at Grenfell who residences in McIvers. Blair is also a known trans rights advocate. Blair and his mother Gerri-Lynn Curtis are the founders of the Western Chapter of “Parents of Trans and Gender Diverse Kids NL” – under the guidance of Trans Support NL Inc.; the first transgender support group on the West Coast of Newfoundland that meets monthly. With the help of Blair’s advocacy on gender-affirming surgery policy reform, in late 2019 it was announced that out-of-province CAMH assessments would no longer be required for gender-affirming surgeries, rather an in-province assessment would take its place – similar to the rest of Canada. As well, the list of MCP covered gender-affirming surgeries was expanded to match the Canadian average. Blair, along with his Sociology 3040 classmates, additionally helped to create a gender diverse manual that has been used both provincially and in other places in Canada to help health care professionals and first responders learn more about the gender diverse community. Blair was recognized in 2019 as Grand Marshall – Community Thought Leader for St. John’s Pride, and this year was recognized by the Community Mental Health Initiative as a Mental Health Champion for outstanding contributions to mental health awareness. Blair’s advocacy has also helped to change a policy that has allowed gender diverse people to have easier access to gender-affirming surgeries.
Kathryn (Kate) Morrison
Kate Morrison was born in Hebron, Prince Edward Island, to a farming family in 1952. Her parents were avid consumers of news and current affairs, and active in local politics. After high school, Kate moved to the Yukon, and later the interior of British Columbia, where she obtained bachelors and masters degrees in social work from the University of Victoria. As a social worker in Vancouver, Kate witnessed the harsh effects of social and economic inequality first-hand.
Alarmed at the role played by the justice system in perpetuating that inequality, Kate decided to pursue a law degree from the University of British Columbia. Throughout her studies, she remained active in university, provincial and federal politics. Upon graduation, Kate returned to the east coast to practice law at Paterson Kitz in Halifax. There she also worked with the Dalhousie Legal Aid Centre, and worked on Alexa McDonough’s election campaign while she was the leader of the federal NDP.
After several years in Halifax, Kate moved with her husband to St. John’s, where they settled and raised their son. Beginning at the firm of Hurley Woodland, Kate then moved to work at Legal Aid, before becoming legislative council at the House of Assembly. Throughout her time in Newfoundland and Labrador, Kate continued advocating for social justice causes, including the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, as well as those suffering racial and economic discrimination. She was also an avid volunteer and supporter of numerous non-profit groups, including Amnesty International, World Vision and more.
Kate was continuing her tireless work when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was forced into early retirement, and ultimately was unable to work. Despite her limited mobility, Kate continued to support progressive public policies, charitable organizations and social justice, and was an active champion for the rights of persons with disabilities.
After battling MS for over 15 years, Kate was diagnosed with dementia, and is now sadly unable to continue her support for social and political change. Despite this, she remains a kind and caring resident to her fellow residents and staff at Saint Lukes Home in St. John’s.
In 2019, the Kathryn M. Morrison Scholarship in Political Studies was created to honour her selfless achievements, and to inspire a new generation of students to continue her meaningful work.
Denise Cole (she/her) is a Two Spirit land protector and human rights activist of mixed Inuit descent living in Goose Bay, Labrador. Walking an Indigenous spiritual path, she is committed to the protection of land, life, water, and culture. Denise is a co-founder of Safe Alliance, a 2SLGBTQ+ group in Labrador, and sits on multiple boards/advisories including Grand RiverKeeper Labrador, Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, Dam Watch International, Provincial Harm Reduction Collective, and AIDS Committee NL. She is a strong voice for social justice, truth and reconciliation, and works with youth and communities in a variety of capacities including almost twenty years in nonprofits. Denise loves home time with her pup Abby and is grateful for a large family and close circle of friends.
Craig Reid is more than an individual advocate. He is a force!
It is his personal mission is to educate others as to the needs of persons with mobility disability and shine light on the barriers that exist in our community. He is undaunted in his commitment to hold those responsible; accountable to their actions, and is equally dedicated to promoting examples of things done well. Craig has a way of getting the message out, sometimes through very public access on social media or traditional mainstream media circles, and sometimes through quiet conversations when opportunity arises. The common thread is that Craig Reid is always heard, and his message is known to be one of authenticity and resolve.
One day in asking Craig why he does what he does he said “I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t do it, there is so much to do”. Craig was struck by the realization of the degree of need for change because of his own experience and he now commits himself to educating others so that full access is demanded, expected and achieved.
Craig’s drive to make change is his passion. He does it for no other reason than to make change where change needs to be made. He works alone often and with others when appropriate. As a result of his rally cry, others often find their voice. Sometimes he is a single voice and sometimes through his relentless drive, small armies rise up and echo his call. Through his work, he has become well-known to government officials, local media and advocacy groups as he campaigns tirelessly. Today Craig is the Chair of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador as well as former Chair of the Universal Design Network of Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition, he has been two times short listed nominee for the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights award and past winner of CODNL’s advocate of the year award.
Craig was born in Corner Brook, and grew up without a disability, was active in sports and had a typical life. Over 30 years ago he moved to Mt. Pearl and later in life acquired his own disability. As he tried to do things he had always done, he came to realize many of the barriers that exist for persons with disabilities that were not being addressed. It made him recognize the need for equity. Today he is committed make it his life’s work to share information so that everyone, regardless of ability has the fundamental right to access society and all it has to offer.
Michael Duffy is a lawyer and an active volunteer with Easter Seals NL and Easter Seals Canada. Michael served as co-chair of the construction committee for Husky Energy Easter Seals House in St. John’s and is currently provincial Vice Chair and National Board Chair. Michael is also 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 Newfoundland and Labrador.
Michael also created and manages an affordable housing project in Torbay.
In 2010 Michael 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 2013 Michael received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of public service.
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 graduated from Holy Trinity High School in Torbay 1984. After that he attended Memorial University 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. Michael and his family have a strong connection to their community. Michael was raised in Torbay by his mother Pearline, a registered nurse and his father Peter, a respected hockey and baseball personality. Michael and his wife Sherry have three adult children.
Christina Perry didn’t look away when her mother suffered a catastrophic and irreversible medical event while residing in a private suite in a private personal care home, she started digging, ultimately uncovering the fact that her mother’s prescription had never been filled, that her medical records had been falsified, and a whole lot more. Her personal quest for justice for seniors and other vulnerable residents of personal care homes caused several investigations to be initiated revealing major weaknesses in the system and with the law, resulting in recommendations from the Office of the Citizen’s Representative for change.
Dr. Todd Young
Dr. Todd Young is a family physician practicing in his hometown, Springdale, nested in rural Newfoundland. Over the years, Dr. Young has worked with rural and Indigenous communities in many capacities in health care including as a nurse practitioner and physician. He is a graduate of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, holds an executive Masters of Business Administration, and is currently enrolled at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Since 2016, Dr. Young has led a team based hub and spoke model for addiction services with eight clinics now across Newfoundland. Through the use of telemedicine and a hardworking team, Dr. Young and his staff have demonstrated a commitment for those with mental health and addictions. Dr. Young and his team have advocated for issues such as access to addiction services, pharmacy access for those prescribed Suboxone and Methadone, and services for those incarcerated with addiction issues throughout our province.
Dr. Maureen Gibbons
Dr. Maureen Gibbons was born in the small town of Louisburgh, located on the west coast of County Mayo. Her flair for Irish dance in her youth made her a household name throughout Ireland. An established general practitioner with 34 years experience caring for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, she earned her medical degree with distinction from University College in Galway in 1979, and upon completion of her rotating internships in medicine and surgery, left Ireland to work abroad.
Up until 1981, she practiced in surgical emergency while working in Germany, then travelled to England where she worked in the emergency department at a hospital in Wales until 1982. In 1983, she worked OB/GYN rotation in various hospitals throughout Bristol, but her passion for social justice began in 1984, when she accepted a year in general practice training at an inner-city clinic providing medical care to marginalized populations. For her personal security, she was escorted to work by police.
She moved to Canada in 1985 and provided General Practice, Emergency and Obstetrical coverage in rural Manitoba but left the prairies shortly thereafter for the west coast of Newfoundland, where she spent 18 rewarding years providing medical services to the people who lived in the Corner Brook area.
In 2006, she moved to St. John’s. There she started work at the emergency departments at both the St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital and the Health Sciences Centre. In 2007, she began work at the first walk-in clinic located on Blackmarsh Road and was offered the position of Chief Medical Officer at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) later that year, where she tirelessly advocated for the improvement of living conditions at the prison, in addition to medical services.
In 2011, while working at Major’s Path Family Practice, she was the first physician in the province to extend her practice to provide information, treatment and ongoing care to the growing transgender community. She also participated in the establishment, organization as well as offering a guest speaker presentation for Eastern Canada’s first ever Transgender Conference in 2014. She regularly teaches and mentors physicians interested in learning about transgender medicine and is a designated Assessor in the new government initiative to assess the readiness of transgender patients wishing to proceed to surgical reassignment surgery now covered by MCP.
In 2018, she and her colleague, Dr. Lynn Dwyer, rebranded the old Theatre Pharmacy on Long’s Hill in colour, design and name to “The City Doctors” in an effort to care for vulnerable people living in the downtown core. And in 2019, she and her colleague, Dr. Heather Cuddy, began offering care to the people of Trepassey in order to obtain medical data relating to chronic disease in rural communities for the provincial government.
In her spare time, she enjoys hiking with her dog in Newfoundland and Labrador’s great outdoors, taking photographs and reading. She has one son with whom she has travelled extensively in Europe and North America. She is conversant in German and Gaelic.
Anie Toole is a second year MFA student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She earned a diploma in Constructed textiles from La Maison des métiers d’art de Québec and a B.Sc. Honours in Mathematics from the University of Ottawa. She is currently enrolled in the Technical Sessions of the Centre International d’Étude des Textiles Anciens (CIETA) in Lyon, France.
She is the recipient of a Textile Society of America Student and New Professional Award Scholarship and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) – Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships. She has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Surface Design Association.
Ms. Toole was an intern for the Handweavers Guild of America’s Convergence 2018. Her weavings have been part of exhibits in Canada, the United States and France. She participated in artist residencies at Penland School of Craft, NC and at La Bande Vidéo, QC. She is a member of Module! The Jacquard Research Group of La Maison des métiers d’art de Québec, the Conseil des métiers d’art du Québec (Quebec Craft Council) and Engramme Collective (printmaking). Her work materializes the slippages that occur in translation.