NL Government: Human Rights Commission Announces Nominees for the 2021 Human Rights Award
December 7, 2021
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 2021 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 winner of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award will receive an original painting by Grenfell Visual Arts student, Kerenhappuch J. Gandu.
Biographies of the nominees can be found in the backgrounder below.
The 2021 Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award and Human Rights Champion recipients will be announced at a virtual ceremony at Government House on Thursday, December 9 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 Carey Majid at [email protected]
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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 2021 Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Award Nominees
Maryan Abdikadir is a mother of two children and is originally from Kenya. She graduated with a Master of Arts in Anthropology from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. Maryan served the development sector in Kenya having worked with the Government of Kenya, NGOs and the UN. She is committed to child protection and ending violence against women and children with a special focus on ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Maryan is a survivor of FGM having undergone the practice at age 6. Currently, she is an independent activist working towards social change online. Maryan is also the Vice President of the End FGM Canada Network and was voted as one of the 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada in 2020.
Catherine Fagan is a Partner at Arbutus Law Group, a law firm working exclusively with Indigenous governments and organizations. A large focus of her work is with communities to revitalize their traditional Indigenous laws and to incorporate them into modern legal structures. Catherine has expertise in negotiating self-governance agreements, as well as various types of environmental agreements, including the creation of parks and protected areas. In 2021, she was appointed as a part-time member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for a five-year term. She lives in St. John’s where she is the President of First Light, St. John’s Native Friendship Centre. She is also co-chair of the First Voice Working Group on Police Oversight and has volunteered with Lawyers Without Borders Canada for the last 12 years. Catherine is a member of the Inuit community of NunatuKavut in Labrador and is a mom of four young children.
Hilary P. Hennessey is a fourth-year social work student at Memorial University. She grew up in Petty-Harbour Maddox Cove alongside the evergreen trees and rocky edges of the cold Atlantic Ocean. In being the oldest of five siblings, Hilary has always had a strong sense of leadership and a desire to support those around her which is what led her to complete a Bachelor of Social Work. In addition to being the oldest, she is also the first out of her siblings to attend MUN and have the opportunity of obtaining a university degree.
As a result of completing her first social work placement with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA-NL), Hilary has developed a deep passion for helping individuals with hearing loss. This topic had personal connections to her, as her mother, Patricia Yetman, and sister, Jenna Hennessey, are both individuals who identify as being a part of the hard of hearing community. In working to support students by virtue of her current position as the Executive Director of External Affairs, Communications, and Research at MUN Students’ Union, Hilary has worked hard throughout the last year to utilize her knowledge to develop community connections and resolve the barriers facing students who are hard of hearing at MUNL. She has done this by changing policies, securing funding to obtain a hearing assistive device, and initiating a partnership between MUNSU and CHHA-NL. As a result, she has made a lasting impact on MUNSU members who are hard of hearing and want to fully engage in student life at MUN. These acts of social justice and inclusion will continue to benefit students who are hard of hearing on an accessibility level, long after her term at MUNSU has ended.
Hilary has also been an active member of the student movement for the past two years. Prior to being the Executive Director of External Affairs, Communications, and Research, she was the MUNSU Social Work Representative and Communications Assistant during the term of 2020-2021. Currently, Hilary is an undergraduate student representative on MUN’s standing committees of Senate, Accessibility, Teaching and Learning, as well as Research. In these spaces, she advocates directly to senior administration in order to express the dire need for post-secondary education to be accessible for all regardless of their financial situation. Hilary is about to embark on her last social work placement at Empower NL to expand on her knowledge, create more community connections, and continue to support people with disabilities throughout our province.
John Isiswe Mweemba is a 22-year-old, fourth-year political science and law & society double major student at Memorial University. John was born in Zambia but spent his childhood living in England for 12 years before moving to Newfoundland, Canada where he has resided ever since. John started his activist journey as a reserved and shy individual before transforming into the anti-racism advocate he is today. John joined the political science department at MUN in 2018 which inspired him to step up in his community before taking his work to a new level. His inspiration stemmed from MUN professor Dr. Christina Doonan who built the foundation for his beginnings.
For most of John’s life, he spent his time being in a marginalized BIPOC community. This led to his desire to advocate. Anti-racism and anti-black racism have been central to John’s life however it was not until the tragic death of George Floyd in 2020 that was the catalyst for John’s action. At MUN there was no space for black students to come together so John decided to come together with other black students to form the black student’s association MUN (BSA MUN) in 2020/21. John was the President and founder of what is now a vibrant community at MUN as well as a safe space for black students at large. The BSA MUN has networked via social media, met with Senator Ravalia, made viral videos about black history, and hosted events for black history month for all to learn. John and his team have paved the road for this booming institution which is recognized provincially. This work led to John being recognized for the 2021 David Kirkland Leadership Award presented at MUN.
This campaign was the start of his work as he has expanded beyond this year, by becoming democratically elected as the MUNSU Director of Advocacy in which he represents all students at MUN. As a Director of Advocacy at MUN, he has been able to raise awareness of anti-racism in national spaces being the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). His work this past year led to him being elected as the Chairperson of the CFS Black National Caucus. John is the first in the Atlantic Provinces to occupy this role as leader of such a large organization. John dedicates a lot of his time toward initiatives that center on anti-racism and human rights. Two organizations that he works with are the Human Rights Commission (Community Justice Connect Program) plus the Black Voice Collective ANC group.
From a young age, despite being shy, John has an innate desire to give back to his community. The intrinsic value of this work has been passed down through his doctor and nurse parents. John is concluding his undergraduate degree but will carry on his work through these institutions.
Lynn Moore is a founding partner of Morris Martin Moore and works mostly in sexual abuse litigation – she sues institutions and governments on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse. Before entering private practice, she spent twenty years as a Crown Attorney and civil litigator who kept survivors and victims of crime in the forefront of her mind. In 2013, Lynn decided to leave the civil service so that she could represent survivors of sexual abuse, working to get financial compensation for them. Representing survivors in civil cases is a natural extension of her desire to help people find their voice and find some measure of justice.
Lynn was vocal in advocating for the return of the Family Violence Intervention Court and volunteers with the Safe Harbour Outreach Program (SHOP) – a program designed to make sex workers safer and more secure. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of the St. John’s Status of Women/Women’s Centre and past Chair of the Board of Directors for Iris Kirby House. In 2013, Lynn swam five kilometres in the North Atlantic from Portugal Cove to Bell Island to help raise awareness for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Lynn graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1992 and completed her Bachelor of Arts in 1989. She is married and is mother and stepmother to five amazing individuals.
Dr. Bolu Ogunyemi is a Physician Leader, Writer, Keynote and Public Speaker, Senior Academic Administrator, Double Board-certified Dermatologist in Canada and US and an Anti-Racism educator and policy advisor for provincial and national medical, educational, professional and governmental organizations.
He speaks, researches, writes and advocates at the intersections of health, anti-racism, diversity and leadership and has authored publications for The New York Times, Huffington Post, Globe and Mail, CBC, Vancouver Sun, and National Post among other outlets. Sought after for knowledge, training and lives experience, he has been quoted or featured in Global News, Chatelaine, Flare, CTV, and the Toronto Star.
He earned an Honours BSc in Sociology and Medical Science from Western University before his MD at Memorial University where he served as Medical Society President, followed by a 5-year specialization in Dermatology at UBC where he was Chief Resident. He completed a Certificate in Medical Teaching and Graduate Diploma in Epidemiology at Memorial.
As the inaugural Assistant Dean, Social Accountability he provides oversight on the development and implementation of Social Accountability initiatives within the Faculty of Medicine in the areas of Health Equity, Indigenous Health, Global Health & Community Engagement.
An experienced keynote speaker, he has delivered high profile speeches including a TEDx Talk “The Edge Effect: How Seeking Different Perspectives Yields Creativity, Innovation and Success,” speaking at the Atlantic Immigration Summit and serving as 2018 Royal College of Physicians Convocation Speaker.
He serves on the Board of Directors of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Ethics Consultative Group which advises the Government of Canada about ethical issues related to public health concerns of national significance including COVID 19. Previously he has served on the Board of Resident Doctors of BC & the Canadian Dermatology Association. He serves on the Senior Management Committee of Memorial University Faculty of Medicine and is on the CMA Governance Committee.
He has received over 40 awards for leadership, academics, research, writing, advocacy and community service from the NIH, Canadian Dermatology Association, TEDMED, American Academy of Dermatology and others. Recent honours include the Harry Jerome Award, RBC Top Canadian Immigrant Award, and Western University Young Alumni Award and Memorial University Alumni Tribute Award.
Glenn Roil is a global mental health advocate. His mission is to de-stigmatize mental illness and mental health and make sure everyone who requires access and treatment receives the programs and services that they need. Glen has been very open about his own mental health struggles and was the public face for mental health with the provincial government’s anti-stigma campaign on mental illness and addictions called “Understanding Changes Everything” was launched at the Premier’s Summit on Health Care.
Glenn has sat or currently sits on a number of boards and committees, including the Global Mental Health Peer Network, Canadian Mental Health Association National, Department of Health and Community Services, Eastern Health Regional Health Authority, Community Coalition for Mental Health, CHANNAL NL and PTSD Buddies.
He volunteers his time with various organizations including the Community Sector Council NL’s Vibrant Communities to engage on another social justice issue of poverty reduction for people who are dealing and living in poverty in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He also volunteers with the Janeway Foundation Telethon, the Downstairs St. John’s Santa Claus Parade and the Rogers Rogers Moyse Christmas Community Dinner.
Glenn has spoken publicly on his own incredible mental health story on various media outlets in Newfoundland and Labrador, across Canada and around the world. Some of the media outlets have been VOCM Radio, CBC TV and Radio, NTV News, The Telegram, CBC The National, Global TV, Huffington Post and Own It Podcast. He has spoken at various media health conferences and fundraisers including the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health for All, Peer Support Canada, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Not Myself Today, and the Dani Kitchen Party for Suicide Prevention.
He has been profiled with the St. John’s Board of Trade publication for an event on workplace mental health, he is an Ambassador for the Stigma Zero Company and his biggest accomplishment to date is having his own mental health story and his national mental health advocacy profiled and published in two different American Bioethics Medical Journal called Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics that is affiliated with John Hopkins University and he has done mental health education and training that include mental health first aid, suicide intervention and knowledge translation with the Canadian Mental Health Association National and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
The late Delilah Miriam Saunders was a strong independent Inuk woman. Before passing away at the age of 29 on September 7, 2021 she was an activist for indigenous women and girls. Her journey as an activist started when her sister, Loretta Saunders was murdered in Halifax in February 2014. Delilah received an Amnesty International Award for continuing her mission to raise awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She worked with the Congress of Indigenous People to help form policy. When she had acute liver failure and was denied a liver transplant, Delilah raised awareness and advocated for changes to liver transplant policies in Canada. Delilah’s experience and voice brought international attention and support. She advocated for land rights and land protection.
Paul Walsh has been a tireless advocate for persons with disabilities for over 30 years. He has spoken out on a wide variety of issues related to the built environment in St. John’s and throughout the province. He has presented at a number of panels and symposiums. His reach has expanded past the disability community in recent years as Paul has become a strong and outspoken advocate for inclusion and diversity in all aspects of society. He has brought his leadership to volunteer organizations, such as being the second ever chair of the NL Provincial Advisory Council on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, as President of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, as Chair of the First Dawn-Eastern Edge AFFIRM Committee, and in his current professional role as Chief Executive Officer of the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Paul is the proud father of two adult children. He and his wife Robin Bartlett live in St. John’s in a home they share with their 9-year-old canine pal Meeka.
Visual Artist – Grenfell Campus, Memorial University
This year’s winner of the Human Rights Award Art Prize is Kerenhappuch Gandu.
Kerenhappuch moved to Newfoundland and Labrador from Northern Nigeria three years ago to study Visual Arts at Grenfell Campus.
Moving here, she went from being an African woman to being a Black African woman and that opened her up to experiences she never knew existed.
Kerenhappuch’s art explores ideas of identity and self through the mediums of photography and painting. She likes to show how humans are imperfect, how beauty is undefinable and should be accepted and what culture means to her. As a young woman in this generation, she struggles with identity, focus and figuring life out especially with issues constantly being addressed but never seeming to be solved. There is only a limit to what she can do but her art lets her take an extra mile.