If you wish to submit someone’s name that you think is a Manitoba hero please contact us and tell us why we should feature this individual.

MHR Hero of the Month for December, 2020
– Paulene Ballantyne

Coming soon…

MHR Hero of the Month for October and November, 2020
– Terry Fox

What many people do not know is that Terry Stanley Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on July 28th, 1956. Both his parents, Betty and Rolly, were born and raised in Manitoba. It was not until Terry was six that his parents moved the family to Port Coquitlam in B.C. Terry had an older brother Fred, and a younger brother Darrell and younger sister Judith.

From a very early age Terry was known for being both determined and tenacious. He applied himself in whatever he did. He loved sports especially basketball. He was however, considered by others as too short and too small to play basketball. When Terry was in grade eight, Bob McGill the physical education teacher at Mary Hill Jr. High School noticed two young players, Terry and his friend Doug Alward. Terry was the little guy who worked his rear off. Terry and Doug had at least three things in common. Both were introverts, both were five feet tall, and both were crazy about   basketball. Doug was a talented cross-country runner and Bob McGill suggested Terry try out for cross-country running. Terry had absolutely no interest in cross-country running, but he agreed as he had so much respect for his coach and wanted to please him. Terry found the workouts exhausting and was often afraid to start the runs because they were so demanding, The biggest reward came at the end, when the coach would welcome the runners in, and say,” well done men”. That’s what Terry remembered: his teacher congratulating the skinny boys by calling them men.

Terry was determined to play basketball and got up early every morning to get a practice in before classes started. His parents were not happy about this as they thought Terry needed to focus more on his academic studies. Terry did not want to fall behind on his studies but he did not want to miss a moment of basketball. Bob McGill had that effect on all the boys on the team. McGill told the boys in no uncertain terms that he had no interest in mediocrity, and that means, if you want something you work hard for it, and in terms of basketball, that means practicing before and after school. Terry did not call him Mr. McGill as the other boys did; he called him ‘coach’, and said it with respect.

Terry’s mother Betty was annoyed when Terry belittled his academic abilities. She wasn’t a pushy mother but she let Terry know she had high expectations of him. Terry remembered presenting his mother with his school report card and watching her carefully, wondering what she thought of his grades. “Were they good enough”, “Was she proud of him”, “Was he doing well”? “Sometimes, because I knew she cared, I’d do things for her,” he said. “Even in school I wanted to get good grades to show her I could do it.”

Terry’s interests broadened in school and he made new friends. He and Doug drifted apart. Terry now hung out with his basketball teammates. Terry was not into serious partying and he never tried drugs. He did get drunk a couple of times but that was the extent of things. When it came to girls, Terry was shy, and although he did have a few admirers Terry’s heart belonged to basketball.

Terry graduated from Port Coquitlam High school with all A’s and one B. While Terry was not sure he wanted to go to University, Betty was convinced he should. He enrolled in Simon Frasier University in part to please his mother and in part to please himself. He wanted to play more Basketball though he knew the competition at University, especially at S.F.U., which had the best varsity team in British Columbia, would be fierce. Naturally that would attract rather than deter Terry. He was also thinking he might want to be a physical education high school teacher. He liked the idea of being “the coach” to a group of high school skinny boys with more drive than talent. Since he enjoyed sports he chose kinesiology, the study of human movement as a major, although Betty would have preferred he enroll in one of the professions. It did not surprise any of Terry’s coaches or friends he tried out for the SFU junior varsity team. The two week training camp run by training coach Alex Devlin was tough, more of an endurance test than anything else. Devlin and the players including Mike McNeill, who later became the head basketball coach at SFU, saw others who were more gifted that Terry, but none showed more desire. McNeill, a string guard on the on the varsity team said, “In the summer after high school, we knew Terry was coming out for the team”. When Terry won a place on the junior varsity team at Simon Frasier University in 1976 many were surprised. He was not a gifted player, but his determination, toughness and hard work, made up for that in spades.

Pain is normal in the life of an athlete but at the end of his first year at SFU Terry was feeling an agonizing pain in his knee. One day he woke up and he could not walk. A week later he learned this was not a cartilage problem. On March 9th, 1977, at the age of 18, Terry was diagnosed as having a malignant tumor in his right leg, and it resulted in Terry having to have his leg amputated six inches above the knee. The night before his amputation he reads about amputees running races and that night he dreams of running. The 16 months of follow-up treatment marked Terry irreversibly. He saw suffering as he had never seen it before. He heard Doctors telling youngsters in nearby beds they had a 15% chance of making it. He heard screams of pain and he saw strong, young bodies wasted by disease. He never forgot what he has seen, and when he left the cancer clinic for the last time, he left with a burden of responsibility. He was among the lucky one third of patients who survived. “I could not leave knowing these faces and feelings would still exist even though I would be set free from mine”, he wrote in a letter asking for sponsorship for his run. “Somewhere the hurting must stop” he said, adding that he was prepared to push myself to the limit to make it a reality”.

It was Rick Hanson who invited Terry to get back into sports and join a wheelchair basketball team. (Rick and Terry were of the same mold; later Rick a paraplegic, would push his wheel chair around the world, and never failed to give credit to Terry, the friend who inspired him.) Terry tackled this new challenge with his usual gusto. He made himself strong pushing himself along the sea wall at Stanley Park in Vancouver. Or he would find steep mountains and push himself up unruly logging roads. He pushed himself until his hands bled.

Two years after his operation, Terry started a running program. The first half miles he ran in the dark, so no one could see him. Terry trained for 15 months, running until his stump was raw and bleeding, running every day for 101 days, until he could run 23 miles a day. Once when he had run just half a mile, the bottom half of his artificial leg snapped in two pieces, and Terry crashed to the pavement. He picked up the two pieces, tucked them under his arm and stuck out his thumb, and hitched hiked home. There, he clamped the two parts together and ran another five miles.

When Terry told his mother Betty he was going to run across Canada, in her no-nonsense way she told him he was crazy. He told her he was going to run no matter what she thought. Then Betty told her husband Rolly, and Rolly knowing his son so well, simply said, “When?”

It was February 1979 that Terry began his training for his Marathon of Hope, a cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research and awareness. During his training he runs 5,000 kilometres, (3,107 miles).

When Terry approached the Cancer Society about his run, its administrators were skeptical about his success. They doubted he could raise one million dollars. And, as a test of his sincerity, they told him to earn some seed money and find some corporate sponsors. They believed they would never hear from him again. But Terry persevered, earning sponsors and the promise of promotion from the Cancer Society. On April 12, 1980, he dipped his artificial leg in the murky waters of St. John’s harbor and set off on the greatest adventure of his life.

“I loved it. I enjoyed myself so much and that is what other people could not realize, they thought I was going through a nightmare running all day long. People thought I was going through hell, and maybe I was partly, but still I was doing what I wanted and a dream was coming true and that, above everything else, made it all worthwhile for me. Even though it was so difficult, there was not another thing I wanted to do.  I got satisfaction out of doing things that were difficult. It was an incredible feeling. The pain was there, but the pain didn’t matter. But that’s all a lot of people could see; they couldn’t see the good I was getting out of it myself.”

The people of Canada were latching on to Terry’s dream. They wept as he ran by, his fists clenched, eyes focused on the road ahead, his awkward double-step and hop sounding down the highway, the set of his jaw, unflinching, without compromise.

Terry would start before dawn every morning, running in shorts and a T-shirt printed with a map of Canada. Donations poured in. Reading of Terry’s goals Four Seasons’ President, Isadore Sharp, was also caught up in the dream of, The Marathon of Hope, and he pledged ten thousand dollars to the marathon and challenged 999 Canadian corporations to do the same. What Terry did not know, was that Isadore Sharp would be the person to see Terry’s dream for cancer research funding come true.

Throughout his run and even in the months before, Terry neglected his medical appointments.  No one could force him to see a doctor for a check-up. Terry said he did not believe the cancer would come back. Earlier, when he had missed his appointments for x-rays at the cancer clinic in Vancouver, he said, “every time I went there I was shivering, and it wasn’t because I was cold, it was because I was afraid”.

It was a dull day in Northern Ontario when Terry Fox ran his last miles. He had started out strong that morning and felt confident, but the pain became too much and Terry could not run another mile. He got into the van where his old friend Doug Alward was. Doctors in Thunder Bay confirmed that the cancer in his leg had spread to his lungs. He told reporters, “I had primary cancer in my knee three and a half years ago, and now it is in my lung, and I have to go home.” His voice broke as he spoke. He continued softly, “and have some more x-rays, or maybe an operation that will involve opening up my chest or more drugs. I’ll do everything I can. I’m gonna do my very best. I’ll fight. I promise I won’t give up.”

Terry was flown back to Vancouver in a private jet, and then taken by ambulance back to the Royal Columbia Hospital. This was not the triumphant homecoming Terry and many others had imagined. This did not end with Terry dipping his artificial leg in the seawaters off Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

Many offers came in to finish the run for him, including the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey Team, but Terry refused them all. He wanted to finish the run himself. In hospital he wore his Marathon of hope T-shirt every day. Terry said, “if only everyone would give one dollar, we would have $22 million for cancer research.

In less than 48 hours the CTV television network arranged a special telethon, and by the end had raised more than $10 million dollars.

Isadore Sharp sent Terry a telegram, which Terry pinned to his hospital bed. Isadore told Terry that his marathon was just the beginning, and that a fundraising run, in his name would be held every year to continue his fight against cancer.

“You started it. We will not rest until your dream to find a cure for cancer is realized.”

– Isadore Sharp.

 For the next ten months Terry battled the disease. Some days were excruciating and some days he felt well enough to go out with Rick Hansen and other friends.

As Terry fought for his life, he was honoured with awards. He was the youngest of the Companion of the Order of Canada, the nations top civilian honour; he was named, Newsmaker of the Year, by the Canadian Press; he won the Lou Marsh trophy for outstanding athletic achievement; his portrait was hung in the Sports Hall of Fame; The Guinness book of Records named him top fundraiser; a mountain was named after him in British Columbia, and most importantly, donations to his Marathon of Hope Run, reached $23.4 million.

Terry died, his family beside him on June 28th, 1981, one month short of his twenty-third birthday. There was nation wide mourning. Flags were flown at half-mast. But people did not forget him and his story did not end with his death. The first Terry Fox run was held that September  – more than 300,000 people ran, walked or cycled in his memory and raised $3.5 million dollars.

Terry’s mother Betty says there would be no Terry Fox Run if it were not for Isadore Sharp, who himself had lost a son to cancer, and believes one day a brilliant young researcher, maybe one funded by a Terry Fox grant, will find a cure for the disease.

Isadore Sharp said, “Terry did not lose his fight, perhaps he finished all he had to do. Terry is like a meteor passing in the sky, one who’s light travels beyond our view, yet still shines in the darkest night”.

The Terry Fox Foundation

In 1981, Isadore Sharp started The Terry Fox Foundation. To date the foundation has raised eight hundred million dollars in Terry’s name for cancer research. Every year around the world people participate in The Terry Fox run. This year in Winnipeg the run will take place on September 15th, 2021. Let’s do Terry proud and participate in this event for cancer research initiated by our Manitoba Hero of the month, Terry Fox.

– Jane Meagher.

MHR Hero of the Month for September, 2020

Coming soon…

MHR Hero of the Month for July and August, 2020
– Paul Albrechtsen (1930 – 2019)

It has been a year since the passing of Paul Albrechtsen, and a year for myself and others, to discover and reflect on how much this amazing man from a small town in Denmark, did for the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba.

Paul was born In Odense, on the island of Fyn, Denmark on October 14th, 1930. Paul was the first born of five children. His parents were Hans Frederick and Andrea Albrechtsen. After Paul was born his parents moved to the village of Haagerup where his siblings, Anny, John, Owen and Kirsten were born. Paul demonstrated a talent for entrepreneurship from a very young age. Denmark was an occupied country and food was scarce. Paul decided to breed rabbits to feed his family and sell to the villagers. After the war, Paul chose to apprentice as a diesel mechanic and during this time bought and refurbished motorcycles to sell to the Danes who were desperate for vehicles.

Paul completed his apprenticeship as a diesel mechanic and then completed his compulsory army service. Next Paul chose to spread his wings and see more of the world. He thought of the USA but the immigration process was too lengthily, so he opted for Winnipeg in Manitoba. He arrived in Halifax in 1954 and took the train to Winnipeg. It was a bitterly cold experience. Once in Winnipeg, he discovered the only opportunity for a mechanic was in a small town in Southern Manitoba named Virden, so that is where Paul went. It was whilst he was working in Virden he got a lucky break. An oil company executive who had been inspecting the rigs accidentally cut a hole in the radiator of his own truck. A replacement part had to come from Toronto. Paul took a look at the problem, told the executive to go have a coffee, and using his skills and creative thinking was able to temporarily fix the problem until a new part could be installed. The man was delighted and offered Paul a job hauling water for the drilling rigs. Paul bought a truck and hauled water whilst keeping his regular job. He managed his time efficiently by sleeping in his tool shop.

In 1956 Paul met and married his first wife and together they had four children. By then he had established Paul’s hauling, and expanded the business from Brandon to Winnipeg, where he bought other trucking companies, and expanded his business interests. However, Paul’s Hauling was his flagship company, the foundation of his business ventures.

In 1981 Paul married his second wife Mary-Lou Ranson, and they had two sons. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Paul decided that he would like to give back to the community that had given so much to him. His first major donation was to the Reh-Fit Centre where he had been a member for years and where he had been resuscitated after a serious cardiac incident. He subsequently went on to support a number of health related causes, and organizations that were close to his heart, such as, The Winnipeg Humane Society, CancerCare Manitoba, The Fort Whyte Centre, The Health Sciences Centre Foundation, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and Assiniboine Park. All have received donations totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars from his Foundation. Also St. Paul’s High School was a recipient. This is where four of his boys attended, school. Paul liked St. Paul’s motto “Men for Others”, as he thought it was fitting to his philosophy of pay it forward. Paul kept all his letters of appreciation, even those from the school children visiting Fort Whyte Centre. Paul prided himself on being “a people person”. He loved to talk to anyone interesting from all walks of life. Paul had a great sense of humor including the ability to laugh at him-self.

HSC Foundation president and CEO Jonathon Lyon, stated that, “Paul always took the time to understand the technology, and understand the impact of his giving, as he was fascinated by medical research, and wanted Manitobans to benefit from the latest advances in patient care”. All the donations Paul made to the HSC Foundation have gone towards purchasing new interventional angiography equipment for stroke survivors.

In 2015, Paul provided $5 million in support of pioneering cardiac research at the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, which was renamed the Albrechtsen Research Centre in his honour. Paul has been the most significant donor in the history of St. Boniface Hospital.

This is a direct quote from Paul Albrechtsen. “It was with these basic principles, vision, hard work, and good people, that I have grown our business to where it is today. Throughout our company’s history we have been blessed with excellent staff”.

There is an old Chinese proverb Paul lived by. If you want to be profitable for one year, grow grain. If you want to be profitable for ten years, grow trees. But, if you want to be profitable for a lifetime, grow people.

Paul Albrechtsen was awarded the Order of Manitoba, and the order of Canada. Paul died July 7th, 2019. His obituary in the Winnipeg Free Press tells of the passing of a very important Manitoban. It is clear to see why Paul Albrechtsen is Manitobans for Human Rights hero of the month for July and, August, 2020.

MHR Hero of the Month for June, 2020
– Manitoba Heroes Featuring Constable Moore

Coming soon…

MHR Hero of the Month for May, 2020
– Scott Oake

Coming soon…

MHR Hero of the Month for April, 2020
– Beatrice Watson

Coming soon…

Mitch Podolak, centre wearing a baseball cap, was variously described over the years as a ‘bearded, chain-smoking radical,’ a ‘chubby working-class hero,’ a ‘banjo-playing… Trotskyite who could pass for a biker’ and part of ‘a cabal of deranged artist types.’

MHR Hero of the Month for February and March 2020
– Mitch Podolak (1947–2019)

Like so many Winnipeggers’ I knew Mitch Podolak, and what a force of life he was. I hope I can do him proud in this Manitoba for Human Rights Hero of the Month profile. As there is so much to share about Mitch, his achievements and his beliefs, this will be a two-part profile covering February 2020 and March 2020.

The name Mitch Podolak is synonymous with The Winnipeg Folk Festival, The West-End Cultural Centre, The Vancouver folk Festival, The Edmonton Folk Festival, The Stan Rodgers Festival, Home Roots and so much more.

So, who is this man and where did his life with his passion for music and politics begin? Mitch was born in Toronto in 1947 to his parents Rhoda Layefsky and Noach Podalak. Mitch was named Melech, which means king in Hebrew. He had two older siblings, a brother Mark, and sister Alice. Mark was fondly known as the white sheep of the family, lived in Ottawa, and is now retired from his position as a Treasury Board Analyst. Alice, the oldest of the three Podolak children, lives in Cape Bretton.

Growing up, the Podolaks lived on a major street in Toronto in a neighbourhood full of Jews and Europeans between Spadina and Bathurst. Mitch’s father was a house painter, who also built theatrical sets for the Yiddish Theatre in New York. His mother was a strong loving woman who was born in Canada. During the Spanish Civil War, she was an organizer for Friends of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. Rhoda’s father Avram Liebe, played a special role in Mitch’s life, and was Mitch’s hero.

Mitch came by his love of music through his family. His father played clarinet and his uncle on his father’s side had been the conductor for the Polish Army Orchestra. At seven Mitch started taking clarinet lessons. He was introduced to classical music. I am not sure how long these lessons lasted but Mitch did not develop a passion for this genre of music. Then when he was thirteen, something happened that set his destiny in motion. His sister had two tickets for a musical event at Massey Hall in Toronto. The guy she was taking was a no-show, so she asked Mitch to go with her. Mitch agreed but was not overly enthusiastic, as he thought he was going to a symphony. He could not have been more wrong. He was going to a Pete Seeger concert. As soon as Seeger started to perform, Mitch was mesmerized. This was a sound he had never experienced, but he knew right away that he was experiencing something transforming, and by the end of the concert he knew what he would be doing for the rest of his life. On his way home, Alice explained the meaning of the famous Pete Seeger song, the “Bells of Rhymney”, and what Pete Seeger was trying to get his audience to understand. Mitch inevitably became a banjo player, more fitting for the folk genre of music than the clarinet.

Mitch grew up in a very socialist family, which allowed for interesting dialogue at every meal. Both Mitch’s parents were deep socialists. Mitch’s dad had been a member of the Communist Party until 1956 when he walked away because of the invasion of Hungary and anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.  This was also the year he died. Mitch was only nine years old, and his mother was in her thirties. Mitch’s father had been twenty years older than his wife. Rhoda had three children to support and went to work as a bookkeeper. She never re-married and passed away in 2005.

As time went on, Mitch realized how socialism could help everyone. In 1961, at the age of fourteen, Mitch joined what was known at the time as the Y.S.A., the Young Socialist Alliance, in Toronto – a Trotskyite movement, where everyone called each other “comrade”. Mitch was the youngest of the group for a while. The tools he learned at the Y.S.A. as well as the inspiration he gained, led him to becoming a devout socialist and a member of the Anti Vietnam war movement. At a nuclear disarmament meeting, Mitch met Harry Paine, a man who would go on to be a life long friend.

In 1968 Mitch made a move to Winnipeg to study as a mature student at the University of Manitoba and specifically to do political organizing. He also established the Vietnam Mobilization Committee.  He and his friend Joe Flexer decided it was time for some action, so he and Joe Flexer organized a major demonstration at the U of M, to take place in the recruitment office at Dow Chemicals who were situated on the grounds of the university.  At that time Dow was one of the manufactures of napalm, a nasty incendiary weapon used in Vietnam against the Viet Cong as well as impacting many innocent people. It would stick to the skin and cause severe burns. They rallied the participation of approximately a thousand people. Mitch and Joe had been to a hardware store and bought the biggest chains and padlocks they could find to lock the doors to the centre. With all in place Mitch and Joe entered Dow and demanded the Human Resource Manager come outside to hear their statement. The manager complied. Joe Flexer yelled out, “Our statement is, “Get the fuck off our campus you warmongering c—k s—-s”. Then all hell broke loose. The manager went back into the building and the protesters proceeded to secure the doors with the chains and bolts so no one could enter or exit. Fights broke out and there were people yelling. Mitch was paid $100 for organizing this demonstration. Oh the good old days.

In 1970 Mitch left Winnipeg and to do more political work in Halifax. A year later Mitch was in Toronto at Trotskyite Hall when he first met his wife of over four decades, Ava Kobrinsky. A year later they married and Ava became a true-life partner to Mitch in all his endeavors. Mitch always said Ava was his unsung hero, brilliant at organization, and without her, none of his successes would have come to fruition. In 1972 the married couple moved back to Winnipeg. Mitch was twenty-four. Two years later in 1974, Mitch, Ava and Colin Gorrie co-founded The Winnipeg Folk Festival. Over the years the festival grew and grew. Once established, Mitch appointed a new artistic director. He always attended the WFF, but was involved in the start-up of more folk-festivals in Canada and in other music ventures.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival, or WFF, is a volunteer run organization with the exception of a handful of Festival staff. I was a volunteer, and volunteer crew co-odinator for 34 years. I clearly remember when we had 800 volunteers and I thought that was amazing, but before we knew it there were a 1000, then 1500, and then 2000 and when I retired in 2014 there were 2500. People come from all over the world to attend the WFF, and we have had people who have come to the festival to get married.

Mitch has been recognized for his leadership and many successes. In 2015 he received both The Order of Manitoba and Honourary Doctor of Laws from Brandon University.

In 2016 Mitch was leaving one of his favorite restaurants in Winnipeg when he suddenly slipped and fell hitting his neck. He knew he was in serious trouble, as he could not feel the lower part of his body. Mitch was hospitalized, and when he was released from hospital he was in an electric wheelchair and he was not returning to his precious home in Wolseley, as he could not negotiate stairs. He was going to a new apartment in the Seasons of Winnipeg. He could see Ikea from his window. So ‘not-Mitch’, LOL. By the grace of God, or should I just say the amazing singer/songwriter Heather Bishop, as Mitch is a devout atheist, started a Go Fund Me Page to raise money to have Ava and Mitch’s home in Wolesley renovated to accommodate Mitch’s wheelchair etc. By this point it seemed as if Mitch was on the mend, but not long after he started to deteriorate quickly and on August 25, 2019, at the age of 71, Mitch passed away from septic shock.

Not many people know that Mitch dropped out of school after grade 8 and was later found to have a generous IQ. Over the years Mitch was referred to by the media as: ‘A bearded chain smoking radical’; ‘A chubby working class hero’; ‘A banjo playing Trotskyite’; and many other names.  However, Mitch described himself as a one party communist with no meetings, no dues, and a deep repulsion for capitalism and burocracy.

The year Mitch passed away, the 2019 Winnipeg Folk Festival had the largest attendance ever recorded. 76,000 attendees. All thanks to a man who married politics and music, believing music was the path to peace, and this is why Mitch Podolak is Manitobans for Human Rights’ February and March, 2020, Hero of the Month.

Jane Meagher

MHR Human Rights Hero for January, 2020
Gayle Tiana Northcott (1943-2020)

Gayle (Dolly Dolphin) lived a long and adventurous life in spite of what others may have seen as insurmountable challenges. She was the daughter of loving parents, Ruby and Baldy Northcott. Gayle lived independently her entire life and passed away peacefully January 19, 2020, in hospital after a very brief stay.
In her own words she felt “she was put on this earth to make people smile” and that she did abundantly.

Those who knew her were blessed to have known a real-life angel. After successfully completing a business course she was grateful to work at the Canadian Wheat Board in what she described as a very good work environment. After early retirement due to her dual vision and hearing loss and a few years in isolation Gayle found her Deaf-Blind family and went on to be a fearless advocate for her community. In 1993 she was a founding member of the Manitoba Deaf-Blind Association (MDBA). She served as chairperson on their Board as well as chairperson of the steering committee for the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind (RCMDB). She had many firsts in her life as a Deaf-Blind woman. She was the first to undergo surgery in Havana, Cuba for Retinitis Pigmentosa and the first to have a cochlear implant in Ottawa, Ontario. She attended many conferences on the subject of deaf-blindness to further her knowledge and to make many lifelong friends. She was a member of the camp committee and on her 75th birthday she zip lined at the first ever Canadian Deaf-Blind camp held at Camp Manitou here in Winnipeg.

She learned how to use a computer in her 60s allowing her access to information and many friends around the world. Gayle put others before herself and was an amazing role model. She was compassionate, very smart, humorous, kind and generous. And this is why Gayle Tiana Northcott is our January 2020 Human Rights Hero of the Month.

MHR Human Rights Hero for December, 2019 – George Ames and Rusty

For more than ten years, three days a week, George Ames has been taking his dog Rusty to St. Boniface Hospital where Rusty has bought to the lives of patients, volunteers and staff a feeling of joy, comfort and compassion.

Under the hospital’s pets visitation program, George and Rusty began by providing services to patients in the Palliative Care Unit. Soon, requests were pouring in for others to see Rusty, so George and Rusty then became greeters in the front lobby. Rusty has now been immortalized by having his portrait painted by Canadian pet portraitist Gail MacGregor. The portrait acknowledges the level of volunteer commitment both George and his beloved Rusty have so selflessly given. When asked about the portrait, George Ames said, “It will serve as a long time reminder of Rusty’s contribution to the cause.”

St. Boniface Hospital has a team of more than 700 volunteers in all areas of the hospital who help visitors and patients navigate the hospital setting, including nine pet visitors who give their time visiting patients and helping alleviate stress that may accompany a hospital stay.

Jennifer Cawson, manager of volunteers at St. Boniface Hospital, said “what a wonderful contribution Rusty and George have made to the hospital community.” For this reason, Rusty and George are Manitobans for Human Rights Heros of the Month for December 2019.

MHR Human Rights Hero for November, 2019 – Lloyd Bartlett, MD

Inventor, doctor, health advocate, and family man, centenarian physician Dr. Lloyd Bartlett (1917-2019) saved countless lives through his efforts involved in seat belt and helmet laws to anti-smoking legislation.

Dr. Bartlett was born in Ontario, Canada. Whilst growing up he thought he would be a farmer like his grandfather, but when the time came he decided to try out for medical school and the rest is history,

Dr. Bartlett’s wife Desta was a pediatric nurse. Desta worked alongside her husband until she was 95. She died two years ago at the age of 99. Together they raised five children.

As an early adopter of anti-tobacco information, Bartlett created pamphlets to encourage patients to stop smoking and lobbied for non-smoking legislation on behalf of the Canadian Medical Association. As early as the 1070’s he was part of a committee that studied how seatbelts prevent traffic deaths.

Bartlett left his home town of Stratford, Ontario to put himself through Medical School at the University of Western Ontario. He paid his way by working for room and board in a tuberculosis sanitarium, and by growing cucumbers to sell to a local pickle factory.

He met Desta in Ottawa in the early 1940’s and the couple moved to an isolated mining town in Northern Ontario called Favourable Lake, and in 1950 they moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

He loved creating new things. When he was young he created a rhubarb cutter for his mother. Dr. Bartlett’s creativity shone via his inventions. He created what was believed to be the first cannulated needle used for intravenous procedures. He also developed devices to improve feeding tubes and gastric suction, and created a surgical technique to cure pancreatic fistulas. In the office he and Desta worked he designed the floor plan so patients could move in and out logically. His floor plan was soon copied by other health professionals.  He also found a way to soundproof the walls so patients could not be overheard.

Dr. Bartlett never stopped being interested in life which, along with his diet, friends attribute to his longevity. Dr. Lloyd Bartlett was an inventor, doctor, health advocate and family man and this is why this pioneer is Manitobans for Human Rights, is named our Hero of the Month for November, 2019.

(Please read a longer article about Dr. Bartlett on the Doctors Manitoba website).

Kathleen Richardson

MHR Hero of the Month for October, 2019 – Kathleen Richardson

Philanthropist, businesswomen, community leader and matriarch, Kathleen Margaret Richardson passed away in the month of September 2019 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Kathleen was 91 years of age. Kathleen was preceded by her parents James and Muriel Richardson, her brothers George T. and James A Richardson, and her sister Agnes Benidickson.

Kathleen was born on May 5, 1928, and throughout her life she never forgot the words often quoted by her mother, “Unto whom much is given, much is required”. Kathleen was known as a quiet philanthropist, and throughout her life contributed to numerous causes through her foundation, “The Kathleen M. Richardson Foundation”. Always preferring to remain anonymous, her extraordinary generosity benefitted arts and cultural organizations across Canada.

In 1949 Kathleen graduated from the University of Manitoba, and in 1989 was titled Honorary Doctor of Laws. She was an Officer of the order of Canada (1973), Companion of the Order of Canada (1994), and member of the Order of Manitoba (2005). Kathleen was the recipient of numerous awards including the University of Manitoba Jubilee Award in 1975, and The Royal Canadian Academy of Artists Medal for her outstanding contribution to the arts in 2007.

Kathleen also held numerous corporate board appointments, volunteer appointments, and volunteer leadership positions, including serving as a director of James Richardson and sons from 1954 to 1988 and as Director Emeritus following her retirement from the board. During her tenure as a Director, she made outstanding contributions, most notably guiding the expansion of Pioneer Grain, the development of Lombard Place which includes the Richardson Building and The Fairmont Winnipeg, as well as providing sound governance during the growth of the firm’s financial services operation into an international brokerage.

Kathleen was a long time champion of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Her unwavering support and service are credited with helping elevate the RWB to its world-class status, serving as President from 1957-1961 and Honorary President from 1963 to the time of her passing. Among the numerous successes achieved on behalf of the RWB, she chaired the fundraising campaign for the Ballet’s permanent home, which officially opened in downtown Winnipeg in 1998.

While she was certainly in the vanguard of women serving on major corporate boards, it is for her unwavering commitment to the arts in Winnipeg and in Canada that she will be most fondly remembered. It is obvious Kathleen Margaret Richardson lived up to her mother’s quote, and this is why she is Manitobans for Human Rights hero of the month.

Leo Mol. Image from Mayberry Fine Art

MHR – Hero of the Month September, 2019 – Leo Mol (1915-2009)

Leo Mol is known internationally for his sculptures and stained glass windows. More than three-hundred of Mol’s works are displayed in the 1.2 hectare Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park. Which comprises a gallery, a renovated studio, and an outdoor display. The garden was unveiled on June 18, 1992 and has been expanded twice since. It is supported by private donations, and Mol personally donated 200 bronze sculptures to the city of Winnipeg. The sculptures are of religious leaders, prominent people, the human form, and wildlife. Mol also completed more than 80 stained-glass windows in churches throughout Winnipeg.

Leo Mol was born Leonid Molodozhanyn on June 15th, 1915 in what is now Ukraine. He was raised in Russia where he learned the art of ceramics in his father’s pottery workshop.

As a young man he wanted to study painting in Vienna, and spent several years studying there under the tutelage of Wilhelm Frass. With Frass’s recommendation, Mol was then hired by the sculpture Frans Klimsh, who would support Mol’s application to the Berlin Academy. Mol also studied sculpture at the Leningrad Academy of Arts from 1936 to 1940.

Following the invasion of the Soviet Union he deported to Germany where he was influenced by Arno Breker. In 1943 he married his wife Margareth, and in 1945 they moved to The Hague. Then in 1948 Leo and Margareth emigrated to Winnipeg, Canada. In 1949 he held his first ceramics exhibition in Winnipeg.

Mol passed away on July 4th, 2009 at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. He was 94.

MHRI encourages everyone to visit the extensive collection of Mol’s work on public display in Assiniboine Park and to use Google to further explore more of his work. His sculptures and stained glass can be seen in many places in Winnipeg and beyond. The bronze statue of Terry Fox in Ottawa is particularly moving. Leo Mol is a Canadian Hero who worked in Manitoba and this is why he is Manitobans for Human Rights Hero of the month, for September 2019.

Berenice Sisler with Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt – 1986

MHR Hero of the Month August, 2019 – Berenice Sisler

Berenice Sisler was born in Winnipeg in 1924. She came from humble beginnings. Her father worked for the telephone system and her mother was involved with the church and community work. Her father involved the family in long intellectual discussions. Berenice attended East Kildonan Collegiate where she was a very bright student and went on to earn an Education Diploma from the University of Manitoba. She delayed her marriage to George Sisler for one year so she could teach in Dauphin. After getting married they moved to Kentucky where George completed his residency in Psychiatry. He was offered a position but turned it down as neither he or Berenice could endure the racial segregation in the hospital, so they moved back to Winnipeg where George set about opening his practice and the couple had two children, a daughter Lesley, and a son John.

At home Berenice was the consummate homemaker and hostess. From the start Berenice recognized these domestic efforts as labour, albeit un-paid and often under-recognized by society. She found an outlet for her surging feminist spirit through her volunteer work through the YWCA. She would be involved with the organization for more than 30 years, including a stint on its national board. This work became her entry into political organizing and public women’s rights advocacy.

In the seventies, Berenice met other advocates for women’s rights and they called themselves, ‘The Same Damn Bunch’, as it was always the same women attending the same meetings. One issue in particular drew Sislers attention at the time. Family law in Manitoba was deeply unfair for women, riddled with sexist provisions. Fixing that injustice became Sislers passion. Together with a coalition of similarly minded women, she threw herself into the work of making change. She spent hours at court, studying rulings and staring down judges. She wrote incisive briefs, organized meetings, and lobbied the province. In 1995 Sisler documented that movement in a book, A Partnership of Equals. Written in longhand at her kitchen table it stands as a seminal and meticulously detailed account for the fight for equality in Manitoba.  Above all, the book  – available in Winnipeg libraries – pays deep respect to all the women who helped raise the tide of change.

Sisler was an avid volunteer throughout her life, from serving on Assiniboine Park’s Resident Advisory Group to the Federal Charter of Rights Coalition. In 1980 she was named to the Canadian Advisory Council on the status of women, and wrote a key presentation on pension reform. For those efforts and others, she was lauded. In 1985, Sisler was Bestowed with one of Manitoba’s prestigious honour’s, The Order of the Buffalo Hunt: the next year, she was feted nationally by the Governor General. Later she received an Honorary Doctors of Laws, from the University of Winnipeg.

Berenice Sisler never sought the limelight. In fact she sometimes declined it, suggesting others be recognized instead. To Historians Berenice Sisler will be seen as a crucial advocate who helped make Canada a better place for women. To those who knew her, she will always be known as Berenice – a brilliant and relentlessly determined woman who stood up, spoke out and had some fun along the way.

Friends and family describe Berenice as being tenacious, feisty and bright. Yet behind that steely resolve was a sensitivity that her friends came to cherish.

Berenice Sisler is one of the greatest feminists of the 20thcentury, and we are proud she is Manitobans for Human Rights hero of the month for August, 2019.

Curt Hull

MHR Hero of the Month July, 2019 – Curt Hull

Curt Hull is Project Director of Climate Change Connection. Climate Change Connection (CCC) is working to connect Manitobans to climate change facts and solutions. CCC is a non-profit, non-government program of Tides Canada in association with the University of Winnipeg. CCC is directed by a Steering Committee with representation from 10 different organizations from all over the province of Manitoba.

Curt Hull is a professional engineer. Prior to his involvement in climate change, he worked for 25 years as Director of Quality Systems with a Winnipeg based electronics design and manufacturing company. While there, Curt helped the company grow from 12 people in a small local facility to an international concern with manufacturing facilities and five offices in 5 countries, and over 1000 employees.

In 2010, Curt was trained by former U.S. vice-President Al Gore in Nashville and became part of the global Climate Reality Project. He has helped mentor new climate leaders at conferences in San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, and Minneapolis. In 2018, he joined the Board of Directors of Climate Reality Project Canada.

Locally, Curt is working with many groups and levels of government. He was one of the founders of Bike Winnipeg, Bike Week Winnipeg, and Transition Winnipeg. He is currently working to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings of Sustainable Building Manitoba. He contributed to the City of Winnipeg Climate Action Plan 2018 and participated in consultations to develop and implement the Manitoba government’s Climate and Green Plan.

Since 2015, Curt has been working as a consultant with remote winter-road, diesel-dependent northern Manitoba First Nations to develop their resilience to climate change with projects in food sovereignty, waste and recycling, and sustainable energy. It is clear to see why Curt Hull is our Manitobans for Human Rights Hero of the Month, for July 2019.

Shirley Fontaine (1958 – 2019)

MHR of the Month June 2019 – Shirley Fontaine

Born on Ebb and Flow First Nation in the Interlake, on June 9, 1958, Shirley Fontaine was one of eight children. As a little girl she was an avid reader, and she grew up to be a teacher, educator, policy analyst, writer and political advisor. In her 40-plus year career, Fontaine moved the needle as one of the province’s best-known architects on First Nations education and sovereignty.

Fontaine began her career working with the Manitoba Indian Education Association in the late 1070’s. By the early 80’s, she marked her first milestone as one of the youngest First Nations instructors at the University of Manitoba, teaching her Anishinaabe language. Her leadership qualities were recognized early and often. She was closely connected with almost every advance in First Nations education in Manitoba over the last generation. She drew strength from her traditional Anishinaabe spiritual and ceremonial practices. Her traditional name,Kah-Beh-Zhi-Gway-Dung-Pineshee-Kwe suited her. In the English language the name translates to Thunderbird Who Speaks Once Woman.

As education director with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Fontaine was among those who conceived and established the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre.  She helped develop the Assembly of First Nations policy to advance control of education. She was the key advisor on curriculums promoted in provincial schools, by the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba.

Shirley was also a political force at the local, regional, provincial and national levels, conceiving and carrying out numerous policy initiatives and preparing speaking notes for chiefs and grand chiefs. Internationally she was regarded as an ambassador for education and she travelled extensively, presenting the challenges and successes of Manitoba First Nations education to audiences in North America, New Zealand, Australia and Peru, and this is why Shirley Fontaine is Manitobans for Human Rights, hero of the month.

MHR Hero of the Month May 2019 – Cecil Rosner

Cecil Rosner has be an award-winning investigative journalist in Canada for four decades and had devoted his career to reporting and supervising investigative journalism projects and teams, including the I-Team in Winnipeg. He has won Michener and Gemini Awards for his journalism, medals from the New York and Columbus Film Festivals, along with many other distinctions. He’s a teacher, champion and author of investigative work such as Behind The Headlines: A history of Investigative Journalism in Canada and When Justice Fails: The David Milgaard Story. He was the Managing Editor in Manitoba until last year and he is now the Director of Investigative for all the regions at CBC across the country.

Cecil goes above and beyond for a story and for the reporters who want to learn and work up investigative stories. This is his absolute passion and it is infectious to all who have worked with him, for him and have had the pleasure of taking his training courses. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Winnipeg where he teaches Investigative Journalism, in the Department of Rhetoric, Writing and Communications. Cecil was also the main organizer of an international conference on investigative journalism in Winnipeg in 2014, highlighting basic human rights, to investigating corruption globally, to an examination of criminal justice abuses like wrongful convictions, imprisonments and torture. Cecil is compassionate, dedicated and has served the public with his passion for holding the powers that be to account.

On April 2nd, 2019 in Saskatoon, SK., the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA Canada) presented Cecil Rosner with a Lifetime Achievement Award from his peers, and this is why Cecil Rosner is our hero of the month for May 2019.

Dick Smith – (Photo: CBC)

MHR Hero of the Month April 2019 – Dr. Dick Smith

Dr. Smith as a recent medical graduate, moved from England to Neepawa, Manitoba in 1972. From Neepawa he then moved to Winnipeg and set up his own practice in 1979. He was the first Doctor to specifically treat the gay and lesbian community.

During this time Dr. Smith also visited San Francisco, where he found himself as part of the Gay Liberation Movement. He met with other doctors there that he believes,  was the first gathering where clinical manifestations of HIV were reported. Dr. Smith says it was a scary but exciting time to be alive.

Back in Winnipeg, John Lawrie now 66 was one of Dr. Smith’s first patients. Dr. Smith spoke with John about how serious unprotected sex was. AIDS was now very real, and no one knew how it spread so Gay men were often targeted. Fear was rampant. Lawrie’s twin brother died of AIDS in 1990, as did many of his close friends. Lawrie believes he would be dead without Dr. Smith. Paranoia was rampant. People were convinced at that time AIDS came from saliva, so the thought of accidentally drinking from someone else’s glass or a cup or glass having not been washed properly was terrifying.

Dr. Smith says he does not think he died during the AIDS epidemic – he was too busy to stop and grieve – but today he tears up, not about the deadly years, but when reflecting on those who supported him. One of the things Dr. Smith feels most emotional about, is remembering the heterosexual patients in his practice. The women who had him deliver their babies when acceptance was at such a low.

Now after 52 Years of service to our LBGT community, at the age of 75, Dr. Smith is retiring to spend more time with his own partner who has some health issues.

Thank you Dick Smith. You are loved by so many and will be sorely missed.  You Sir, are atrue Manitoba Hero.

Garry McLean

MHR Hero for March, 2019 – Garry McLean 1951 – 2019

Garry McLean was born and raised on Lake Manitoba First Nation (Dog Creek Indian Reserve) on September 22, 1951. He attended elementary school in Lake Manitoba. He was a day student, however this did not prevent him from the abuse suffered by Residential School Survivors. Garry was strapped if he spoke his Ojibwa language, and made to sit in the corner of the room. Garry also was the victim of persistent sexual abuse by a nun. After elementary school he then attended a high school in Ericksdale, and finally graduated from Assiniboine Community College with a Social Services Certificate.

Garry was devoted to the interests of First Nations people. He worked as a Welfare Administrator, Board Councilor, and General Manager for the Lake Manitoba First Nation. He worked for First Nations Governments as a Social Development Officer, Child Welfare Director, Economic Officer, Holistic Health Director,and local Government Officer in Manitoba for the Department of Indian and Northern affairs.

Garry McLean also served his community as an active volunteer. He has been involved with the Manitoba and National Friendship Centres, the City of Winnipeg Race Relations Committee, the Ma Mawi Wa Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg, and the Manitoba Folk Arts Council. He has also been active with the Folklorama First Nations Pavilion, and has served as an Elders Helper with spiritual cultural camps in Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and British Columbia.

Garry McLean never stopped fighting for the rights of his people, and will be sadly missed. Garry McLean was a true Manitoba Hero.

James Favel – image by the Uniter

MHR Hero for February, 2019 – James Favel

James Favel and the late Larry Morrissette formed the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg in 2014, motivated by wanting to make changes to what was happening to his neighbourhood in Winnipeg’s North End. Crime and violence were rampant. Drugs and gangs ran the streets.  James recruited 20 volunteers. Armed with nothing but walkie-talkies, flashlights and the full support of the police, they patrolled the streets and the back lanes at night in Winnipeg’s North End.

During the day James was a truck driver, which had allowed him to buy a home for himself and his family, but on August 10 2014, a young Indigenous girl named Tina Fontaine was murdered. Her body had been wrapped in a black garbage bag and dumped in the Red River. She was only fifteen years old. This was the turning point for James Favel. He quit his job to work full time with the Bear Clan. James had faith that things would work out financially if he just did what needed to be done. At one point he almost lost his home but people came through and he was able to pay his house taxes.

Today the Bear Clan Patrols seven days a week, with over 350 volunteers. They operate out of a facility in the North End where James is the Executive Director. In January of 2018, James Favel was recognized for his incredible contribution to society with a Governor General Award for Indigenous leadership.

Other cities that heard about the Winnipeg Bear Clan Patrol have started their own chapters. Thanks to James Favel who is an inspiration to everyone and an outstanding role model for Indigenous youth. This is why James Favel is our February, 2019 Hero of the month.

Richard Walls – Photo by The Uniter

MHR Hero for January, 2019 – Richard Walls

Richard Walls originally from Moosomin, Saskatchewan, and later obtained a Bachelor of  Interior Design from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture. For more than thirty years Richard owned and operated his own interior design consulting firm, ADI Design Works, specializing in hotel and restaurant design, as well as the restoration and renovation of heritage buildings. He has been involved in rejuvenated many buildings in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District. A founding member and President/Chair of the Old Market Square Association, which has now been renamed the Exchange District, Richard is currently active and engaged in many organizations focused on Main Streets revival, as well as social issues like homelessness, mental health, and crime.

In 2003 Richard embarked on changing the face of Main Street using arts and culture as a catalyst for change. He purchased 613 Main Street, the former Norman’s Meats and transformed it into a multi-purpose facility named The Edge Gallery with art related activities on the Main Floor and eight affordable loft style apartments above for artists. Next Richard purchased the New Occidental Hotel, which had then become notorious for violence. He let the hotel run for a year and then removed the bar and the VLTs. In April 2004 he hired Jane Meagher to help him transition the hotel into Red Road Lodge – Home for Recovery. Jane convinced Richard that the Red Road Lodge must be a dry facility if people were to stand a chance at recovery. Existing tenants in the 45 rooms were given three months notice to either participate in living in a dry facility or seek alternative accommodation. Red Road Lodge then became a safe, dry facility with life skills programming. Today Red Road Lodge provides housing for individuals with mental health issues who have nowhere else to live.

Richard Walls continues to participate in the positive growth in the core area by providing innovate ways to collaborate with like-minded people.

MHR Hero for December, 2018 – Natashia Moodie

Natashia Moodie is an Aboriginal singer/songwriter, anti-bullying advocate, motivational speaker, Licensed Practical Nurse with a certificate in Specialized Dialysis, and Founder of the Beauty Within Project.

Natashia grew up on Nelson House First Nations. She has three beautiful daughters, and is the oldest of three children. Along with her youngest sister by only a year, Alexandria and Natashia started singing and performing when they were just ten years old. Their parents Lou and Edna Moodie have played a huge role in mentoring their children to be hard working, educated, and pro-active in trying to make the world a better place.

In 1996 Natashia and Alexandria were only eleven and ten when they formed the Cree singing and recording duo Moody x 2. Over the past 20 years Moody x 2 have recorded five albums. They have performed with Buffy St. Marie, Tom Jackson, Kashtin and Susan Auglukark. Natashia has always been a gifted songwriter and the songs she writes are about social issues and the love of humanity.

In 1999, Moodie x 2 were invited to sing the national anthem in their Cree language at a Blue Jay’s game in Toronto. This was the first time the Canadian anthem had been sung in an Indigenous language at a baseball game. They then closed the Pan Am games in Winnipeg singing the anthem in Cree and received a standing ovation. In 2000 Moodie x 2 were invited to Ottawa for Aboriginal Week celebrations where they performed several times. They continue to write and record and can be found on YouTube and on their Facebook Page.

In 2015 Natashia started, The Beauty Within Project– celebrating the miracle of birth. This idea came to Natashia when she was pregnant with her third daughter. At that time her marriage was unstable and she felt so alone and isolate. She realized how there must be so many other women feeling the same way and she setout to bring them together as support for each other and to celebrate their pregnancy and not fear it. Natashia and a photographer travelled to remote and Northern towns in Manitoba. Natashia would have a group photo taken of the women and a single photo of each mother to be. The individual copy was given to the women, as well as everyone getting a copy of the group photo. In each group the women exchanged information and supported each other in the future. Once a year Natashia would have a dinner celebration for all women who had participated in the project. In 2014 Natashia was nominated as Woman of the Year for her contribution to society.

MHR Hero for November, 2018 – Doug Thomas

On Saturday October 13th, Doug Thomas and his wife Tracy were in the drive through at the A&W on Portage Avenue, across from Polo Park shopping centre. They suddenly noticed two youths in the bus shelter attacking a homeless man who was just trying to sleep. Tracy started to scream, “they are going to kill him”, and before even giving it a second thought Doug ran over to intervene. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect that both the youths would turn on him and attack him in the most vicious and brutal way. Doug ended up being punched and kicked and having his eyelid ripped. There was so much blood his wife and another bystander thought he had actually had is eyeball ripped out, and were frantically searching for it in the dark.

Once at the hospital it was discovered his eyeball was still intact. It had some scratches and his tear duct was torn, but will hopefully heal with time. Then began the two-hour operation to reattach his eyelid. The operation was successful, and kudos to the surgeon for doing such an amazing job. It is hard to believe this is the same eyelid that was once completely ripped off.

I had the privilege of going to Tracy and Doug’s home to see how he was getting on. He told me that besides having painful surgery to reconstruct his eyelid and having blurry vision in his eye, the attack has left him traumatized. Doug stated that he thinks it is important for people who have gone through things like this to realize trauma affects you in different ways, with rage, anger, hurt, pain, sadness and crying for no reason. Tracy took time off work to care for Doug for some time. It is so obvious when you meet this couple just how devoted they are to each other.

Through visiting with Tracy and Doug I found out some things Doug has been dealing with over the past three years. Doug was employed as the Communications Director for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and specialist for the First Nations Health and Secretariat, but suffered a stroke in 2015, which has forced him to be on disability. In March 2016 it was discovered Doug has a tumour on his parathyroid gland, which causes bone density loss and affects cognitive functions. Regardless of these catastrophic events, Doug did not hesitate to help another human being who was being victimized, and he says he would do it again without a second thought, and this is why Doug Thomas is Manitobans for Human Rights Hero of the Month.      – Jane Meagher

Photo and text by Jane Meagher

MHR Hero for October, 2018 – Margaret Von Lau

In 1987 Margaret Von Lau made the decision to leave Poland to start a new life in a country with more opportunities for herself and her family. Margaret, her husband and two daughters, quickly moved to Germany and from there made application to immigrate to Canada. Margaret was fluent in German and so working in Germany was no challenge for her. After two years, the landed immigrant visa was granted and Margaret was on her way to Canada, arriving on September 25th, 1989. However, life in Canada was a lot more challenging than she had imagined.

Not being able to speak English, Margaret managed to get a job at the Palliser Furniture Factory due to some of the Supervisors speaking fluent German. Margaret started in the carpentry department and her job was extremely physical and repetitive. She had always had managerial positions and had a law degree from Poland. In the evenings she would take ESL lessons. Then after six months she was accepted into an ESL day school and worked in the kitchen at The Salvation Army.

Margaret was now experiencing clinical depression. She was divorced and responsible for the welfare of her two daughters. She was starting to believe that she would never learn to speak English fluently. She looked for agencies that helped new immigrants integrate into Canadian society and provide them with support but there were none to be found. Then one day Margaret said enough is enough and just like her instant decision to leave Poland, she decided to do whatever it would take to learn English and have a professional career.

Her life changed when she was accepted into a program for Career Opportunities for Professional Immigrants. Slowly Margaret began to believe in her skills and abilities again and her English improved daily. Next Margaret enrolled in evening classes at the University of Manitoba and graduated from the Human Resource Management and the Participative Management programs. Now Margaret was on her way to that life she dreamed of living in Canada.

In 1999 Margaret Von Lau co-founded the Newcomers Employment and Education Services (NEEDS Inc.) a non-profit charitable organization that assists refugees and new immigrants to Canada. Working with youth aged 6 to 18, NEEDS aims to enhance the integration of immigrant and refugee youth into Canadian society, and provides employment, education and social programs to develop life skills. As an immigrant herself, Margaret is thrilled that more than 2,000 youths have been helped by NEEDS to date.

In 2005 Margaret was nominated for a Women of Distinction Award.
In 2017 Margaret earned the Silver Award of Merit from the Canadian Polish congress.
In 2018 Margaret earned the Community and Charitable Giving Award by BMO’s celebrating women.
In 2018 Margaret was given the Ubuntu Award of IDEA. This award is given to an Immigrant who has demonstrated, dedication, compassion and leadership in immigrant services and has also made important contributions to enhancing the lives of refugees or immigrants.

[photo: Mark Glucki]

MHR Hero for September, 2018 – Jane Meagher

Jane Meagher (pronounced M’Har) sits on the board of Manitobans for Human Rights and is the Manitoba for Human Rights Steering Committee Chair for Mental Health and Addiction. Jane is also the Founder of 100 Women Who Care Winnipeg, a philanthropic organization that successfully raises money for Winnipeg charities.

In 2004 Jane was commissioned to take on the daunting task of transitioning the notorious Occidental Hotel in Winnipeg, known for violence and drug wars into Red Road Lodge – Home for Recovery, which would be a dry, safe facility for the homeless. The Red Road is the road to healing in some indigenous cultures. Jane achieved this because of her understanding of mental disorders and addiction, and by forming loving relationships with many of her residents. This transition was not easy and Jane had her life threatened by existing residents when she announced the facility would become dry. Jane showed no fear and eventually those who chose not to take advantage of trying a clean and sober life moved to other accommodation. Jane implemented many programs including art, life skills and even yoga. After eight years the facility was stable and Jane was ready for new challenges.

Testimonial from Richard Walls, Board Chair and CEO at Red Road Lodge – Home for Recovery

Jane Meagher brings a fresh approach and new ideas to every situation based on her lived experience and her vast understanding of substance abuse, mental health and homelessness. She understands the importance of respecting cultural diversity as well as every person having the right to an alternative lifestyle. Jane motivated her residents to gain some self-respect by having them take control of their own lives. Jane is a natural leader and motivator, as well as a dynamic public speaker who is able to draw on her past experiences, good and not so good, to teach others the importance of trying to have a positive attitude regardless of the adverse circumstances they may be facing.

Jane suffered extreme trauma as a child, which led her to find alcohol at age fourteen to suppress the crippling emotional pain and terminal anxiety she lived with every day. Finally in her early fifties she was diagnosed with acute ADHD, however Jane knew there was something far more debilitating wrong with her, and later in 2014 she was diagnosed with complex-PTSD, a new disorder often misdiagnosed. Today she is committed to educating leaders about the symptoms and behaviors of people living with complex-PTSD, and helping addicts who have complex-PTSD understand why they need to self medicate to cope with life, and to help them work towards healing and living a life without shame. Even with her own mental disorders Jane has spent her life volunteering and working to help others heal from their past and find their authentic selves, and this is why Jane Meagher is our Hero of the month.

MHR Hero for July / August, 2018 – Marion Ironquill Meadmore

Marian Ironquill Meadmore was born in 1936 on the Peepeekisis First Nation Reserve near Balcarres, Saskatchewan, Canada to Helen and Joseph Ironquill. Her mother was of Cree heritage and her farther was Ojibwa. She grew up on her families’ farm and attended school ten months of the year at a residential school twelve miles away because there was no school available locally. She graduated from Birtle Collegiate, a parochial institution, which left her with a feeling she did not belong in either the aboriginal world or the non-native world. At the age of 16 she enrolled in pre-med courses at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. After two years of studies in 1954, she left school to marry Ronald Hector Meadmore. Who would go on to earn fame in the Canadian Football League. The couple had three children, Glen, Neil and Jim. For nearly 20 years, Meadmore raised her children and participated in school projects.

During this time, in 1959 Meadmore helped establish a gathering place where urban native people around Winnipeg could gather, called the Indian and Metis friendship centre. (IMFC). The centre was the first one in Canada and has since been replicated dozens of times. Meadmore worked full-time as a liaison at the IMFC. As the centre grew, it established a newspaper, The Prairie Call, which was organized in 1961 as a means of featuring Aboriginal writings and notifications of activities. Meadmore, who was the editor of The Prairie Call recognized that it was a means to build a community concerned with legal and socio-economic issues facing indigenous people and used the paper to discuss realities of urban life as well as human rights issues. Simultaneously she joined with Telford Adams, A.H. Brass, Joe Keeper, David Knight and George Manuel to form the Temporary Committee of the National Indian Council, which would later become the Assembly of First Nations. The goal was to create a national body committed to both advancement of native peoples and preservation of their identity, where native people could come up with their own solutions to the problems facing their cultures. When the organizations board was formalized the following year, Meadmore was elected sectary-treasurer.

In 1970, Meadmore was appointed to the National Council of Welfare. That same year after witnessing the struggles a friend had in securing safe housing on a limited budget, Meadmore helped launch the Kinew Housing Project, under the sponsorship of the IMFC, She and Mary Guilbault were instrumental in both founding the Kinew Project and advocating for a social housing policy. Seeking the cooperation of private funding and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), they secured houses at favorable prices. Renovations were completed by indigenous workers to make the homes livable and safe, and were then offered to Native Canadians at reasonable rates. Then counselors from IMFC met with tenants to give advice on a range of issues including housing concerns and tips to dealing with employers and the urban environment. Because the housing purchases required the use of a lawyer, Meadmore began to think about returning to school, to better understand the legal impact on business and economic development programs.

In 1977 Marion Meadmore completed her law degree from the University of Manitoba, she became the first Indigenous woman lawyer. Her first position was with Legal Aid, practicing criminal and family law.  Not soon after accepting this position Marion opened Winnipeg’s first all female law firm which focused on corporate law. She was one of the founders of the Canadian Indian Lawyers Association know known as the Indigenous Bar Association of Canada. In 1982 she left the active practice of law and began the Indian Business Development Group to encourage growth in native businesses.

Marion Meadmore was one of the founders of the National Indigenous Council of Elders (NICE), which strives to join First Nation elders from across Canada to develop economic programs to enable Canada’s Indigenous people to operate without government funding, and to be able to manage their own funds and solve their own social problems.

Awards and Honors

  • In 1985, Marion was awarded membership in the Order of Canada.
  • In 2010, Marion was honored with the title of ‘Grandmother’ from the Kar Ni Kanichihk service organization, which hosts the annual Keeping the Fires Burning Aboriginal Awards to recognize women who serve as role models for younger Indigenous women.
  • In 2014, Marion was awarded an Indspire Awards laureate designation for law by the Indspire Foundation.
  • In 2015, Marion was granted a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Manitoba.

Due to her achievements over a long period of time Marian Ironquill Meadmore’s biography will be continued and conclude in our August Hero of the month.

Jane Meagher, Director, Manitobans for Human Rights.


MHR Hero for June, 2018 – Nafiya Naso

For the month of June, MHR features our local hero working tirelessly in the area of human rights, Nafiya Naso. We will feature this article from Flare Magazine.

It was early August 2014, and Yazidi-Canadian Nafiya Naso’s phone was ringing non-stop. On the line were terrified friends and family living through a horrific assault by ISIS, who had swept into the Sinjar district of Northern Iraq on Aug. 3 with brutal force.

“I heard how many people were killed and how the young women and children were taken,” says Naso, a 26-year-old nursing student and mother of two who is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

At the time, the horrors of the assault were still unfolding for the Yazidi people, a minority group in Iraq considered infidels by ISIS because they practice their own ancient religion. It’s estimated that as many as 5,500 Yazidi men and boys were murdered by ISIS in the August 2014 genocide, while thousands of girls and women were taken hostage and subject to sexual torture—and many still remain captive today.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis fled their homes on foot. An estimated 360,000 Yazidis have been displaced since the 2014 siege, seeking shelter in refugee camps in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Europe.

Resolved to help her people survive, 26-year-old Naso, who came to Canada from Iraq as a refugee in 1990, began knocking on doors. “I begged for help and it was so hard for me to get that help because no one knew who the Yazidis were, or what the heck I was talking about.”

Naso, who formed the Yazidi Community of Manitoba, soon found a strong ally in Winnipeg’s Jewish community. Together, they raised funds to privately sponsor a Yazidi family of seven, who came to Winnipeg in July 2015. Two years later that group, which calls itself Operation Ezra, has expanded to include over 24 agencies and multi-faith organizations. To date, they have privately sponsored six families (35 people in total) and helped settle them in Winnipeg, and have plans to bring 20 to 25 more people by the end of 2017.

Since they brought their first family to Canada, Naso and Operation Ezra have been instrumental in urging the Canadian government to make the settling of Yazidis a priority. That pressure has paid off. On February 21, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced Canada will accept 1,200 Yazidi refugees by the end of 2017.

“It’s a start,” says Naso.

Naso talked to FLARE about how it feels to be a refugee, what gets lost in public conversations about immigration and why it’s so important that we open both our hearts and our borders to those in need of rescue.

To read the rest of this article, which includes a question and answer interview with Nafiya Naso, use this link.

MHR Hero for May, 2018 – Shandi Strong

With a long history of volunteerism and organizing, Shandi Strong became involved with The Oscar Wilde Memorial Society a.k.a. Gio’s Club and Bar, in 2008, which served as “The Heart of the Community” for the LGBT* community for over 35 years. She eventually become the board’s first ever female Vice President in the organization’s final years. Through her volunteer efforts and charisma, Shandi became quite well known in the city. Her involvement at Gio’s, and fundraising efforts for their charity has cemented her place as a person who cares about our community.

These days Shandi continues to support Winnipeg’s Rainbow Resource Centre by volunteering, sitting on committees, participating in programs, providing content and photography for their events. She writes semi-regularly for Outwords Magazine and has been working as the Advocacy Coordinator for Pride Winnipeg. Throughout all of this she maintains a profile in local media speaking on Transgender related issues, and speaks to groups, schools and organizations about her personal journey in an effort to foster understanding. In 2015 she was honoured to be the first ever Transgender Grand Marshall of Winnipeg’s Pride Parade for her work in the community.

During the 2016 Provincial election Shandi was nominated and ran as the Liberal Party MLA candidate for Wolseley. An honour coupled with hard work, was fully supported by the party and fellow candidates. In addition to staying active in politics She belongs to the Manitoba Women’s Liberal Commission and serves as a member at large, as well as being the Constituency Assistant to Jon Gerrard, MLA for River Heights.

Shandi’s autobiography Growing a Pair was released this past February to a standing room only crowd at McNally Robinson’s and spent several weeks on their bestseller list, even reaching number one for a time.

Shandi continues to be involved in local politics through her work as a constituency assistant and volunteering.  She has begun work on her campaign for the upcoming provincial election in 2020, as well as increasing her role within Pride Winnipeg after being elected to the governance board.

MHR Hero for April, 2018 – David Northcott

David Northcott (Photo: Lyza Sale/CBC)

David Northcott was at the helm of Winnipeg Harvest, Manitoba’s largest food bank, for over three decades. His passion for feeding and supporting hungry and oppressed people is unquestionable.

In June 2017 David said goodbye to Winnipeg Harvest. His decision to do so was not an easy one, but it was losing a close friend that helped David make the decision that he now wanted to spend more time with his wife, three daughters and his grandchildren.

In a province known for it’s generosity and charitable contributions, David Northcott has been an incredible leader to Manitobans giving community.  His dedication and compassion to Winnipeg Homeless over the three past decades have resulted in contributions towards long-term solutions to hunger and poverty in our community helped Winnipeg Harvest provide essential support to thousands of Manitobans and I wish him all the best in his retirement.

– Brian Pallister, Manitoba’s Provincial Leader

David Northcott was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2012 for his passionate commitment to fighting poverty and hunger in Canada. He also received the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Manitoba’s board of governors. David continues to serve as Vice President of the Manitoba Association of Food Banks.

We recognize David Northcott as our MHRI Human Rights Leader in April, 2018.

MHR Hero for March 2018 – Althea Guiboche

Althea Guiboche

Althea Guiboche is an inspiration to every human being on this planet. Althea has set an example that demonstrates no matter how hard your own life can be you can find joy in helping others who are experiencing the same issues.

Althea is a mother of five children who grew up in Manitoba, Canada. Althea is Metis, and has dealt with systemic racism all her life. Some years ago Althea found herself homeless with three small children. Once she was housed she set about feeding the homeless in her community. Twice a week she would bake bannock and from an old truck would hand it out to people who were hungry and forced to live in poverty.

If was not long before Althea was given the name, ‘ The Bannock Lady’. It has been five years now that Althea has been feeding those who have come to know and love her. Today Althea has numerous volunteers and they serve two meals a week that include hot soups and chili to compliment the award-winning bannock they make.

Besides being known for baking Bannock, Althea is also known for all the advocacy work she does on behalf of the homeless and those living in poverty.

In 2017, Althea Guiboche earned the Governor General’s Award for Outstanding Indigenous Leadership. Althea is truly a Manitoba Hero.

MHR Hero for February 2018 – David Matas

David Matas

David Matas is a human-rights lawyer who has dedicated his life to exposing global atrocities. This unassuming man has travelled the world working diligently to end human suffering. David lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

David Matas was born in Winnipeg on August 29, 1943. He obtained a B.A. from the University of Manitoba in 1964 and a Masters of Arts from Princeton in 1965. In 1967 he obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Jurisprudence) from the University of Oxford, England, as well as a Bachelor of Civil Law in 1968. In 1969 he became a Middle Temple United Kingdom Barrister, and he joined the bar in Manitoba in 1971.

Davis Matas has always maintained a private practice in refugee, immigration and human rights law since 1979. He has also been actively involved as Director of the International Defense and Aid Fund for South Africa in Canada, Director of Canada-South Africa Cooperation, Co-chair, Helsinki Watch Group, Director, Manitoba Rights and Liberties, Amnesty International, the Canadian Bar Association, the International Commission of Jurists, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canadian Council for Refugees and he is the legal council for B’nai Brith Canada.

David Matas has penned several books and numerous articles. His latest book, “Why did you do That”, is the Autobiography of a Human Rights Advocate. He catalogues a tsunami of inhumanity and his combat against it: torture, terror, execution, exploitation, slavery, child pornography, war crimes, genocide and hate. Matas speaks of everything from sex tourism to the Holocaust, post war mass murder to protecting refugees, people killed to salvage their organs, to the disappearance of a Swedish Diplomat who saved 100,000 Jews in the Second World War but wasn’t saved himself.

David has received numerous accolades for his human rights work, including the Order of Canada, the University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement, as well as being nominated for a Nobel Prize.

MHR Hero January, 2018

Lloyd Axworthy

Dr. Lloyd Axworthy PC CC OM, Canadian politician, statesman, academic, author and humanitarian.

Dr. Axworthy was recently appointed to lead the new World Refugee Council.

In 2002 Dr. Axworthy penned a very successful book – Navigating a New World. In his book he charts how we can become active citizens in the demanding world of the 21st century, to make the world safer, more sustainable and humane.

From 2004 to 2014 Dr. Axworthy served as president and vice chancellor of the University of Winnipeg and as chancellor of St. Paul’s University College (a constituent institution of the University of Waterloo).

In 1993 under Jean Chretien Dr. Axworthy became a cabinet minister. He was given responsibility for (HRDC) Human Resources Development Canada. In 1996 he became minister of foreign affairs.

In the mid 1990s for his comprehensive campaign to ban the use of anti-personal land mines, which led to the signing of the Ottawa Treaty in 122 countries. Dr. Axworthy was nominated for a Nobel peace prize.

Dr. Lloyd Axworthy received his MA and PhD from Princeton University returning to Canada in 1972 to teach at the University of Manitoba and at the University of Winnipeg. At the latter he also became Director of the Institute of Urban Affairs.

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