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.

MHRI 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

MHRI 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]

MHRI 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.

MHRI Hero for August 2018 – Marion Ironquill Meadmore

Marian Ironquill Meadmore

Continued from July/August Hero of the month…

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.

MHRI 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.

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.


MHRI Hero for June, 2018 – Nafiya Naso

For the month of June, MHRI 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.

MHRI 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.

MHRI 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.

MHRI 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.

MHRI 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.

MHRI 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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