Manitobans for Human Rights (MHRI) will be featuring a Manitoba hero each month on our website. You will be able to read what this special human being has contributed to our community. We will display the Manitoba hero from each month for everyone to read about.
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 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.
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.
MHRI Hero for April, 2018 – David Northcott
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 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 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
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.