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.

Kathleen Richardson

MHRI 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

MHRI – 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

MHRI 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

MHRI 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 governments 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)

Manitoba Hero 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.

MHRI 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)

MHRI 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

MHRI 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

MHRI 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

MHRI 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.

MHRI 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.

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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