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Seven individuals nominated for Newfoundland and Labrador annual human rights honour

['Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission']
Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission. - Contributed

Seven people have been nominated for the province’s 2018 Human Right Award, an annual award recognizing an individual for has made and/or continues to make a meaningful contribution to advancing and furthering human rights in the province.

This year's nominations came from community members, professional contacts and others who want to recognize the nominees' efforts. 

The nominees are university student Blair Curtis, activist Gemma Hickey, indigenous leader Anastasia Rupee, inclusion advocate Craig Reid, The Gathering Place executive director Joanne Thompson, and accessibility advocate Kim White, and transgender activist Dane Woodland. 

The winner and the recipient of the Human Rights Champion will be announced at a ceremony at Government House in St. John’s on Thursday. 


Nominee bios
courtesy the NL Human Rights Commission)

Blair Curtis
Blair Curtis is an 18-year-old university student at Grenfell and trans rights activist who lives in McIvers. Blair and his mother Gerri-Lynn Curtis are the founders of the Western Chapter of "Parents of Trans and Gender Diverse Kids NL" - under the guidance of Trans Support NL Inc.; the first transgender support group on the west coast of Newfoundland that meets monthly in Corner Brook. Within the support group, they are able to give transgender and gender diverse individuals, as well as their parents, a safe and welcoming environment where they can share their journey with others who relate. Blair is also a trans rights advocate who helps promote peoples right to (their) gender identity and expression. Specifically, he advocates for members of the trans community to have access to health care services, and for MCP's gender affirming surgery coverage in Newfoundland and Labrador to change to match the Canadian average. Blair dedicates his own time and resources to improving the lives of transgender people across the island.

Gemma Hickey
Gemma Hickey is a widely known St. John’s-based activist, poet, and soon-to-be author. Gemma has championed many causes but is best known for co-leading the movement that legalized same-sex marriage and more recently, for walking across the island portion of the province in support of survivors of clergy abuse. Gemma was named the 2016 Human Rights Champion, but their recent work on changing provincial legislation to allow for gender-neutral birth certificates was so impressive that the Selection Committee felt they deserved to be short-listed again.

Anastasia Qupee
Anastasia Qupee is a role model in her community. An Innu from Sheshatshiu, Labrador, she was the first female chief of her First Nation, serving two terms from 2004 until 2010, and the first female Grand Chief of Innu Nation from 2014 to 2017. She is a mother of three and a grandmother of two. She is the Chair of the board of the Charles J. Andrew Youth Treatment Centre, and a board member of the Labrador Wellness Centre. She has previously served as board member of Labrador Grenfell Regional Authority and Innu Nation.

A strong advocate of healthy living, she always makes a point of doing things to take care of herself to avoid illness and to provide a good balance between work and home life. She is currently working as Social Health Director for Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation.

Craig Reid
Craig Reid is a long-time advocate for inclusion for persons with disabilities. He was primarily responsible for CBC NL airing the 'Access Denied' series in November 2017, which explored mobility issues and accessible workplaces. He is also well known to government members and officials and his efforts lead to having parking spots near the entrance to Confederation Building, traditionally reserved for MHAs and Cabinet ministers, replaced with blue zone parking. His activism resulted in amendments to the Building Accessibility Legislation as well as the Highway Traffic Act, which has resulted in a dramatic increase to fines for persons who fail to respect blue zones. He has advocated for universal design principals in all government buildings; most recently to have universal design incorporated into the plans for the new west coast hospital. He took on the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) about five years ago and through his efforts an accessibility project was funded by the district to ensure all schools meet accessibility standards. He has designed numerous brochures, posters and other print material for the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities in a volunteer capacity. He is also a member of the Universal Design Network.

Joanne Thompson
Joanne Thompson is the Executive Director of The Gathering Place: a non-profit, street level, community service centre that provides a primary health care collaborative to persons who are homeless or precariously housed, through health and social supports in an inclusive, low barrier setting. Joanne has been involved with TGP for over13 years as a volunteer, board member and volunteer Registered Nurse. She has assisted to engage multidisciplinary professionals and agencies within a collaborative primary health initiative. Joanne has championed for the most marginalized, the invisible homeless, with our society.

Kim White
Kim White was born and raised in the rural community of Twillingate, but currently lives in St. John’s. At age three, she acquired a disability due to a spinal cord tumour. Experiencing life with a disability has definitely fed her desire to help create a “just world” but she also credits her parents’ passing along a strong sense of altruism and compassion. Educated at Memorial University with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education, Kim fulfilled a life-long dream to become a teacher. Fate intervened and led Kim on a career journey that was definitely engrained in justice, but was outside her original vision of being “a traditional classroom teacher”. Kim’s life’s work has been mainly in the non-profit sector focusing on adult education, employment and career services, poverty reduction, and community development. Kim is the former Executive Director of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities. While with the coalition, Kim’s work focused heavily on education and awareness; leading task forces, developing resources and facilitating info sessions and workshops for projects such as Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities, Inclusive Electoral Processes and Inclusive Customer Service.

Kim is also passionate about making change through volunteering. Kim's past volunteer work has ranged from being a Sparks and Brownie Leader to holding various positions with literacy organizations/ committees (including the PGI Golf Tournaments for Literacy) to being Chair of the provincial government's Buildings Accessibility Advisory Board. Kim currently sits on the board of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as well as being Chair of Power Productions which is a new non-profit focused on making the performing arts more inclusive and accessible.

Kim has used every available platform - at work and in her personal life – to “teach” people how to shift the way they think about accessibility. Kim’s message is that all existing barriers we face in society have been created and they can be removed and prevented if people choose to remove and prevent them; if people choose to change their attitudes, if they choose to work together and if they truly understand that in doing so, they are choosing to make the world better for themselves and everyone.

Dane Woodland
Dane Woodland is a 27-year-old transgender activist residing in St. John’s. Since beginning his gender transition in late 2014, Dane has had many opportunities to speak on behalf of his community and actively strives to create dialogue regarding awareness, inclusion, and anti-oppression. Some of his more notable work includes a 2016 TEDx talk entitled “One Lifetime, Two Perspectives: How Male Privilege Made Me a Feminist” and his contributions to the recently published transVersing (2018), a collection of transgender narratives, originally compiled for dramatic production. Dane routinely partakes in public speaking surrounding trans needs and experience; from guest lecturing with Memorial University’s faculties of Social Work and Nursing, to guest speaking at local high schools and conferences, Dane has engaged with countless people throughout his journey. During his typical work week as a personal trainer, Dane also co-facilitates a trans support group and regularly mentors a trans youth. In his free time, Dane volunteers with TEDxStJohns and coaches both track and field and paranordic skiing, ensuring that he shares his values with whoever he meets. When he needs a little bit of downtime, he likes to exercise, read, and spend time with his loving partner and two tabby cats!

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