Celebrating 5 Years of Empowering Change

On November 16th, ICL celebrated our 5th Anniversary with a simultaneous live event in Toronto as well as an online Zoom stream. It was a joy to see all the faces on zoom across the country, sharing the inspiring moments with us. And it was a source of pride to celebrate and hear from our amazing award winners, keynote speakers and special guests, and to share their stories – and their commitment to change.

We were joined by incredible activists such as bestseller author and educator for mental health and human rights, Samra Zafar. Her book, A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose, based on her journey of escaping an abusive child marriage to pursue her education, is a national bestseller and was one of CBC's Best Books of 2019.

And we were honoured to welcome Janet Merlo, a former RCMP officer who spoke out against sexual harassment and misconduct in the ranks and is taking action, along with other survivors of sexual harassment in both the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces, to achieve institutional change. This new alliance was forged during a recent leadership training taught by Olivia Chow at the Institute for Change Leaders. Listen now to Janet's story:

Visit the website joinusatgtb.com to find out about our new alliance with Janet Merlo and current and former members of the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces, seeking justice for victims of gender-based violence and abuse. 

2021 Alumni Awards

We also presented our 2021 Alumni Awards, which recognizes the remarkable achievements of our community of change leaders and organizers.

The winner of the CWA Canada Storytelling for Change Award, for the most effective and powerful public narrative and communications work, was Renee Giroux-Wyton. Renee is the CEO and Co-Founder of the GBV Resource Collective, a social enterprise that works to 'bridge the gap' between individuals, organizations, and agencies affected by gender-based violence through resources, education, and advocacy. Her success in advancing systemic changes to end Gender Based Violence, and harnessing storytelling to empower survivors has been remarkable, a source of hope and inspiration and a testament to the power of public narrative.

The winner of this year's Team Building for Change Award was Lisa Ryan for her work building a one-stop shop for people experiencing homelessness to access services in rural Nova Scotia. Lisa organized institutions, elected officials, Indigenous leaders, people with lived experience, African Nova Scotians, local businesses and government reps across Lunenburg County to build a new community-wide coordinated access system to address the housing crisis. Her success in deep relationship-building will help people experiencing homelessness in rural Nova Scotia get the resources they need.

The winner of this year’s Youth for Change Award was Stephen Mensah and the Toronto Youth Cabinet. Their goal was to ensure that every school in Ontario supplied free menstrual products, based on the principles that there should be no stigma around something so fundamental --,  as menstrual products are a necessity, and not a luxury. Stephen rallied the support of the Toronto Youth Cabinet and grew its membership base in order to build the power needed to win change. Through social media, they in turn rallied the support of  highschool students across the province to lobby their educators and local decision-makers. Stephen worked with a number of organizations, including the Human Rights Commission and teachers, to  broaden the support. Finally, on October 8th, the Ontario government announced that menstrual products would be provided free of charge in every highschool in Ontario! Stephen and the Toronto Youth Cabinet’s remarkable success is a source of hope and encouragement and a testament to their hard work and dedication.

The winner of this year’s Strategic Win for Change Award is Bonnie Roe and the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes Long-Term Care Coalition! After more than half of the seniors at a local nursing home in their community died of Covid-19,  Bonnie and the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes Long-Term Care Coalition took action. More than 50 people attended the Coalition's town hall on fixing long-term care; unanimously adopting a plan of action that included more pay and hours of care for workers. A petition was signed by more than 5,000 people. They met with their local MPP, and ultimately called her out in the local press for not acting. Within weeks, $4M in new funding to pay for more care in the local nursing homes was announced; great news for local seniors and workers...and a community win!

Congratulations to all the winners!

If you didn’t catch the event or just want to relive some of the magic, we’ve got just the thing for you! You can now catch the full anniversary event here:

Thanks again to everyone who made the night so memorable. Here’s to the next five years of growth -- and empowering change!

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The Institute for Change Leaders is a Canadian registered charity that can issue official donation receipts (no. 763310679 RR 0001). ICL is brought to you by the Faculty of Community Services at Toronto Metropolitan University.

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