Nominees in the category of Community Services
Developmental Services Worker, 1984
The child of a residential school survivor, Laura Arndt is a proud Haudenosaunee woman who has devoted her life and career to advancing healing for Indigenous people and communities in Canada. In 2021, Arndt was named secretariat lead of the Survivors’ Secretariat, an organization overseeing a survivor-led search for unmarked graves of children who died while attending the Mohawk Institute, the first and longest-running school in Canada. Prior to joining the Survivors’ Secretariat, Arndt held senior roles focused on Indigenous rights and well-being at the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and at Centennial College.
Donna Big Canoe
Native Education - Community and Social Development, 1998
General Arts and Science, 1995
Donna Big Canoe was elected Georgina Island First Nation chief in 2007 at the age of 31 and has been re-elected every term since. Under her leadership the community enjoys improved drinking water, health services and employment opportunities. The community successfully fought a proposal to dump treated sewage into Lake Simcoe's watershed and she collaborated with First Nations chiefs and governments to settle two historic treaty disputes. She's been honoured with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Board of Governor's Distinguished Alumni Award at her alma mater. A collaborative, consultative leader, Big Canoe stresses any achievements are shared with her council, staff and entire community.
Business Administration - Marketing (Diploma), 1997
International Trade (Post-Graduate Certificate), 1997
Law and Security Administration, 1997
Mamta Chail is a results-driven mental health advocate with a focus on children and youth, where she believes resources and services have the greatest impact and return on investment. A recognized expert in her field and current CEO/president of Youthdale Treatment Service, Chail sits on the board of directors for Children's Mental Health Ontario and the mental health and addictions subcommittee of the London Police Services Board. Throughout her career, Chail has influenced policy and system-level standards to support better mental health outcomes, advocated for funding and resources and worked to ensure equitable access and supports for all families.
Social Service Worker, 2015
After experiencing the effects of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) during her third pregnancy, Christine Cunningham was determined to help other women who have experienced the same struggle. Since returning to school and switching careers, she has become a leader in the field of perinatal mental health, running a successful counselling private practice. She is also the founder and executive director of Perinatal Wellbeing Ontario, a not-for-profit organization that provides free to low-cost mental health supports to those living with a PMAD. Her knowledge, experience and dedication has made a difference in the lives of countless women.
Child and Youth Care Worker, 2014
Travonne Edwards is an assistant professor at Toronto Metropolitan University and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, researching the overrepresentation of Black families in Ontario’s child welfare systems. He is a transformational leader who rose from his experiences of anti-Black racism to become a leading academic, intent on improving the lives of Black children, youth and families navigating the child welfare system. His work has been recognized with many prestigious awards and fellowships. His research projects, peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and fact sheets support front-line practitioners, agencies and policy makers in their decisions to support Black families.
Child and Youth Worker, 1995
Clare Freeman is an accomplished and respected non-profit leader, speaker, instructor and trauma clinician. She has led key organizations in Hamilton, including serving as executive director of Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice and Interval House of Hamilton, a domestic violence shelter. She now serves as executive director at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. She is a passionate advocate in her community and beyond for social justice, rights-based inclusion, sex-gender-based equity, violence against women, male engagement in anti-violence, children’s mental health, child welfare and palliative care. She has served on several provincial advisory committees and presented at national and international conferences.
Museum Management and Curatorship, 2008
Heather George is a prominent leader in the Canadian museum sector. As executive director of the Woodland Cultural Centre, she has been a strong advocate for promoting Indigenous perspectives and creating opportunities for Indigenous artists and curators. She was elected as president of the Canadian Museums Association in 2021, where she has led a national review of museum policies and their relationship with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples. George's leadership in advancing reconciliation and promoting Indigenous perspectives has been widely recognized in the Canadian museum sector.
St. Lawrence College
Veterinary Assistant, 2010
Social Service Worker, 2003
Armand La Barge
Investigative Sciences and Police Studies, Advanced, 1986
Advanced Applied Management Techniques, 1985
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, 1985
As chief of York Regional Police 2002-2010, Armand La Barge was a trailblazer, setting the standard for police leadership as a champion of diversity and inclusiveness. His progressive outlook over his 37-year career earned him respect in York Region's multicultural societies as well as in the policing community. He was elected president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and won numerous awards for his service to diverse communities. In 2022, he was appointed to the Order of Ontario in recognition of his lifelong commitment to diversity, inclusion, social justice, human rights and community activism.
Fundraising and Volunteer Management, 2007
Deepa Mattoo is an award-winning feminist lawyer whose work is rooted in equity and anti-oppression. She joined the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic as a legal services director, later becoming the executive director. In her current position, she has overseen legal, counselling, interpretation and intervention services to racialized and marginalized populations of women and survivors of gender-based violence. A YWCA Women of Distinction Award winner, Mattoo has appeared before parliamentary committees and United Nations civil society meetings, while her expertise and law reform work have brought her to the Supreme Court of Canada to speak on a wide range of human rights and social justice issues.
George Brown College
Community Worker Program, 2018
Social Service Worker, 2003
Drug and Alcohol Counsellor, 2003
Practical Nursing, 2009
Nicole Paquette is a passionate advocate for the health and well-being of marginalized children. As the co-founder of Noelle's Gift, she has helped to raise over $3.3 million since 2013, positively impacting the lives of over 15,000 children. The volunteer-run charitable organization has received local and provincial recognition for providing nutrition, clothing and educational equipment to thousands of marginalized children in the community.
Bachelor of Applied Technology - Architecture, Project & Facility Management, 2013
Jehan Salim has put her college degree to work on the international stage, using her project and facilities management expertise to lead post-conflict rebuilding efforts and operate the largest refugee camp in the world. She oversaw the reconstruction of Mosul University and 12,000 homes in Iraq, built a 400-bed COVID isolation clinic at Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, secured the safety of 100 staff and key border assets during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and led the rehabilitation of 250 homes in Syria. From Iraq to Afghanistan, Salim has made it a priority to give marginalized women income, experience and a voice.
Public Relations, 2007
When Ramsay Hunt Syndrome – a rare neurological condition – left Mike Shoreman paralyzed and suffering from vertigo, hearing and vision loss, he descended into a mental health crisis. Fighting his way back from that place of despair fundamentally changed his life’s trajectory. As he undertook a healing journey, both mental and physical, Shoreman found his calling – to use his skills as a paddleboarder and his experience in public relations to be an advocate for accessibility justice and mental health supports. By sharing his story of resilience in the face of adversity, Shoreman inspires others to strive for excellence and achieve their potential.
St. Clair College
Early Childhood Education, 1978
Cheryl Sprague is the founder and executive director of Delta Chi Early Childhood Centres. Founded in 1986, what started as one location in downtown Windsor has expanded to 13 locations with child-care spaces for more than 1,000 children and 137 employees. Sprague has given back to her community as president of the Children's Aid Foundation board for nearly a decade. She invests in training the next generation of educators and has hosted more than 2,000 St. Clair College students for placements at Delta Chi. Throughout her career, she has found her passion in providing high-quality child care for families in Windsor.
Journalism - Print, 1986
Joe Warmington is an award-winning reporter and columnist with the Toronto Sun and was known for years for his street column, The Night Scrawler. A 37-year industry veteran, he has covered local, national and international news and events over the course of his successful career. An advocate for democracy and justice, Warmington applies balanced principles to inform readers and encourage respectful discourse that inspires action toward making meaningful change. He challenges the status quo by asking hard questions and showcasing different perspectives. A talented researcher and writer, he continues to positively impact lives through the people he meets and the stories he tells.