Category Archives: awards

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Equity Council

2018: Pierre Elliott Trudeau Equity Council

2018: Harmony Social Changemakers Award

Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School Equity Council

By Evaan Shetye and Rachel Kwok

The Equity Council is an intersectional collaboration of student leaders in grades 9 to 12 from a range of social justice groups. Members represent the Muslim Students Association, Trudeau Pride, the African-Canadian Students Association, and Circle of Friends, among other equity-focused clubs.

Over the past year, the Council has undertaken a variety of projects — from facilitating discussions between police and students to leading critical explorations of Indigenous history and Reconciliation. During the spring of 2018, the Council delivered equity-related workshops on LGBTQ+ inclusion, Reconciliation, and anti-racism and ableism to elementary schools throughout region.

To ensure student representation within the community, the Equity Council has hosted a series of Town Hall meetings to address hate speech and work toward inclusion. In addition, members have met with the school’s administrative team to present student concerns and work towards creating sustainable solutions collaboratively.

This year, the Equity Council delivered workshops to all Grade 9 students on the first day of school. In addition, they have been actively involved in the creation of an equitable dress code for all students.

Evaan Shetye is a Grade 12 student at Pierre Elliot Trudeau High School and member of Trudeau Pride. Rachel Kwok is a Grade 10 student and member of Circle of Friends, a club for students with physical and developmental differences.

Mandi Gray

2018: Mandi Gray

2018 Harmony Award

Mandi Gray

By Kelly Showker

In activist and feminist communities, we often hear the bromide “the personal is political”, but few embody this phrase to the benefit of others as boldly as Mandi Gray.
I met Mandi in late 2015, a month before she was scheduled to begin testifying in a sexual assault trial. What I saw in the following months and learned from Mandi appalled and saddened me — it also made me realize how brave Mandi truly is.

When her university refused to act following the arrest of her colleague for sexually assaulting her, she marched across campus with a sign saying “Rape Survivor”, demanding the university take her seriously. Mandi and her colleagues formed the campus-based group Silence is Violence in order to fight for justice and battle institutional resistance to responding to sexual violence. Multiple branches of Silence is Violence formed, opened by survivors at different universities.

Later that year, she filed a human rights complaint against York University for systemic gender discrimination. Her complaint resulted in the university partnering with a sexual assault centre to provide free counselling services to all university campus members who had experienced sexual violence.

During the criminal trial and the ongoing human rights complaint, Mandi allowed us into her life. As we filmed with lawyers, therapists, experts, a sexual assault evidence kit nurse and others, I saw Mandi’s dedication to helping victims of assault. Even with strangers making hateful threats, she stayed focused on the goal of eradicating institutional rape culture and supporting survivors.

The documentary, Slut or Nut: The Diary of a Rape Trial, premiered at Hot Docs and has now screened at universities in nearly every province in Canada. The film explains how the legal system handles sexual assault and urges society to re-examine beliefs around rape culture. Mandi tours with the film, speaking to groups of students, educating the public, and working with activists to provide resources for women reporting sexual assault. She also attends trials to support victims and works with student groups.

By organizing and speaking publicly, by using legal tools to force change, and by engaging with the media, Mandi has created a new paradigm for survivors of sexual assault — one that is not broken or meek but is powerful and persuasive, unafraid to demand justice — one that is no longer a victim, but a victor.

Kelly Showker is a documentary filmmaker and public speaker focused on the impacts of gender-based violence.

2017: Itah Sadu

2017 Harmony Community Educator Award

Itah Sadu
Co-Owner, A Different Booklist Cultural Centre

By Oscar Brathwaite

Itah’s objective is simple and to the point: to work with organizations that engage in programs for youth with the focus on education, pathways to success and community economic development.

Itah’s youth entrepreneurship program designs have been adapted as models for job placement opportunities, skill development and leaders-in-training programming. One such program was the Fresh Elements/Fresh Arts initiative designed for youth to develop technical and production skills in the cultural industries.

Featured on the African Canadian History 2011 Poster, Itah has contributed to the legacy of African Canadians with the naming of Toronto sites in honour of their contributions. She is a bestselling children’s author, whose books have been adopted by schools for curriculum and adapted to film.

Itah is the co-owner of A Different Booklist, one of the few independent bookstores left in Toronto that reflects the diversity of Toronto.

Oscar Brathwaite is a founder and principle consultant at Technical Education and Training International and Canadian Association for Business Economics. He is also a mentor to Itah Sadu.

Video: Itah Sadu award acceptance.

2017: Cardinal Leger


Cardinal Léger Secondary School
Brampton, Ontario

By Heather Reid

Located in the heart of Brampton’s Flower City, Cardinal Léger is Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board’s oldest secondary school. Alongside Brampton’s evolving cultural diversity, Léger is proudly building a welcoming school community for students from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

As a school, we are at the forefront of social change, social justice, equity, diversity and inclusivity within the board. Through community outreach programs like the Knights Table, Food for Children, and the Gift of Giving back, our students actively model Léger’s values of equity and inclusivity.

To enrich our cultural awareness and promote learning among our school community, staff and students have shared their experiences from the Nicaragua Social Justice trip and the YMCA Cultural Exchange to Nunavut.

At Cardinal Léger, we recognize that identity is a highly personal experience and it’s our job, as a school, to create safe spaces where all are included. The grade nine Native Studies course, the Unity Club, and Lancers against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia are just some of examples of such spaces. Supporting people with different gender identities, sexual orientations, interests, talents, physical abilities, and political points of view is core to our values.

Our school’s Red Feather Project honours and remembers the Murdered and Missing Women and Girls in Canada. This is a perfect example of how community partners, students, and staff have taken ownership and responsibility for allyship with Canada’s Indigenous communities. The Red Feather Project is expanding beyond our school to other educational institutions.

Cardinal Léger would like to thank the Harmony Movement for recognizing our school’s efforts to infuse inclusivity and equity into every aspect of our student’s educational experience.

Heather Reid is a Digital Arts and Photography Teacher.

Video: Cardinal Léger Secondary School award acceptance.

2017: Jeewan Chanicka


Jeewan Chanicka
Toronto District School Board

By Camille Logan

As a school administrator, Jeewan has established strong relationships and worked collaboratively with the students, staff, families and community to build a positive school climate. As an Education Officer with the Inclusive Education Branch of the Ministry of Education, Jeewan lead the development of Inclusive Design – an intentional and holistic way of supporting all students and communities.

Currently, Jeewan serves as Ontario’s first Superintendent of equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Here, he brings knowledge and proven leadership to the board’s Integrated Equity Framework Action Plan.

Jeewan has influenced many fellow educators by igniting passion and leading them through an inspirational journey of building positive traditions, establishing a strong sense of community and ensuring that student voice is always at the heart of our work in schools.

As a recipient of this award, Jeewan continues the legacy of ethical and servitude leadership. His continuous efforts to advance equity and inclusivity for all students, staff and families remain his mission. Jeewan demonstrates the possibilities of positive outcomes for every child!

Camille Logan is Superintendent of Education, Student Achievement, School Operations at the York Region District School Board. She is the recipient of the 2013 Harmony Leadership in Education Award.

Video: Jeewan Chanicka awards acceptance.

2017: Crossing Borders


Crossing Borders

By Lynn Schulze

Crossing Borders is a group of students that comprises newcomers to Canada, Canadian-born youth and alumni of Waterloo Collegiate Institute. They raise awareness about newcomer issues by breaking down barriers and stereotypes with one powerful story at a time.

The team gives more than 100 multi-media performances a year where youth share their stories using compelling visual presentations, spoken word, film, drama, documentary, dance and music. It has been generously sponsored by Speak-Up, the Laidlaw Foundation, and the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation.

Many of the students in Crossing Borders are not who you would typically see on a stage. Some are newcomers who have joined only weeks after arriving to Canada. Getting involved and being valued helps the Crossing Borders student team gain confidence and take leadership in community building.

In addition to the Harmony Social Changemakers Award, Crossing Borders has been a recipient of the World Refugee Day Award of Distinction by the Community Coalition on Refugee and Immigrant Concerns and the Ken Spencer National Education Award for Innovation.

Lynn Schulze is the educator-lead with the Crossing Borders Team, Waterloo Collegiate Institute, Waterloo Region District School Board

Video: Crossing Borders awards acceptance.

Harmony Community Educator Award

This award recognizes an individual in a community setting who has demonstrated significant commitment to advancing equity, diversity and social justice through educational and community engagement activities. The “community” includes members and staff within an organization (workplace community), people receiving services, participants of a community program, and stakeholders and community members at large.

Consistent with our Social Changemakers philosophy, recipients of the Harmony Educator Community Award have demonstrated: (1) a commitment to social justice and change; (2) the ability to engage diverse groups and communities around common issue or goal; (3) the use of creative and innovative methods to deliver the message.

Farrah Khan Photo

2016: Farrah Khan

Farrah Khan PhotoHarmony Community Educator Award Recipient: Farrah Khan

Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education, Ryerson University

By Heather Lane Vetere

Farrah Khan is a nationally recognized gender justice advocate with organizations such as the Barbra Schlifer Clinic and METRAC. She has also developed the award-winning program Outburst! Young Muslim Women’s Project.

In 2015, she joined Ryerson University as the inaugural coordinator for the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education.  In a short time, she has developed and led impactful education, awareness and training campaigns, in addition to providing frontline support to the university’s students, faculty and staff who have been impacted by sexual violence. For many at the university, Farrah is a safe, trustworthy, and empowering advocate on campus.

In 2015, Farrah developed, with other feminists, the #WeBelieveSurvivors campaign in response to the Ghomeshi trial. The hashtag became a rallying cry that dominated social media and reframed public discourse on sexual violence. It led to marches from the Yukon to Halifax and self-care events that included the launch of “We Believe You” colouring and activity book – a free resource for survivors and supporters that Farrah wrote.

On campus, Farah supports survivors’ leadership helping them engage with mainstream media, lobby policymakers and build campaigns. Off campus, she mentors young feminists groups including We Give Consent, Project Slut and femifesto.

Farrah was named co-chair of Ontario’s first provincial roundtable on Violence Against Women in March 2015.

Heather Lane Vetere is Vice-Provost, Students at Ryerson University. She oversaw the consolidation of student learning supports to one centralized location in the university’s award-winning Student Learning Centre.

Video: Farrah Khan award acceptance.

2016: Irma Coulson Public School

irma-coulson2016 Social Changemakers Award: Irma Coulson Public School

Halton District School Board

The staff and students of Irma Coulson Public School are honoured to receive this award in recognition of the dedication and hard work of our student leaders, who over the past year have taken on several initiatives that have supported our school’s mission of Equity and Excellence for All.

These initiatives included the formation of an Invisible Issues team that address concerns from the student body; a student-lead education initiative to encourage students to use helpful rather than harmful words; and a commitment to continue to provide a nutritious breakfast program aimed at “feeding the many to feed the few.”

This work has taught our students the value of their voice and the positive impact of getting involved in initiatives aimed at helping others. Through a continued approach to education around social justice issues and an ongoing effort to make a difference for others, our students will continue to live out our school values of “Look After Yourself, Look After One Another”.

Receiving the Social Changemakers Award is a wonderful tribute to the amazing work of our students, which we know will inspire them to continue to be leaders for positive social change. Through this award, the staff and students will continue to look for ways to create greater opportunities for equity and inclusion, starting with a dedication to our Breakfast Program. We plan to continue and enhance our Breakfast Program by expanding it to include new items that reflect our diverse population.

To further inform our efforts to help students develop a greater understanding of diversity and equity, we will be using the Action Kit we received from the Harmony Social Changemakers Leadership Training.

We value and so appreciate our school’s connection to the Harmony Movement and hope to continue to look for ways to keep equity and excellence at the center of everything we do together at Irma Coulson P.S.

Merrill Mathews is the principal at Irma Coulson P.S. in Milton, Ontario, one of the fastest growing and most diverse communities in Canada. He is proud of the approach his TEAM – students and staff – has taken to bring his school closer together as a school community.

Video: Irma Coulson award acceptance.

RISE Photo

2016: RISE Collective

RISE Photo2016 Harmony Award: RISE Collective


RISE Collective

By Letecia Rose

Have you ever gone to a place where you felt yourself being lifted? Where people rejoice, dance, break into song, and warmly embrace strangers? Where emotions are worn freely on sleeves; where men and women shed tears together? Where words inspire and provide food for the soul?

This is what you will find every Monday at Burrows Hall in Scarborough. Hundreds of young people gather weekly to share in positivity, edutainment and of course, listen to poetry. They come to be elevated, surge upward, be uplifted, experience growth, transform – they come to rise.

Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (RISE) has become more than a movement; it has become a space for people from all walks of life to gather and share collective energy and collective impact. And the impact is vast and deep. In five short years, this youth-led movement has entered the consciousness of Toronto, performing at various institutions and headlining multiple events.

But their work extends beyond smooth verses and captivating rhythms. RISE has used their platform to work with the City of Toronto to influence policy by artistically hosting various community town halls. They use their poetry to grace the pages of the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy and the Poverty Reduction Report.

I first met the creator and innovator behind RISE, Randell Adjei, in 2012. Quite frankly, he blew me away. He told me of this little group that he started that brought out twenty to thirty people weekly. He believed that young people needed an outlet to share and be creative. According to him, there was no space like it. He was convinced that this space was going to change the city.

I was convinced that he was right.

So far, the work of RISE has garnered the attention of some of the legends in the Toronto arts industry. They use their platform and stage to train, mentor and provide artistic development for emerging artists, providing them with the opportunity to be heard and feel validated by a supportive community. They root their teachings in anti-oppressive frameworks and create equitable safe spaces of dignity and respect.

In July of 2012, gunfire erupted over a crowd on Danzing Street, fatally taking the lives of Shyanne Charles and Joshua Yasay. Many others were wounded and injured. It was one of the worst acts of violence in Toronto’s history and a moment that critically impacted Scarborough and the rest of the GTA.

However, many of the young people who should have been there made a different choice that evening. They went to RISE. Since then, RISE has made it their mission to advocate for safe spaces and self-expression for all.

As the former Director of Education at Harmony Movement, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most dynamic and inspiring change makers in the province. I can say without hesitation that RISE is in a league of its own. I owe my creative resurgence and renewed passion for creating opportunities for young people to their ingenuity and constant innovation.

The RISE collective is creating an environment of social change by cultivating spaces for young people to address issues that really matter to them and their community. RISE is making the invisible, visible. It is a movement is so powerful and poetic; you have no choice but to listen. And from there all change is possible.

Letecia Rose is an arts educator, facilitation trainer, and community engagement specialist. She is currently Manager of Public Engagement at Plan International Canada. 

Video: RISE Collective award acceptance.

Corinne Davison Photo

2016: Corinne Davison

Corinne Davison Photo2016 Harmony Educator Award Recipient: Corinne Davison

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

By Amber-Dawn Davison

Corinne has passionately advocated the importance of inclusiveness, understanding, and equity in every dimension of her life. From connecting deeply with students that others might have given up on, to guiding her colleagues to create safe spaces for those who need them, she has been a force of nature in shaping the discourse around inclusive practices in education.

Corinne has spent her career as a math educator, student success teacher, and Inclusive and Caring Schools’ Instructional Coach for her school district. Her friends, colleagues and students know Corinne to be an uncompromising champion for the importance of integrity, empathy, and inclusiveness in every facet of life.

Corinne possesses an unshakable belief in every person’s individual dignity, which has motivated her passionate commitment to inspire and educate youth to be leaders for social justice and change. She measures her success by the countless students who come through her classroom’s very open doors, seeking a safe, supportive, and judgement-free space.

Amber-Dawn Davison is a Master of Journalism student at Carleton University, and is Corinne’s daughter. She was an active member of the diversity club and the cultural club at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School before graduating in 2009.

Video: Corrine Davison award acceptance.

2016: Terry Fox Public School

terry-fox2016 School of the Year Award: Terry Fox Public School

Ajax, Ontario

By Deirdre Morgenstern

Terry Fox Public School is attended by about 400 students from Kindergarten to Grade 8.

After completing the Harmony Movement Social Changemakers Conference and educator leadership sessions, our staff and students were inspired to take school community engagement to a new level.

Student leaders keenly plan and deliver classroom activities and mentor younger students to continue the discussion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Terry Fox PS has led initiatives for Pink Shirt Day, bullying prevention, Down Syndrome and Autism Awareness, as well as Black History, Islamic History, and Aboriginal Heritage months. Students have raised over $3,200 to drill a well in Zimbabwe. This year, leadership students successfully submitted a $2,500 SpeakUp Grant to run “Unity in Our Community: Learning Together in 21st Century Schools” featuring Wes Williams and Jeewan Chanicka.

Kayana, a student at the school, says, “We have worked very hard and I am very proud to not only say that I was able to help but that there are others who are continuing on that path of respect, kindness and inclusion.”

Members of the school staff have embedded culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy into resources, lessons and extra-curricular activities. Some initiatives have included creating a freedom quilt with 2D shapes and patterns in math class using the Five Pillars of Islam to teach empathy; an African “mash up” of songs with the Glee Club; and performing with the Step Team.

Our staff completed “equity walkthroughs” from the perspective of diverse student and family identities, explored their own unconscious biases, and delved into the concept of privilege as it relates to students.

Our students have moved from being held back by anger and frustration to looking forward and planning for social change. They have presented at the board level, participated in conferences, been nominated for courageous leadership awards, applied for grants, created inclusive art together, organized community events and their efforts and achievements have been covered by local media.

Students, staff and parents alike have been empowered to share their voices in every aspect of our school. The barriers that prevented them from doing it before are gone and as a school with an amazing diversity of identities and cultures, our students talk, plan and act in ways that respect and celebrate each other.

Deirdre Morgenstern is a Principal with the Durham District School Board in her second

Video: Terry Fox award acceptance.