Edmonton's John Humphrey's Centre honours local human rights heroes for the tenth year
Among its many trademarks, Edmonton has a healthy reputation for being a city whose citizens give back to their communities.
For the last decade, the John Humphrey’s Centre of for Peace and Human Rights has sifted through the city’s many community initiatives, singling out those that have worked to make their districts a more inclusive space that respects and fosters the rights of all Edmontonians, and honouring them at their annual Human Rights Awards.
This year is no exception, as the 2016 Human Rights Awards take place Dec. 11 at the Transalta Arts Barn, 10330 84 Avenue. This will mark the 10th year of the awards, featuring a keynote speech from Commissioner Marie-Claude of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
According to Roxanne Ulanicki Director with John Humphrey’s Centre, the awards are about more than just celebrating altruistic Edmontonians. It’s also about highlighting the inequities that are easy to miss in Canadian society.
“In a country like Canada we have a lot of rights people don’t often see where there are inequities, and this is a way for us to point out some of the things that go on here in our country that still need to be addressed,” Ulanicki said. “We recognizing the people that do the work here in Canada. There’s many different ways to go about it, from people in the arts community to people in government.”
Ulanicki said the recipients of the awards are selected by a committee, and this year’s committee included previous recipients like Renee Laporte, a disabilities support worker in Edmonton. Laporte feels a great honor in being recognized as a human rights champion, and notes that being an advocate for the disenfranchised can often be a difficult task.
“I think the most challenging part when you’re advocating for inclusion of marginalized parts of society is the discrimination and stigma that those people face,” Laporte said. “When you are an ally or an advocate you also face that stigma and discrimination. All of a sudden you feel and see the hate that a lot of marginalized communities face, and that drives you to work harder to see them treated fairly and have their rights upheld.”
For Edmontonians interested in investing their time and energy towards helping those in need, Ulanicki and Laporte both suggest discovering local organizations that are seeking volunteers. However, Ulanicki warns that its important to not stick to one issue, or work in isolation.
The thing with human rights is that it spans all demographics,” Ulanicki said. “If you work in only one area, say with the indigenous community, you may not be able to see that people with disabilities have very similar issues, or people in the Somali community may have very similar issues. Often in human rights you end up working in isolation on your one issue, so it’s great to empower everyone working in the area to feel like we’re making a difference.”