Saskatchewan Council International Cooperation’s Global Citizen Awards have been recognizing Saskatchewan changemakers making essential contributions to international cooperation, peace, and global justice for 32 years! This year, the Global Citizen Awards Gala will be held in Regina on Saturday, February 11, 2023. Winners will be selected by a committee and announced at the end of International Development Week (February 5-11, 2023). Check out below to read more about the contributions of these great nominees.
Amir Said (he/him) is an Arab-Canadian student, young professional, immigrant, and settler ally on Treaty 4 territory. He seeks to promote social justice through his work at the University of Regina, where he is studying Journalism. Amir has consistently been an outspoken advocate and a passionate leader: in 2020, he was elected as Vice-President External Affairs of the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) and University Council Arts Representative. During his term, he researched and implemented a variety of initiatives relating to social justice and cultural awareness, including the adoption of a treaty land acknowledgment to board meetings and a significant increase to the amount of representation available to 2SLGBTQIA+ students. Furthermore, he won a Leadership Award from University of Regina Housing Services in 2019 and an Excellence Award from URSU in 2021. As a Journalism student, his focus on culture and diversity earned him the OMNI Scholarship in Ethnic & Third-Language Journalism. He is additionally a current member of the University of Regina Senate and URSU’s EDIA and Indigenous Sovereignty Committees.
Off-campus, he currently serves on the Regina Folk Festival's Advisory Committee and has previously held volunteer roles with Meal Exchange, Future Majority, the Albert Park Community Association, and other nonprofits in Regina and across Canada. As an experienced student leader and major proponent of multiculturalism and cultural awareness, Amir seeks to further promote social justice and awareness throughout his community.
About myself: I began to become involved in international cooperation in 1995 when we organized workers in a warehouse in Regina with RWDSU 568. We were in the same local as Briarpatch Magazine, so I was able to start to interact with the editor of the magazine, and really loved learning about the stories of how people locally and around the world were pushing back against oppression. This led me to joining the board, and begin to support and promote similar organizations. This includes ensuring that articles got published that showed how some Canadian companies and multinationals exploit people in other countries. We also were advocating against increased military budgets, preferring to invest in healthcare and other infrastructure.
I also did some work at that time in provincial politics to promote people who more accurately supported these positions. My work in the labour movement, in particular the Regina & District Labour Council (RDLC), also allowed me to build bridges between unions and local struggles, such as the Occupy INAC movement in 2016, where the front office was occupied by a camp called Colonialism No More. This was an important step in building solidarity between Indigenous and unions. After the end of that occupation, many involved would go down to Standing Rock to support the people down there in their struggle. We organized trade unionists from Sask who went down there in a show of solidarity and to provide donations and supplies in their ongoing push to have their human rights respected.
Many people involved in Colonialism No More also drove up to North Battleford to support the Boushie family during the testimonies at court. This case was shown around the world, and resonated with the violence that Indigenous people face globally as a result of colonialism. I played a core role in Camp: Justice for our Stolen Children which was founded here in Regina in response to the verdict of the Stanley trial, with other violence being brought to light where Indigenous people were missing, murdered, and often dismissed by the police. We had visitors from around the world. The events unfolded globally in the media, including a meeting I was a part of with several cabinet ministers to address the issues of systemic racism that continues to plague our province. I am currently using my position on the RDLC to help to continue to foster these ties to challenging the systems of oppression.
For almost 50 years Gord Barnes (he/him) has been a human rights volunteer, activist, and leader, first in Ontario and now for more than 40 years in Saskatchewan. Gord has served for years as a volunteer Amnesty International Canada Fieldworker. He has worked to involve people in the promotion of human rights, to build a vast network and community, to create awareness of the specific human rights work undertaken by Amnesty International, and to support and collaborate with the many community organizations and individuals who share similar interests. As a result of Gord’s dedicated efforts for many years, the Saskatchewan Amnesty International network of activists is known and respected as being one of the strongest and most consistently active in Canada.
Gord has worked to be a supportive ally of Indigenous Peoples:
- Following the release of the Stolen Sister’s Report, in 2004, he worked with and supported community members and organizations in the planning and hosting of vigils and other events to raise awareness of the issue of the violence Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse people experience and has continued to be present and supportive of this work.
- After The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, he was very committed to seeing that Canada also adopt the declaration and also successfully initiated a resolution calling on Amnesty International Canada to recognize its responsibility as a civil society organization, to work cooperatively with Indigenous Peoples, in promoting and implementing their human rights and maintaining the Declaration as a living instrument.
- In June, 2014, he helped organize Amnesty International’s “Every Child Matters” tour in Saskatchewan with Amnesty International Canada’s Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples – to 7 schools and in 6 communities in Saskatchewan. The purpose of this was to create awareness of and support the work of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.
Gord retired in the fall of 2018 after having worked in the community / not-for-profit sector, as well as the municipal and provincial governments. Since his retirement, Gord has spent even more time with his volunteer human rights work and also taken time to explore creating art in several mediums, including fused glass, watercolor, acrylic and oil painting, and has generously supported a number of community organizations with donations of his artwork.
Since 1992, Michelle has been involved in the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace/Caritas Canada. It is a movement for international solidarity which works with grassroots partners in the Global South to pursue alternatives to unjust social, political, economic and environmental structures.
Michelle began at local level of church community and moved on into larger groups meeting others who were engaged in the work of D&P and who, in turn, motivated her to explore and engage further. She has been involved in education, advocacy and fundraising campaigns to support grassroots organizations around the world. Examples include the Nike/Levi Strauss campaign, a bottled water campaign, 1999 debt relief campaign, Peace campaign in support of women as peace builders, mining campaigns calling on the federal government to end Canadian companies’ abuses abroad and to help affected communities access justice.
As a teacher, Michelle helped coordinate a Just Youth group which educated students who then rolled out campaigns within the school raising awareness of and funds for the partners of Development and Peace. After completion of some of the advocacy campaigns, students were taken to visit the local MP to deliver petitions or action cards. These visits led to good conversations with the local MP and gave students the opportunity to ask tough questions and to see the democratic process. For 10 years, Michelle coordinated, along with another staff member, an educational and fundraising event called the Box Lunch Auction. Over this time period, almost $ 400 000 was raised for partners in the Global South.
Michelle’s work in the school community also involved the planning of several THINKFasts which provided education for participants (simulation games and discussions) and raised funds. In addition to these activities, Michelle worked to help students respond to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and to the 2013 Typhoon in the Philippines by coordinating emergency relief fundraising. This raising of money was always connected to education about the situation in the affected countries and the creation of awareness that grassroots organizations in these regions are working for their own people (no top-down solutions!)
Michelle was privileged to spend 6 years as part of the national governing body of Development and Peace where decisions were made around the general orientation of the organization. Her involvement with Development and Peace/Caritas Canada has enriched her life, led to the forming of many connections and given her a global perspective.
Nathaniel Deng Mayen
Nathaniel has a great passion for refugee sponsorship and community empowerment. He has long been committed to working in his cross-border communities to support peace and justice and the empowerment of youth and communities through education and refugee sponsorship.
After receiving the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program scholarship, which allowed him to be sponsored for Canadian Permanent Residence and attend the University of Saskatchewan, he continued to work to support other refugee students, abroad and in Saskatchewan, even while facing the challenging tasks of adjusting to a new culture and community while jumping headlong into university studies. He was an active volunteer Mentor with Saskatoon WUSC local committee from 2011 to 2014, working to support newly sponsored refugee students with settlement activities such as opening bank accounts and setting up health cards, and helping them build knowledge and capacity to navigate new educational, bureaucratic and cultural systems. He worked to ensure that each new sponsored student was supported in their resettlement and able to succeed. He also volunteered in WUSC’s Shine a Light campaign each year to raise money to support education for refugee girls. Throughout this period of volunteer work, he also achieved a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Regina (Saskatoon Campus) and a Master of Public Administration from Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.
In addition to his refugee sponsorship work in Regina, he has also been working to create supports on the ground for youth that remain in refugee camps abroad. He has been a chair of the Scholars of Hope scholarship program for two years. Scholars of Hope is a scholarship program created by former WUSC Student Refugee Program students in 2013. It supports bright and promising refugee youth to ensure they can receive an education and increases their chances of receiving opportunities to better their lives. Through this scholarship program Nathaniel has helped several Kakuma youth receive secondary education outside of the refugee camp when they do not have any other support for their high school education. As proof of the success of this model, several Scholars of Hope scholarship students have gone on to receive WUSC scholarships.
Nathaniel and two other South Sudanese friends have recently founded the Southdove Training Services Inc. (October 5, 2022) with the vision to provide educational, mentorship, and leadership training services for the South Sudanese church leaders, and women and youth organizations in Canada and South Sudan to acquire the practical skills, knowledge, and expertise that enhance education and personal empowerment and foster ethical and accountable leadership in the church and the community and the mission to mobilize community resources for the empowerment and training of the South Sudanese church leaders, youth and women in Canada and South Sudan.
Dr. Shela Hirani is an Associate Professor at the University of Regina and an award-winning nursing professional who is an advocate of multiculturalism and a pluralistic society. She is a world-renowned leader for the health of women and children, researcher, mentor, volunteer, lactation consultant, and breastfeeding advocate based in Saskatchewan, Canada. Dr. Hirani received various competitive research funding and more than 50 awards/honours recognizing her outstanding research outputs, community services, academic pursuits, leadership, and contributions to the health of marginalized and vulnerable women in Saskatchewan and beyond.
She is actively involved in work surrounding the improvement of health equity, health systems, programs, and policies that often negatively affect the health and well-being of marginalized and vulnerable groups of women and young children, especially those affected by migration, disaster, and displacement. Dr. Shela Hirani has created a career that has made significant impacts in academic and public aspects of health. By aligning her professional work with equity, diversity, and inclusion, she has advocated for a positive change in society. Her breastfeeding advocacy efforts have led to a baby-friendly movement in diverse public places in Saskatchewan and beyond, including hospitals, post-secondary institutions, workplaces, airports, restaurants, public transit, shopping malls, and post-disaster settings.
Her focus on vulnerable immigrants and the refugee population shines a light through the anti-racist lens on the change needed in healthcare policies and practices. Dr. Hirani maintains effective collaboration with the local, provincial, national, and international agencies that work for the refugee and migrant populations. Her internationally, nationally, and provincially funded research and work in improving access to breastfeeding support, education, and guidance help ensure the health and well-being of mothers, especially those who face barriers and gaps in services, like newcomer, refugee, indigenous, and homeless mothers and gender-diverse parents affected by poverty, homelessness, migration, and disasters. Using her expertise, she is providing quality mentorship to undergraduate and graduate-level trainees in Saskatchewan and beyond, hence preparing the next generation of leaders in academia and research.