Stopped in to the city's Access Equity and Human Rights Awards presentations yesterday to celebrate with my soul sister Deb Parent. She won one of this year's Pride Awards for her contributions to the queer community (Okay, I'll admit it - I nominated her). Many of you know her work for the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre and lesbians all over town love to get our groove on when she's spinning at a dance or cranking out the tunes on the truck at the dyke march.
I love it when winners make political points during their acceptance speeches. Trans activist and Pride award winner Rupert Raj, knowing that Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman was in the audience, insisted he would continue to campaign for making sure OHIP would cover sexual reassignment surgery.
The third Pride award went to Central Toronto Youth Service's Pride And Prejudice program, which assists queer youth with programs in research, community development and counselling.
Helen Liu, winner of one of the Constance E. Hamilton Awards on the Status of Women (named after the first female member of council), got the crowd in Council Chambers totally revved up during her acceptance speech. Liu's the woman behind the campaign to get fair treatment to hotel workers and she laid out the issue in powerful terms. We do not mind working hard, she said. We do mind being invisible.
Other winners of the Status of Women award are U of T prof June Larkin, who championed Women's Studies at the University, and Beverly Wybrow, former president of the YWCA, among many other
The Aboriginal Affairs Award went to elder Vern Harper who gave a moving tribute to the late artist Norval Morrisseau and celebrated Toronto's attempts to make the city safe, diverse and accessible.
And speaking of accessibility, the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre took the Access Award for Disability Issues. The Centre focusses on psychiatric survivors and makes a point of hiring staff out of their target population.
Three activists took the William P. Hubbard award for race Relations(named after the first black member of Council) - Anne Gloger, co-ordinator of the East Scarborough Storefront, Kevin Lee, executive Director of Scadding Court Community Centre and the great poet and novelist Afua Cooper. Cooper made pointed reference to the still existing racism in T.O. in her powerful acceptance remarks.
Too bad each of these human rights heroes isn't a household name.