The 2021 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards are coming up on Monday, June 7th, and there’s a rather new category – Reconciliation in Action – upon which I’d like to shine a spotlight. This category will honour two unique women, an Indigenous leader and an ally, working independently and committed to finding a new way forward.
In 2020, the first recipient of this new award was Marion Buller. The Honourable Judge Marion Buller was appointed the first woman First Nations judge in British Columbia in 1994 and was appointed as chief commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2016.
Judge Buller served as both a director and president of Canada’s Indigenous Bar Association and has been a member of the BC Police Commission and the Law Court Education Society. She was the Commission Counsel for the Caribou-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry and published reports and articles dealing with Aboriginal rights and legal services for First Nations in BC. Judge Buller was instrumental in starting the First Nations Court of British Columbia in 2006.
The second recipient, the Reconciliation in Action Ally, was Courtney Daws, Vice President, Governance and Policy at Castlemain Group. Courtney is a lawyer and strategic advisor with extensive knowledge in the areas of Aboriginal law, policy and governance and has held positions in the legal, political and social realm. She was the Director of Operations at the BC Assembly of First Nations under then Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Reconciliation in Action YWCA Award Nominees
Here are the nominees for 2021:
Stephanie is Associate Vice President Strategic Business Operations and Performance at BC Housing and is developing its Reconciliation Strategy, providing insight on systemic and institutional racism, colonialism and oppression and identifying ways to genuinely reconcile. In her role as operational lead for the Oppenheimer Park decampment, Stephanie led a culturally-informed approach working closely with Indigenous colleagues and First Nations Elders that centred dignity and respect for camp residents, leading to transformative change in how to successfully move Indigenous, Black and other racialized groups with intersecting identities to safe, supportive housing. She is a founding member and Director of the Hogan’s Alley Society where she spearheaded the opening of Nora Hendrix Place, a supportive housing site specifically dedicated to meeting the needs of Vancouver’s Black and Indigenous communities.
Tracy is Vice President, Indigenous Markets, Commercial Financial Service at RBC Royal Bank. As the only Indigenous executive at RBC in BC and the only woman to hold an executive position in RBC’s Commercial Banking Indigenous Banking unit, she leads and serves a large portion of Indigenous Market initiatives in BC. Tracy has initiated and implemented home equity financing policies specific to on-reserve housing. Her work influences policy for small and commercial business, non-profits and governments, leading to employment and economic development opportunities for communities across BC. Tracy serves as Co-Executive Champion for the Royal Eagles Employee Resource Group, which provides education and supports on Indigenous culture inside and outside RBC. In her own First Nation community, Tracy is creating a new institution focused on building a community economic development corporation.
Rhiannon (Musqueam) is CEO of Hummingbirds Rising, helping Non-Indigenous Canadians develop the skills, compassions and abilities to recognize and change systems and practices needed to play an active and meaningful part in Decolonization. She was a founding member of Feminists Deliver, holding the international Women Deliver conference accountable for arriving in BC and ignoring issues that pertain to local women and children and its connections to the global disparities that women and children face. Rhiannon was the first Indigenous woman elected to the Delta Board of Education is on the Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Board of Governors and is a core member of Delta’s Organizing Against Racism and Hate Committee. Rhiannon was recognized by Musqueam Leadership for her work on Canoe Revitalization in community.
Noorjean is Chief Operating Officer and Professional Practice Officer, BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), a part of Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) where she spearheaded the addition of another ‘c’ in reconciliation – so that reconcila(c)tion’ can be read as “Reconciliation and Action”. Through her leadership and advocacy, Chee Mamuk became its own independent service line, placing Indigenous Chee Mamuk team members at key COVID-19 decision tables, elevating their voices to ensure Indigenous people and communities were included in the province’s pandemic response. Noorjean successfully advocated for racism to be a public health priority at the BCCDC and over the last four years has initiated, supported and lifted up her colleagues to explore their own personal biases to challenge current structures and practices that contribute to racism and inequalities at BCCDC and beyond.
Isabel, a Gitxsan Lawyer in the Aboriginal Law section of the Department of Justice Canada, BC Region, provides legal services to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada. Isabel co-founded the Aboriginal Lawyers Forum (ALF) of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) BC for Indigenous law students and lawyers (and their allies) to network and engage in professional development and mentorship. ALF was the first of its kind nationally, making the legal community more welcoming to Indigenous lawyers. As ALF Chair, Isabel sat on the CBA’s BC’s Truth & Reconciliation Committee. She has helped the ALF raise more than $100,000 in scholarships for Indigenous law students. Isabel became a role model in facilitating Aboriginal Awareness presentations throughout the federal public service and participating in the resolution of on Indian Residential Schools claims.
Margo (Cree-Saulteaux) is Artistic Managing Director of Full Circle: First Nations Performance and an internationally recognized performer, creator, mentor, director and community leader. Her desire to share artistic performance that has meaning for her people is the catalyst for her extensive work, travels and consultation within Indigenous communities across Canada and abroad. She purposefully builds bridges with other IBPOC circles and settler communities. Margo has also founded and co-founded other vital institutions and events including the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance and The Talking Stick Festival, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary year. Margo toured her award winning one-person show Moonlodge to global acclaim for more than ten years and has created countless and diverse opportunities for Indigenous artists and community to gather, activate and galvanize around their artistic sovereignty and self-determination.
Sheryl is UBC’s Senior Advisor to the President on Indigenous Affairs where she co-led the creation and implementation of the UBC 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan. This is the first post-secondary Indigenous framework in North America to take a human-rights based approach to its work and the first university-based Indigenous strategic framework in the world to use the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as its foundation. Dr. Lightfoot also participated in UBC’s negotiations with the Musqueam on a new Memorandum of Affiliation to further the sharing of knowledge and the advancement of Musqueam and Indigenous youth and adults in post-secondary education. Sheryl is Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics and is one of the world’s experts in global Indigenous politics.
The awards ceremony will be online, June 7th starting at 6:00pm. Viewing tickets are still available here.
YWCA Metro Vancouver is dedicated to achieving women’s equality. Their mission is to touch lives and build better futures for women and their families through advocacy and integrated services that foster economic independence, wellness and equal opportunities.
Miss604 is a proud sponsor of the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, since 2010.