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2018 Premier's Awards Recognize Outstanding Ontario College Graduates


2018 Premier's Awards Recognize Outstanding Ontario College Graduates


Don Gosen (Conestoga College, 1974) is the Ontario apprenticeship program's biggest champion. A college-trained electrical apprentice, he sponsored more than 70 apprentices throughout his four decades in business before ceding Gosen Electric Limited to three of his former trainees. Don works to strengthen the apprenticeship system by bridging communication and fostering collaborations between the government, union and non-union organizations, and employers and apprentices. He is an electrical apprenticeship instructor at his alma mater and recipient of the 2007 Minister's Award for Apprenticeship Training.


Neil Hetherington (Seneca College, 1985) is the CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank — the largest food bank in Canada. Prior to the Daily Bread Food Bank, Neil was the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Toronto and New York City as well as Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services. During his tenure, Habitat accelerated its building program dramatically, increased its social enterprise operations and expanded its community impact and advocacy role. Neil was named one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and was also awarded Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.

Community Services

Colleen Hele-Cardinal (Sault College, 2002) is the daughter of a residential school survivor, a 60's scoop adoptee, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls family member and social justice activist organizer. She is co-founder of the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network and has successfully organized three national Indigenous Adoptee Gatherings. Colleen is also collaborating with the Dr. Raven Sinclair Pekiwewin Project to create an innovative and interactive Geographic Information Systems Mapping to map the displacement of Indigenous 60's scoop survivors as a result of child welfare policies. Hele-Cardinal is a human rights champion, author, producer and internationally recognized advocate for Canada's Indigenous Peoples.

Elder Little Brown Bear/Ernest Matton (Canadore College, 1993 and 1995) is a Métis healer who blends Indigenous teachings with mainstream Western practices in an award-winning approach to addictions treatment for Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, and the professionals working with them. Community members in Ernest's Toronto-based healing program embark on intensive healing journeys from deep emotional and mental trauma. He purposely has no wait list, and intakes have more than doubled over the past six years. Matton's accolades include investiture to the Order of Ontario, the province's highest honour; a National Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's "Difference Makers" award; and a Governor General's Sovereign Medal for Outstanding Indigenous Leadership.

Creative Arts and Design

Helen Lebeau (Sheridan College, 1982) is an award-winning producer and storyteller working with Nelvana, the animation arm of Corus Entertainment. As Vice-President Production, she oversees animation production for Nelvana's Studio. Helen's producing credits include Bravest WarriorsHotel TransylvaniaMax & Ruby, the Daytime Entertainment Emmy Award-winning Bubble Guppies and International Emmy Award-winning Mike the Knight. Lebeau began her career working as an editor at CBC and TSN. "I started my career by telling stories, and now as a manager, I support artists wanting to tell their stories," she says.

Health Sciences

Allan Cole (Humber College, 1978) is president and owner of MacKinnon & Bowes Ltd., Canada's specialist in international repatriations of deceased persons. Cole was the first Civilian Mortuary Affairs Director for the Department of National Defence and the RCMP, and continues in this role, serving his country by overseeing the repatriation of fallen Canadian soldiers and heroes who lost their lives protecting freedom. Cole was instrumental in disaster preparedness efforts alongside government institutions, and in the face of the 1980's AIDS epidemic, created a protocol for those who had died from this and other infectious diseases. 

Recent Graduate

Allie Libertini (Conestoga College, 2017) stands out even among the outstanding graduates of a unique program for students with learning challenges and exceptionalities. A world-leading Nordic skier, she represented Canada at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, earning two silver medals. An advocate of healthy living, she volunteers at a community kitchen and works as an assistant server and member of the food prep team at a local restaurant. Allie was instrumental in recruiting young women to her gym's first inclusive women program and she is a valued ambassador for her college and program, winning the Alumni of Distinction Award in 2018.


Jad Saliba (Mohawk College, 2001) is driven by a desire to combat terrorism and child exploitation as a police officer investigating high-tech crimes. He used his college education in Computer Science and Network Security to build Magnet Forensics, a global leader in the recovery of digital evidence. Jad developed software that is now used by more than 4,000 organizations in more than 90 countries in investigations of crimes such as child exploitation, human trafficking, terrorism and fraud. His software has been used in high-profile prosecutions, including that of the Boston Marathon bomber, and he is a renowned expert in his field.

2018 Minister's Lifetime Achievement Award

Gail Smyth (Niagara College, 2013; Loyalist College, 2015) is the retired Executive Director of Skills Ontario.

Gail began her career as an advocate for industry and youth as a Community Liaison Officer with Conestoga College. Later, in her role as a Cooperative Education Advisor for Conestoga College, Gail advocated on behalf of industry and youth, working diligently with business leaders to secure co-op placements for students in such skilled areas as woodworking, robotics and food and beverage management. In 1990, Gail began volunteering with Skills Ontario in a number of capacities and ultimately was appointed as the organization's Executive Director in 1997.

Through Gail's leadership, Skills Ontario has grown to be a prosperous and dynamic province-wide organization, with satellite offices in five cities across the province. The Ontario Technical Skills Competition is now the largest of its kind in Canada through her guidance.

As a result of Gail's vision, Skills Ontario has received the Yves Landry Program of the Year Award, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business Achievement Award for Skills Development, the ICON Program of the Year, and the Partners for Change Award from the Ontario Women's Directorate. Personally, Gail has been recognized as the first recipient of the "Contributor of the Year" Award, appointed by the Curriculum Council in Ontario and the Advisory Board for the College of Trades in Ontario. Throughout her career, Gail has demonstrated her commitment and dedication to students, the college and the postsecondary education system. Through her vision, dedication and leadership she has made Skills Ontario the success that it is today.

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Education and Training