Recipients of the 2018 Attorney General's Victim Services Awards of Distinction
Simone Bell, Voice Found, Ottawa
Since 2012, Simone has used her own experience to educate thousands on human trafficking across Ontario and beyond. A sought after speaker, Simone has created and delivered presentations for a number of organizations and frequently participates on panels, including the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report at the US Embassy. Her work helps audiences identify red flags, reduce re-victimization and implement sensitive care practices for victims of human trafficking. She has collaborated with victim services across Ontario to provide a survivor perspective on human trafficking and guide the implementation of best practices to serve victims. In 2015, Simone created the Hope Found Project, which provides crisis intervention, case management and long-term support to survivors of human trafficking in Ontario. She has become a trusted advisor to various agencies working to secure support for victims.
Joanna Brant, Sexual Assault Centre of Brant, Brantford
Joanna has served as the executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant for the past 20 years. She dedicated her career to supporting survivors of sexual violence and fighting for change in her community. To create an evidence base for new programs, Joanna has done research to ensure survivors' voices are heard and embedded into her work. She recently partnered with Wilfrid Laurier University researchers to learn about the perspectives of rural sex workers, using these results to improve their accessibility to services. She is also working with police to help investigate sexual assault allegations and create police service training. Joanna is a dedicated advocate for survivors' rights.
Faye Cassista, Victim Services of Renfrew County Inc., Douglas
Faye Cassista has worked with Victim Services of Renfrew County since 2002. As a program coordinator, she is the lead direct service staff for high risk domestics, sexual assaults, homicides and human trafficking victims. Thanks to her respected relationships with community partners, Faye has been successful in finding needed services for victims of crime in her community. She is recognized for her ability to connect with people and build a trust-based rapport. Using an empowerment approach, she works with individuals to restore their sense of value and help them move forward in their lives. In addition to her commitment and front line care for victims, Faye sits on the local situation table and is a founding board and response volunteer member of the local critical incident response team. She is also a volunteer board member of the HandiBus organization and works relief shifts at her local women's shelter.
Dorothy-Jean Evans, Change for Families in Need, Kingston
Motivated by her own experience with family violence, Dorothy created Change for Families in Need, a child and youth advocacy centre, in 2015. Since then, she has worked diligently to provide support, advocacy and understanding to youth and their families during difficult times. Dorothy understands the dynamics of the criminal justice system and offers a trauma-informed perspective that's sensitive to the needs of survivors. She has been directly involved in organizing several community events, is a member of the Kingston Anti-Violence Action Committee and sits on the Kingston and Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee. Dorothy keeps informed on the international programs and models used to ensure children and youth receive the tools needed to grow into a healthy and successful adulthood free of abuse.
Sureya Ibrahim, Centre for Community Learning and Development, Toronto
Sureya is a leader in the Regent Park community who works tirelessly to support victims and their families after a shooting or death. As a community relations specialist, she assists mothers who have lost their children to gun and gang-related violence, providing supports to families and connecting them with victim services. Sureya helped establish Regent Park Mothers of Peace, a community initiative that works to address the root causes of violence. Additionally, she co-chaired a project funded by the Community Crisis Response Program to organize a block party, free CPR training and engagement with Toronto Police. Sureya has also been an active voice at the crisis response table and in neighbourhood associations.
Carly Kalish, East Metro Youth Services, Toronto
Carly is the founder and chair of the Human Trafficking Intervention and Prevention Strategy (H.I.P.S.), a collaboration between 20+ agencies in Toronto that address sexual violence and domestic human trafficking. She understands it takes an entire system to empower women and girls, which is why she has trained over 1,500 service providers on strategies to identify and prevent sexual violence as well as support victims. Carly sits on the Toronto Police Services Sexual Assault Committee and has established relationships with community partners, which aids in the development of prevention strategies and intervention. She was the first recipient of the Toronto Police Service Leading the Path Award 2013 and is recognized for her innovative, gender-based violence counselling programs and survivor advocacy.
Dawn Lavell-Harvard, First People's House of Learning, Trent University, Peterborough- Nogojiwanong
Dawn is the director of First People's House of Learning at Trent University. A proud member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Dawn is the first Aboriginal Trudeau Scholar and has worked to advance the rights of Aboriginal women as president of the Ontario Native Women's Association. Dawn offers her expertise in sexual violence and Indigenous women to the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and is an in-kind senior advisor to the Zoong'de/Strong Heart Ontario Arts Council project. Dawn also collaborated on a Ministry of Correctional Services and Community Safety funded project to help police respond in a trauma-informed way to Indigenous women and girls who report sexual violence.
Sunny Marriner, Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, Ottawa
Sunny is the executive director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, where she has worked to advance innovative models of support for victims of crime since 1997. While working at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa, Sunny founded the Young Women at Risk Program (YWAR) to support marginalized and criminalized young women who were survivors of violence. In 2005, Sunny founded and led the Ottawa Police Services Violence Against Women Rapport Committee, a working group to promote collaboration among police and advocates to better serve women experiencing violence. Sunny has worked tirelessly to foster a criminal justice system that is more responsive to victims of sexual violence. In 2013, she became the driving force behind advancing the advocate case review model to address the high rates of 'unfounded' sexual assault cases across Ontario.
Gaétane Pharand, Centre Victoria pour femmes (Sudbury and Algoma Districts)
For the past 25 years, Gaëtane has been the founding director of Centre Victoria pour femmes, a violence against women agency delivering services in the Sudbury and Algoma Districts. Her background in human rights and violence against women makes her a strong community advocate and leader. She was chair of the Francophone provincial agency, Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (AOcVF) for a decade and continues to support its programs and advocacy endeavors. Gaëtane also served on the provincial Domestic Violence Advisory Council in 2007. She was instrumental in the development of many women's organizations and acted as a board member for many Francophone agencies. Gaëtane played a unifying role for French-language services across Northern Ontario, using her communication skills and experience, while sharing her passion for the support of victims of gender-based violence.
Kevin Ramkissoon, Victim Services of Peel, Brampton
Kevin, has been a dedicated volunteer with Victim Services of Peel for over four years, logging over 1,000 hours of service as he provides leadership support to crisis responders and counsels victims of crime. Known for his work ethic and professionalism, Kevin worked for a number of years as a crisis responder where he was recognized for his exceptional service before taking on a team leader role. In this position, Kevin liaises with management, staff and crisis responders. Working in partnership with Peel Regional Police, he takes the lead on receiving incoming calls from officers and providing feedback and guidance to responders, while making the safety of clients and his team a top priority.
Deborah Richards, Psychotherapist & Consultant, Fonthill
For over 20 years Deborah has worked with children and adult victims of violence. A well-known advocate for human rights and victims of violence who holds a Masters in counselling psychology, she works alongside lawyers, families and agencies to help her clients. Deborah is the president of the board of directors for Women's Place of South Niagara. Through her work, she shared her own experiences with violence and spoken nationally about abuse prevention training for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Determined to raise awareness and make change for women and children, Deborah created a program to educate agencies about the identification and prevention of abuse. She is currently working to develop additional support groups for women who have been, or currently are subjected to acts of violence.
Carolyn Solomon, advocate, Garson
After the murder of her son, Carolyn became a dedicated advocate who is committed to improving victim services in Canada. She served as chair of the Victims Advisory Committee for Ontario/Nunavut for eight years, working to engage and educate the community, criminal justice partners and counseling organizations to deliver quality and timely victims' services. Carolyn also helped create a questionnaire sent to 2,500 registered victims across the country to identify gaps and areas of improvement in the system. Additionally, she provided input to consultations that led to legislative changes and the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, as well as helped lead to the creation of the Victims Portal in 2013. Carolyn has been recognized for her activity on Parliament Hill working to further improve the rights of victims. She currently sits on the board of directors for the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.
William Stevenson, activist, Brockville
William Stevenson, along with his family, created the Do it For Aaron (DIFA) Foundation, in honour of William's son, who was a talented musician. The foundation has hosted three weekend-long fundraising music festivals over the past four years, raising over $80,000 to create an annual bursary for graduating students from Brockville Collegiate Institute and St. Mary's High School who want to pursue music. The Stevenson family also supports local services including the Making Play Possible Program, which provides extra-curricular activities to youth. They also work with MADD Canada to help spread awareness of impaired driving to teenagers through local presentations and events. As family members of a victim of crime, the Stevensons have found a way to bring people together to celebrate and remember Aaron in a positive manner.
BJ Tycoles, Therapeutic Paws of Canada and Ottawa Victim Services, Ottawa
BJ has been a volunteer with Therapeutic Paws of Canada for the past five years, continually going above and beyond to help those less fortunate. In her role she offers emotional support and pet therapy to police, victim services and the education system during difficult times. In high anxiety situations, she and her therapy dog Oyo are able to offer much-needed support. BJ recently became a volunteer with Ottawa Victim Services as well, offering emotional and practical support to victims of crime and tragic circumstances and helping the agency find corporate sponsorship. BJ also volunteers with the Ottawa Police during their charitable giving campaign to raise money for Ottawa Victim Services and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada.
Kathy Willis, Huronia Transition Homes, Midland
Kathy is the executive director of Huronia Transition Homes (HTH). She has dedicated over 30 years to the violence against women movement and has developed progressive, forward-thinking programs to raise awareness and help women impacted by violence. In 2015, she developed an informed response protocol for 'Operation Northern Spotlight', a planned human trafficking initiative by the Ontario Provincial Police. She has educated and trained front line officers on the barriers faced by women who are trafficked. Inspired by the needs of human trafficking victims, Kathy created Project Operation Grow. She has transformed a vacant building into one of Simcoe County's most innovative indoor farms where women receive training to grow produce and earn a living wage, giving them valuable work experience and offering holistic healing in a safe space.
Gaye Yachetti, Hamilton Police Services, Hamilton
Gaye has volunteered with the Hamilton Police Services Victim Services Branch Victim Services Branch since 1998. She began as a direct service volunteer responding on scene to victims of crime and trauma before being promoted to volunteer team lead. Gaye is instrumental in raising awareness of both victims and the Victim Services Branch within Hamilton and across the province. In 2014/15 she assisted the Victims Assistance Network to deliver two provincial conferences and co-presented at the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week Symposium on 'Effective and Efficient Victim Services: Enhancing and Valuing the Role of Volunteers'. In 2012, Gaye was the recipient of the Hamilton Police Service Chief's P.R.I.D.E. (Person Really Interested In Delivering Excellence) Award for her role as an ambassador for the Victim Services Branch and Hamilton Police Service.
The Gatehouse Child Abuse Investigation and Support Site, Mississauga
The Gatehouse provides a safe and inviting space for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse for over 20 years. It's here that people can find support, share their stories and foster healing and resiliency. Over 100 volunteers work to deliver lifesaving peer support programs, helping over 20,000 people over the last two decades. Police and child welfare organizations often use the space to conduct child abuse interviews with children, youth and their families. The Gatehouse programs offer a supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere where people can find healthy ways to address their trauma.
Halton Women's Place, Burlington
For 40 years, Halton Women's Place (HWP) has helped address domestic violence against women in the community. HWP created a three pillar strategy that works to shift attitudes in youth and address violence at an early age, giving presentations on healthy relationships and the signs of domestic violence to 36,000 students to date. It also offers residential and outreach programs to women and children who are victims of domestic violence. In 2017, HWP partnered with other non-profit organizations to find transitional housing for clients for up to a year, and hopes to create even more housing units in the future.
Shape Your Life Boxing Program, Toronto
Shape Your Life is an innovative program that uses the sport of boxing to help women recover and heal from their experience of intimate partner violence. Since 2007, Shape Your Life helped 1,300 women to achieve their goals and move from victimization to self-actualization. The program is 8 to 14 weeks long with follow-up for as long as participants want to remain involved. Following the core program, there is a weekly grad class for participants to work on developing confidence in their bodies. Through this program, women are able to address the victimization they have experienced without reliving their traumas. In 2016, Shape Your Life received research funding to document its effects on the long-term functioning of participants, which led to program expansion to areas with limited access to services.
WEFiGHT human trafficking, Windsor
Since 2002, WEFiGHT has provided immediate assistance to survivors of human trafficking, so they can access services and assistance without being further stigmatized and return to an unsafe situation. WEFiGHT assists with income support, housing needs, immigration, as well as food and clothing. WEFiGHT was one of the first organizations in Canada to identify and develop a support program for survivors of human trafficking, building partnerships with nurses, law enforcement, addiction workers, local shelters and youth probation services to ensure supports are available to address victims' complex and diverse needs.