On October 17th, role models from across the country – including parents, educators, athletes, Senators, former and current Members of Parliament as well as international business and thought leaders – join thousands of volunteers to make the day possible. In Canada, role models will speak with youth across the country from Nunavut to British Columbia. Their aim is to instill a new, positive, inclusive and interconnected sense of value in young people that will guide them as they grow. Some of Canada’s National Role Models this year include:
Niki Ashton, Member of Parliament, Churchill, Manitoba
First elected MP for the riding of Churchill in 2008 and re-elected in 2011, Niki Ashton is a strong voice for Northern Manitoba. She is speaking out on the third-world conditions facing Northern and Aboriginal people; she is fighting to maintain value-added jobs from resources across the North, including at the Vale nickel operation in Thompson; and she is demanding federal action to improve Northern healthcare, housing, infrastructure and transportation, education, economic development and support for residential school survivors.
Niki currently serves as NDP Status of Women Critic. A former instructor with University College of the North, she has an MA in International Affairs (Carleton University) and a BA in Global Political Economy (University of Manitoba). She is fluent in four languages, including Greek, her mother-tongue, and has studied four others. Niki visits communities throughout Churchill on a regular basis, including on the North’s many winter roads, and makes her home where she was born and raised: the city of Thompson.
Jeffrey Copenace, Chair, Indigenous Outreach, Global Dignity Canada
Jeff Copenace, a 34 years old Anishinabe, is from the Ojibways of Onegaming First Nation in Treaty #3. He currently serves as an advisor at the Assembly of First Nations, and provides support to the AFN National Strategy on Treaty Implementation led by the Treaty Nations.
Jeff previously worked as a policy advisor to the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Honourable Michael Ignatieff. He also acted as a senior advisor at Queens Park to both provincial Ministers of Aboriginal Affairs, the Honourable Brad Duguid and the Honourable Michael Bryant.
Prior to Queens Park, Jeff was appointed as an advisor to the Right Honourable Paul Martin in the Prime Ministers Office and was a part of the discussions that led to the Kelowna Accord in 2005.
Jeff is a graduate from Carleton University. In 2003, MacLean’s Magazine named him one of Canada’s top leaders under the age of thirty.
Jennifer Corriero, Co-Founder and Executive Director of TakingITGlobal
Jennifer Corriero is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of TakingITGlobal, a non-profit organization. The vision of TakingITGlobal is to create a community that: inspires young people around the world to create positive change on a local and global level; provides the information and connections necessary for innovative learning experiences; involves all participants in the multitude of opportunities surrounding them.
Until 2003, she was a consultant to the Marketing, Web and Youth Programme for various corporate clients. She is an adviser to: the Canadian Association for AIDS Research; the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce; Chat the Planet; the Global Youth Action Network; Pollution Probe; the Toronto International Film Festival; the Youth Employment Summit. She is also a Member of the Official Canadian Delegation to the World Summit on the Information Society. Jennifer gained her BA and MES from York University.
Ryan Hreljac, Founder, Ryan’s Well
At 21 years old, Ryan Hreljac is the founder of the Ryan’s Well Foundation, an organization committed to delivering access to safe water and empowering people of all ages to make a difference in the world. Amazingly, Ryan’s journey began at age six when he was shocked to learn that people in Africa were dying because they didn’t have clean water. Ryan took it upon himself to raise money by doing chores and public speaking, and with the support of his family, friends and community, built a well in Uganda.
Since then, Ryan’s Well has helped build over 700 wells and 900 latrines, bringing safe water and improved sanitation to more than 750,000 people in 16 countries. Today, Ryan studies International Development and Public Affairs at University of King’s College in Halifax. He serves on the board of Ryan’s Well and continues to speak around the world on water issues and volunteerism.
He has received numerous awards including the Order of Ontario, the Canadian Meritorious Service Medal, the Lewis Perinbam Award, the Top 20 Under 20 Youth Award, and World of Children’s Founder Award. Ryan’s work has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, CBC and in Christian Science Monitor, People, and Reader’s Digest. He is recognized by UNICEF as a Global Youth Leader.
Curtis Konek, Member of the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project
Curtis Konek is a Grade 12 Inuk student at John Arnalukjuaq High School in Arviat, Nunavut on the western coast of Hudson Bay. A member of the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project with the University of British Columbia School of Social Work and a proud Master Corporal serving with the 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, Curtis has been a dedicated mentor and role model to almost 200 Junior Canadian Rangers. Fluent in Inuktitut and English, Curtis has presented traditional knowledge and Inuit perspectives on climate change at international conferences such as International Polar Year in Montreal and COP17 in Durban, South Africa.
In his travels, he has shared the experiences of disabled residents of Phelisanong in Lesotho, and rallied with them in drawing attention to the ravages of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. With confidence, pride and with the knowledge gained through his participation in the Nanisiniq project and the Canadian Rangers, Curtis’ commitment to dignity is helping other Inuit youth take pride in who they are: their history, culture and what they have to offer to the world.
The Honourable Senator Yonah Martin
Senator Yonah Martin is a Conservative Senator from British Columbia who was appointed by The Right Honourable Stephen Harper in 2009. She is the first Canadian of Korean descent to serve in the Senate of Canada and the first Korean-Canadian Parliamentarian in Canadian history. Born in Seoul, Korea, Senator Martin immigrated to Canada in 1972 where she has lived in Vancouver ever since. Graduate of the University of British Columbia in 1987, she spent 21 years as an educator right up until her appointment to the Senate.
With the desire to “bridge communities,” she became a community activist and co-founded the C3 Society in 2003 and ran as a Conservative candidate in the 2008 election. In her capacity as Senator, she champions the needs of the national Korean Canadian community and the Veterans of the Korean War. She is also passionate about mentoring and empowering youth and young adults, which led to the development of a Parliamentary Internship program for 1.5/2nd generation leaders, now in its second year.
Wesley Prankard, Founder of Northernstarfish
Wesley’s mission is to build a playground in every northern community in Canada, giving all children the right to play and spreading awareness about the inequalities between non-aboriginal and aboriginal children. To that effect, in the summer of 2011, he completed constructing a play structure for the children of Attawapiskat, Ontario.
Wesley’s speaking career began when he was invited to speak to 400 youth in Ottawa at the Unite & Ignite Conference in March 2011. From there, he has been invited to address schools, civic groups, universities and conferences, speaking to audiences young and old, and in front of groups of over 1,500.
He has been featured on Canada AM, Full Circle CTS, Always Good News with Connie Smith, Huntley Street Global, The National, CBC Newsworld, CTV News Channel, APTN News, CFRB 1010, 105.7Ed, 105.7 EZRock, CBC Radio, Wawatay Radio and Niagara Bullet News. He has been in the Niagara Falls Review, St. Catharines Standard, Niagara This Week, AirCreebec Inflight Magazine and Niagara Life Magazine as a “Notable Niagaran”. In 2011, Wes won the distinction of first runner up in One Dreem’s “Canada’s Next Top Young Philanthropist”. He was named a Top 5 Niagara Newsmaker in Bullet News and has earned the title of Free The Children’s “NHL All Star World Changers” contest.
Justin Trudeau, Member of Parliament, Papineau
Re-Elected on May 2nd, 2011 as Member of Parliament for Papineau, Justin Trudeau advances in his political career fighting for Canadian values, to bring forth a new perspective on the interactions between government and citizens, and to help Canada be a model for the world.
Since arriving in Parliament, Justin has passionately advocated for greater political participation by Canada’s youth, while simultaneously arguing for more government action to help young Canadians become better prepared in a more competitive, globalized world. But more than just empowering young people, Justin pushes fellow community and political leaders to discover the importance of our youth and realize that their new ideas, opinions, and contributions are critical to Canada’s progress. Indeed, his role as Liberal Party Critic for Youth, Post Secondary Education and Amateur Sports, flows directly from his work chairing the 2006 youth task force of the Liberal Party Renewal Commission, from his chairing from 2002 to 2006 of Katimavik, Canada’s National Youth Service program, as well as from his work as a high school teacher for five years prior to that.
Another of Justin’s major concerns is how we care for the planet that sustains us. In his years before politics he worked with various environmental groups dedicated to the protection of our Canadian wilderness, supplementing his activism with graduate work in environmental geography at McGill University. For Justin, investing in youth, diversity and the environment are the best ways to ensure our country’s long-term prosperity.