TORONTO, March 19, 2005 - Mirlande Demers, a young woman who formed a coalition to take on a Quebec radio station for its racist slurs has won the top youth Award of Excellence for individual achievement in antiracism handed out by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) at the launch conference of the National Youth Antiracism Network (NYAN).
Peer Perspectives, a youth-driven arts based program of the Vancouver-based Access to Media Education Society (AMES), developed a media resource package for instructing other youth, educators and parents about the issue of racism took the top prize for organizational best practices. The winners receive a cash award that may be used for continuing their work.
"The entries were, in a word, outstanding," says Mary-Woo Sims, former Chief Commissioner of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission and the chair of the independent panel of adjudicators which selected the winners after reviewing entries in both categories from across the country. "The finalists demonstrated the leadership and initiative of youth against the destructive nature of racism, and that is very encouraging. We were all very impressed with the caliber of the entries, and very moved by their courage."
Mirlande's campaign against Radio station, CHOI FM 98.1 began when she became aware of the racial slurs and offensive comments on the radio station following the September 11, 2001 tragedy and the dismantling of a prostitution ring in Quebec City. The Coalition Against Discrimination was formed when the young Black woman of Haitian origin found that there were others who were also offended by the radio station's comments and wanted to do something about it. The result is that the debate on racism is now engaged in Quebec City, and its work continues to gain influence.
The other finalists for the individual achievement category were: Saron Gebresellassie (Toronto, Black Youth United); Chris Benjamin (Toronto, Environmental Volunteer Network), and Mahmoud Kaabour (Montreal, documentary "Being Osama").
Peer Perspectives, which took the top prize for organizational best practices, is a complete package of video and activities guide designed "to bring the issue of racism into the classroom to speak directly to youth." The video centers around youth who reveal themselves about the impact of racism and, through the activities guide encourages other youth in the classroom to engage in discussions about racism and how victims and aggressors may become leaders of change.
The Youth Restorative Action Project (YRAP) of Edmonton, the first youth justice committee mandated to work in youth courts with young people who have caused harm through racism and other social issues was a finalist for the organizational best practices award.
In addition to Mary-Woo Sims the panel of adjudicators included, Zanana Akanke, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (Toronto), Idee Lyangudour, NYAN (New Brunswick) and Dr. Darren Lund, University of Calgary.
"This 'youth weekend' is quite an historical achievement for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation," said the Chair to the CRRF, Pat Case. "The launch conference of the NYAN and the presentation of the awards all speak to significant leadership and sense of responsibility of Canada's youth and that is exciting and encouraging."
"We are proud of the Award of Excellence program and, in particular, the Youth categories which encourage excellence in antiracism because they foster greater respect for youth for the positive work they do," added Dr. Karen Mock, the Foundation's executive director.