The city of Toronto handed out its 2016 Access, Equity and Human Rights Awards Tuesday evening to activists who are working to break down barriers to equality in the city.
The event was held at city hall in anticipation of Human Rights Day on Saturday,
"I continue to be inspired by the commitment of the award winners and the work that they do to serve Toronto's diverse communities," said Denise Andrea Campbell, the city's director of social development.
The award winners are:
- Maayan Ziv, Access Award for Disability Issues
- Fizul Sima, Aboriginal Affairs Award
- Dr. Alex Abramovich, Pride Award for LGBTQ2S Issues
- Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO), William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations
- Paola Gomez, Constance E. Hamilton Award on the Status of Women
More than a dozen activists from Black Lives Matter Toronto appeared on the stage to accept their award and broke out in cheers after three BLMTO representatives made their remarks. City councillors in attendance clapped along to their chants of "I believe that we will win." The city says the group received the award because it helped start an important conversation about race relations in the city.
Abramovich, who won the Pride Award for his work in addressing homelessness among LGBTQ2S youth, said big strides have been made in recent years.
"Over the course of 10 years, there's been a lot of significant changes. It was about a year ago that Canada opened its first transition housing specifically for queer and trans youth here in Toronto."
Al the award winners said that while recognition of Toronto's marginalized communities is an important step, there is still much work to be done.
"We need to make sure that each person is seen, that their voices are heard, and that each person feels that they have the rights to different spaces in Toronto," said Ziv, founder of the mobile app AccessNow and winner of the Award for Disability Issues. AccessNow plots out on a map locations that are accessible — and inaccessible — to the disabled.
The city is encouraging other residents to nominate those who are making a difference. The deadline for next year's Human Rights Awards submissions is May 1.