Bisexual Christian pastor, Indigenous graphic novelist among 2017 Future 40 finalists

CBC Manitoba's Future 40 showcases some of the brightest young minds and influential change-makers under 40 working to make this province better for future generations.

Finalists include entrepreneurs, tech developers, community activists

Meet your first group of CBC Manitoba Future 40 finalists for 2017. Top row, left to right: Alexa Joy Potashnik, Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Jennifer Storm, Jonathan Foord, Alexandra Froese. Bottom row, left to right: James Lavallee, Aly Raposo, Andrew Kaplan, Carli Rossall and Jackie Swirsky. (Submitted)

CBC Manitoba's Future 40 showcases some of the brightest young minds and influential change-makers under 40 working to make this province better for future generations.

We received more than 170 nominations in the 2017 instalment, and last week a panel of judges selected 40 finalists. Those finalists will be announced online in rounds of 10 each day between Monday and Thursday.

Select finalists will also be featured on CBC's Information Radio with host Marcy Markusa, Radio Noon with host Marjorie Dowhos, Up to Speed with host Ismaila Alfa and the Weekend Morning Show with Nadia Kidwai. A handful of finalists will also appear on the supper-hour television cast of CBC Winnipeg News at 6 p.m. CT.

The first group of 10 includes a bisexual Christian pastor working to support LGBT members of the faith, an Indigenous graphic novelist, and eight other business people, technology whizzes, teachers and activists.

Here's your first round of Future 40 finalists:

Jamie Arpin-Ricci

Age: 40

Category: Community, social activism and volunteerism

Jamie Arpin-Ricci is nominated in the community, social activism and volunteerism category. (Submitted by Rebecca Baxter)

Pastor Jamie Arpin-Ricci has been serving marginalized groups in Winnipeg's West End for 15 years. He lives with post-traumatic stress disorder and provides supports for those living with mental illness — including through an affordable-housing complex.

But about half of his time with the church these days is devoted to helping LGBT believers navigate the challenges of being out and Christian.

The 40-year-old pastoral leader at Winnipeg's Little Flowers Community church has been open about his own sexuality with those close to him for some time, but it was the shooting at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Fla., in 2016 that inspired him to publicly come out as bisexual and share his beliefs.

The shooter targeted and killed dozens of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender-diverse people in what was until very recently considered the worst mass shooting carried out by a single person in modern American history.

"People were facing death and violence just for being themselves," Arpin-Ricci said, adding his decision to share more about who he is had negative consequences.

"I received a lot of pushback from more traditional Christians in my life and had some of my donor base for our ministry cut off as a result. That's obviously never fun to receive those kind of calls."

They need to at least have a safe space to ask the questions and receive impartial and fair answers in a place where people aren't going to judge.- Jamie Arpin-Ricci

But Arpin-Ricci also started to receive phone calls and emails from LGBT Christians in Winnipeg and all over the world wanting advice.

He does a lot of one-on-one counselling and co-launched a support group for LGBT Christians and their allies. He also helps out with groups online that are fighting for same-sex marriage rights in Australia.

Arpin-Ricci says a resurgence in ultra-conservative views and Christian fundamentalism south of the border underscores the need for all religious groups to ask fundamental questions "about what it means to be people of faith in a world that recognizes more diversity."

"People could in the past just dismiss it and say, 'Well, we're not like those Westboro Baptist Christians.' But at the same time that's a pretty bad measure of how Christian you are in response to this issue," Arpin-Ricci said.

As for young believers in Winnipeg who might be questioning their own sexuality or gender, Arpin-Ricci has this to say:

"I say this — even if they're not sure if they want to accept who they are initially, they need to at least have a safe space to ask the questions and receive impartial and fair answers in a place where people aren't going to judge, and that's fairly rare. And as clichéd as it sounds, I would also tell them it does get better. The world is getting more and more supportive.... The resources are increasing."

Anyone interested in accessing Arpin-Ricci's LGBT support group and care services can reach out through the Little Flowers or Generous Space Ministries websites.

(Nominee profiles below were provided by nominators.)

Jennifer Storm

Age: 30

Category: Arts, culture and entertainment

Jennifer Storm is nominated in the arts, culture and entertainment category. (Submitted by Murray Sinclair)

Jennifer Storm is an award-winning writer, editor, and visual artist who has influenced a generation of young Indigenous women. She wrote her first novel, Deadly Loyalties, at the age of 14, and released the graphic novel Fire Starters in 2017. She is Manitoba's leading Indigenous female graphic novelist. 

Jennifer has worked in education for over a decade, recruiting Indigenous students to the University of Manitoba and doctors to work with northern Indigenous communities. She received an Aboriginal Circle of Educators award in 2014. A tireless volunteer, she mentors and supports young writers and particularly young Indigenous women in the arts. She's a true role model and leader in our community.

James Lavallee

Age: 20

Category: Sports and recreation

James Lavallee is nominated in the sports and recreation category. (Submitted by Dené Sinclair)

James Lavallee is a proud Métis, elite sprint kayaker and science student at the University of Manitoba.

James competes for the Junior National Kayak Team and has been named to the RBC Olympian team after a strong performance at the 2017 Canada Summer Games this past summer.

James has recently been awarded the Tom Longboat Award as the top male Indigenous athlete in Canada.

Aly Raposo

Age: 23

Category: Community, social activism and volunteerism

Aly Raposo was nominated in the community, social activism and volunteerism category. (Submitted by Liz Millward)

Aly was presented a YMCA-YWCA Young Women of Distinction award for 2017. 

The 23-year-old is finishing her bachelor's degree at the University of Manitoba. She works tirelessly to raise awareness about, and to destigmatize, mental illness, including holding the relevant authorities accountable for inadequate levels of services and suggesting priorities for improving provisions for mental health. 

She set up the U of M Active Living Centre gym initiative, working with a diverse group of students to successfully extend gym hours to accommodate women, transgender and non-binary folks. 

Aly founded the very first U of M Women's and Gender Studies Student Association. She also co-organized Love Shouldn't Hurt: Breaking the Silence on Domestic Violence, a day-long series of events at the U of M to raise awareness about domestic violence. The event raised more than $1,000 in donations for the women's shelter Alpha House.

Andrew Kaplan

Age: 37

Category: Teaching and health care

Andrew Kaplan is nominated in the teaching and health care category. (Submitted)

Andrew has been shaping the lives of students in many different ways throughout his career. Mr. Kaplan's energy and passion act to inspire and educate his students both in the classroom and in the variety of programs he supports. He helped start his school's first gay-straight alliance group, which won the Sybil Shack Human Rights Youth Award.

Andrew is also the vice-president of the Manitoba Speech and Debate Association and helps to foster and support a program that instills the values of critical thinking, understanding of political landscapes, thoughtful listening and critical response.

He has travelled all around the world as a debate coach for Gray Academy and this fall is co-hosting the International Independent Schools Public Speaking Competition, one of the largest English international public speaking tournaments in the world.

Alexandra Froese

Age: 37

Category: Science and technology

Alexandra Froese is nominated in the science and technology category. (Submitted by Charlene Berkvens)

Alex is an outstanding Manitoban who works tirelessly to help protect, study and propagate burrowing owls while engaging Manitobans in efforts to conserve this federally listed endangered species in Canada. 

She has built the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program, which aims to reintroduce owls, perform research and collect valuable data on wild and captive owl populations, and raise awareness about grassland conservation efforts focused on burrowing owls.

Alex has dedicated countless hours, days, months and years to working with landowners to install artificial nest burrows and establish good owl-nesting locations in southwestern Manitoba. 

She has fundraised and applied for grants that have kept the MBORP in operation for seven years while finishing her wildlife biology master's degree.

Carli Rossall

Age: 30

Category: Community, social activism and volunteerism

Carli Rossall is nominated in the community, social activism and volunteerism category. (Submitted)

After chasing her own demons from Toronto to New York to Vancouver, and finally settling on Vancouver Island, Carli has transformed her personal and professional life.

Since getting clean from addiction, she left a promising journalism career to return to school and become an addictions counsellor and recovery advocate. Before returning to Winnipeg Carli was working on the front lines of B.C.'s opioid crisis — at nights as a harm-reduction counsellor at a safe consumption site, and by day as a counsellor at a public access methadone clinic in Nanaimo, B.C.

Carli currently works as an addictions counsellor for Jewish Child and Family Services of Winnipeg. She has launched the "Don't Just Say Don't" campaign, a free workshop for educators and students aimed at changing the way we talk about the disease of addiction.

Carli also writes fearlessly and honestly about her own struggles for multiple publications in an effort to end stigma and bring pride to the recovery community.

Jackie Swirsky

Age: 38

Category: Community, social activism and volunteerism

Jackie Swirsky is nominated in the community, social activism and volunteerism category. (Submitted by Allan Appel)

Jackie is the winner of a 2016 silver Nautilus Book Award for her children's book Be Yourself, which empowers children to be proud of themselves and to be accepting of all people no matter what their style. She is a dynamic, passionate presenter regarding gender diversity. 

Jackie was also a consulting advisor for the development of Supporting Transgender and Diverse Students in Manitoba, an education and training document in the Winnipeg School Division.

She shares her message of acceptance at schools, human rights committees, conferences, camps and universities, and has developed a course through the Seven Oaks School Division.

Jonathan Foord

Age: 33

Category: Science and technology

Jonathan Foord is nominated in the science and technology category. (Submitted by Michael Cantor)

Jonathan has worked to design and implement Winnipeg's first Transportation Management Centre, rapidly introducing unprecedented citywide tools and unprecedented capabilities.

Driven by the desire to improve peoples' lives, his vision is much larger and extends to improved planning, better and faster emergency response to save lives, and much more. His revolutionary and visionary work is attracting international attention and he was recently invited to speak at the Waze Global Summit, livestreamed from the Google offices in New York City.

Cities around the world are now looking to Winnipeg and seeking insight from Jonathan on how they too can start to realize rapid transformation of their transportation systems. He is redefining transportation on a global stage, and doing it from Winnipeg.

Alexa Joy Potashnik

Age: 24

Category: Community, social activism and volunteerism

Alexa Joy Potashnik is nominated in the community, social activism and volunteerism category. (Submitted by Kendra Magnus-Johnston)

Alexa Joy has established herself as a potent political activist, a vigilant community leader and a talented beatbox performer. She is the founder of Black Space Winnipeg, an organization that creates safe spaces for Winnipeg's black community. Alexa recently completed her bachelor of arts in human rights at the University of Winnipeg. While in school, she volunteered as the racialized student commissioner, advocating for students of colour across Manitoba.

Alexa's current commitments include serving on the OurWinnipeg community advisory committee, working for Jazz Winnipeg and hosting a radio show called Raw Colours. Alexa is in the midst of redeveloping Raw Colours as a podcast and artist network to foster connection and support for artists of colour.