Olympic rower, teenage Ojibway instructor featured in 3rd round of Future 40 finalists

CBC Manitoba's third set of Future 40 finalists features an Olympic rower-turned-coach, a Métis artist, a local grower passionate about restoring Manitoba's native prairie, and seven other Manitoba leaders.

Finalists include entrepreneurs, tech developers, community activists

Your third round of 2017 Future 40 finalists. Top row, left-right: Janine Hanson-Stephens, Gerrit Theule, Rodney Contois, Jennifer Smith and Theodore Baschak. Bottom row, left-right: Jeff Leighton, Aandeg Muldrew, Kelly Leask, Alex Drysdale and Eric Olek. (Submitted)

CBC Manitoba's third set of Future 40 finalists features an Olympic rower-turned-coach, a Métis artist, a local grower passionate about restoring Manitoba's native Prairie, and seven other Manitoba leaders.

We released 20 of the 40 finalists (here and here) on Monday and Tuesday, and will reveal the final 10 on 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 nightly television cast of CBC Winnipeg News at 6 p.m. CT.

Here's your third round of Future 40 finalists:

Janine Hanson-Stephens

Age: 34

Category: Sports and Recreation

Janine Hanson-Stephens is nominated in the Sports and Recreation category. (Submitted by Andrea Katz)

Before trading in her paddle for a whistle, Team Manitoba rowing coach Janine Hanson-Stephens represented Canada on the world stage at two Olympics, winning silver at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

"Now I am having a chance to influence the new athletes coming through Manitoba, which is really exciting," Hanson-Stephens said, adding she was honoured to make the final cut of the 2017 Future 40. "I think it's really special to have even been nominated."

Hanson-Stephens says  her passion for sport and coaching stems from a desire to see people transcend their own expectations of what they believe they can do.

It takes a lot to get anywhere but it's so much more about the journeys than the performances.- Janine Hanson-Stephens

"It's interesting to watch people push themselves and surprise themselves with the abilities they have but didn't, maybe, realize that they have," she said.

"Just being able to play a role in helping them find themselves, I don't feel like it's anything I am necessarily doing except guiding that for them. And it's not only just in rowing … hopefully they are also learning lessons they can use in other areas of life, too."

Hanson-Stephens says after so many years on the water, what keeps pulling her back today is the same force that compelled her to compete in the first place.

"When I first started it was just that no two strokes are the same … everything changes every stroke and you just have to try your best to make it perfect everytime," she said. 

"It takes a lot to get anywhere but it's so much more about the journeys than the performances, and pushing yourselves, and learning from the days that are such a struggle and can be frustrating and challenging and exhausting — all of those things. And knowing that there is so much more going through that process and that there are more good days than bad."

(Nominee profiles below were provided by nominators.)

Theodore Baschak

Age: 35

Category: Science and Technology

Theodore Baschak is nominated in the Science and Technology category. (Submitted by Meagan O'Donnell)

Theo has long toiled behind the scenes bringing the internet to Manitobans, in particular to northern communities, nursing stations and schools, in connection with his work with Broadband Communications North, revolutionizing how education is delivered. 

In 2017, Theodore co-founded the Manitoba Network Operators, a group of ISP operators whose goal is to foster communication and learning among internet providers. He has worked on large-scale networks including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, RBC Convention Centre and Investors Group Field.

Alex Drysdale

Age: 31

Category: Business and Entrepreneurship

Alex Drysdale is nominated in the Business and Entrepreneurship category. (Submitted by Andrea Katz)

Alex is an innovator in the environmental and food industry in Canada. A protein powder made out of crickets, the first-of its kind, is the amazing idea he has brought to the world. Not only is cricket-based protein powder excellent for human consumption, it is also exceptionally good for our environment and overall longevity of our planet. 

In his short time in business he has some very impressive accomplishments:

  • A hugely successful crowdfunding campaign for his company, CRIK Nutrition, that elicited pledges from 22 countries. He met his goal within 24 hours.
  • One of 10 companies selected by the Spin Masters Innovation Fund.
  • Named one of the 20 Hottest Startups in the World by CNBC and MSN, which made the front page of
  • Named Food in Canada's Top 10 Producers to Watch.
  • He has gone from making his first sale online to getting sales every day from all over Canada and the U.S., to now getting inquiries from large national retailers.

Jennifer Smith

Age: 38

Category: Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Jennifer Smith is nominated in the Arts, Culture and Entertainment category. (Submitted by Emma Hendrix)

Jennifer is one of Winnipeg's most gentle and respected powerhouses in the arts community. She is a Métis curator and current treasurer for the National Indigenous Media Arts Coalition (NIMAC). 

She is also board president of the Coalition of Canadian Media Arts Distributors (CCIMAD), the organization that developed Canada's first non-profit online video and film distribution platform.

She has played a key role in organizational development at Video Pool Media Arts Centre, Winnipeg's only artist space dedicated to the exploration of the intersection of technology and art.

Rodney Contois

Age: 31

Category: Business and Entrepreneurship

Rodney Contois is nominated in the Business and Entrepreneurship category. (Kate Taylor)

Rodney is the driving force behinde Aki Foods, an Indigenous social enterprise that works to create sustainable local food economies in Manitoba's northern First Nations. The entrepreneur from Misipawistik Cree Nation is a rising leader in the movement to re-imagine how northern First Nations can build sovereignty through healthy local food production. 

Rodney developed the Meechim Farm project, provides training and employment to Garden Hill First Nation community members, works with local schools to teach children about health and is teaching members of other northern communities to develop their own farming projects.

Jeff Leighton

Age: 33

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Jeff Leighton is nominated in the Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism category. (Submitted by Kyle Mason)

Jeff is the director of operations at the North End Family Centre, where he oversees all daily operations, human resources, donor acknowledgement and financial stewardship. He is the co-founder of Flatlander Inn, a 32-bed transitional housing project in the North End that helps at-risk citizens. 

Jeff has a passion for building strong connections with the North End community and through his roles he has improvied the lives of thousands.

Kelly Leask

Age: 27

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Kelly Leask is nominated in the Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism category. (Submitted by Nicole Webster)

Kelly began working at Prairie Originals, a nursery that specializes in growing plants native to Manitoba's prairies, in 2013. 

Always a nature-lover, Kelly quickly developed a strong appreciation and passion for prairie plants and the habitats they create. She has been managing the business since 2015 and will soon take over ownership, with plans to expand it on a 19-hectare property she owns. Her goal is to produce enough local seed to facilitate prairie restoration projects on a scale that is not currently possible in Manitoba. 

Aside from Prairie Originals, Kelly currently serves on the board for Gardens Manitoba and attends many gardening events within the community. 

Kelly was also instrumental in creating three waystations to support endangered monarch butterflies. Over the past few years, Kelly has spent her time educating others through speaking engagements around the province of the importance of preserving and restoring native prairie habitats (of which less than one per cent remain) and the benefits of landscaping with native plants in urban settings.

Aandeg Muldrew

Age: 19

Category: Teaching and Healthcare

Aandeg Muldrew is the University of Manitoba's youngest sessional instructor. (Submitted by Maeengan Linklater)

Aandeg, in his third year of linguistics at the University of Winnipeg with a grade point average of 4.15, is the youngest sessional instructor at the University of Manitoba, where he teaches Introductory Ojibwe.

At 10, his grandmother and Ojibwe language specialist, Pat Ningewance, started apprenticing him as a language teacher when she took him to her language classes and revitalization camps. 

He is one of a select group of students chosen to attend the "Ojibwemotaadidaa Omaa Gidakiiminaang" in Fond du Lac, Minn., where he has enhanced his language skills in its immersion environment. 

Aandeg worked at the 7 Oaks School Division month-long language camp, teaching young students in a land-based, cultural environment. In this era of Reconciliation, Canadians are recognizing the loss of Indigenous languages and culture, and how Ojibwe language revitalization can help to restore pride and well-being. Aandeg is committed to giving back to his community by sharing his academic knowledge of linguistics and his practical skills of the Anishinaabe language.

Eric Olek

Age: 27

Category: Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Eric Olek is nominated in the Arts, Culture and Entertainment category. (Submitted by Arts, Culture and Entertainment)

Eric founded his street-wear brand Friday Knights in 2011, and has since opened a permanent store in the Exchange District and launched Winnipeg's first sneaker consignment service. Olek dedicates his time to helping entrepreneurs secure pop-up shop spaces as the project manager for Launch It! with the Downtown BIZ. He also offers logistics support as one of the co-ordinators for the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade and Nuit Blanche as a team member of Ethero Events.

Eric organizes pop-up concerts for aspiring artists in his shop, and creates opportunities for street artists both with pop-up "mural jams" and as confounder of Open Outline, a Winnipeg back-alley graffiti jam that took place on Canada Day. Eric's most recent release is a series of shirts to promote awareness for mental illness. He is gearing up for his "grind to 70," a holiday hoodie sale that he started after suffering a break-in last year. He donates a portion of profits from sales to an inner city youth organization.

Gerrit Theule

Age: 37

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Gerrit Theule is nominated in the Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism category. (Nominated by Dave Rogers)

Gerrit is at the forefront of the access to justice movement in Manitoba, in addition to being a fierce local activist, frequent volunteer and a renowned classical singer.

After finishing law school, he started Wolseley Law LLP as a place that does law differently. In addition to providing traditional legal services, Gerrit has created a firm that offers multiple solutions to the problem of the lack of legal assistance for those who can't afford traditional representation, but who don't qualify for legal aid.