Manitoba·Future 40

Midwife, bee-keeping advocate among last set of Future 40 finalists of 2016

CBC Manitoba brings you the final set of Future 40 finalists, which includes a childhood obesity researcher, an urban bee-keeping advocate and a midwife practising in Winnipeg's core area.

Final round of 10 finalists include community activists, teachers and global business leaders

Meet your last group of 10 finalists in Future 40 Manitoba 2016. Top row, left-right: Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie, Melissa Brown, Meghan Azad, Monique Woroniak, Alberto Velasco. Bottom row, left-right: Christopher Kirouac, Tyler Geisler, Jonas Watson, Jade Harper, Michael Champagne.

CBC Manitoba's Future 40 highlights the province's next generation of leaders, builders and change-makers under the age of 40.

Thirty Future 40 finalists have been revealed so far this week:

Now, we bring you the final set of 10 finalists, which includes a childhood obesity researcher, an urban bee-keeping advocate, a midwife practising in Winnipeg's core and seven others.

Tonight, the 2016 CBC Manitoba Future 40 finalists are invited to celebrate their achievements at a reception and networking event. Join Janet Stewart on CBC Winnipeg News at 6 p.m. CT for live coverage.

(Submissions below were provided by nominators, and edited for style and length.)

Meghan Azad

Age: 33

Category: Science and Technology

Meghan Azad is nominated in the Science and Technology category. (Submitted)

Meghan Azad is scientist at the University of Manitoba and Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, studying how early life experiences shape lifelong health. Her research with the CHILD Study, involving 1,000 Manitoba families, shows that breastfeeding reduces the risk of childhood obesity and helps babies establish a healthy gut flora. Her team is studying specific molecules in breast milk to understand how this works.

Azad serves on the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Committee. She is a founding member of the $3.5-million Manitoba Developmental Origins of Chronic Diseases in Children Network and co-director of the Manitoba Personalized Lifestyle Research Program.

She received the Banting Fellowship, Canada's top award for post-doctoral researchers, and was one of three Canadians invited to the 2014 Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, an international gathering of young scientists and Nobel Prize laureates in physiology or medicine.

Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie

Age: 22

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Sadie-Phoenix is from Sagkeeng First Nation and educates for social, economic, political, environmental justice. (Photo used courtesy of Daniel Crump.)

Sadie Lavoie is a Winnipeg-based activist from Sagkeeng First Nation who educates and agitates for social, economic, political, environmental justice and the decolonizing of institutions.

She was integral to establishing an Indigenous credit requirement for first-year University of Winnipeg students. Through the Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba, she lobbies the federal government on behalf of Aboriginal students.

Sadie is vice-president of external affairs on the University of Winnipeg Students' Association and is a representative on the National Aboriginal Caucus. As a teen, she got involved with Idle No More, and more recently was a spokesperson for Winnipeg Indigenous Rock the Vote.

Sadie is an organizer with Red Rising Magazine Collective and has shared writings on what it's like to be two-spirited, and also about the culture shock of moving to the city from the reserve. She shares in the organizing duties of the Indigenous 2 Spirited Council at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House.

Alberto Velasco

Age: 39

Category: Business and Entrepreneurship

Alberto is a project manager with the World Trade Centre Winnipeg. (submitted by David Elias)

For more than a decade, Alberto Velasco has created global business opportunities for Manitoba companies.

As a project manager with World Trade Centre Winnipeg, Alberto promotes our province in foreign markets and attracts international businesses to Centrallia, a three-day global forum that brings together more than 30 countries and 700 business leaders in Winnipeg.

His previous role as executive director, International Business Development with Centreport saw him promote investment opportunities in Winnipeg through multiple trade missions to Mexico, the U.S., Turkey, Russia and China.

While not a native francophone, Alberto operates in a professional environment where French is the primary language of communication. Last year, Alberto founded an exclusively French-language chapter of ToastMasters, which meets prior to the workday.

In his volunteer life, Alberto is a prominent member of the Mex Y Can Association of Manitoba, which represents the Mexican culture in our province.

Jade Harper

Age: 32

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Jade Harper is nominated in the Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism category. (Submitted)

Jade Harper is the founder and owner of SpiritFusion, a mobile yoga and wellness studio that integrates Indigenous teachings and Eastern practices encouraging holistic wellness.

At 29, Jade was voted onto Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre's board of directors by her peers and, just one year later, appointed as the chairperson, a position Jade continues to hold.

In addition to the above, she previously sat on Beyond Borders board of directors for six years, is active in suicide prevention in northern Manitoba, is a co-founder of The Village Walk and is a curator of "Half-breeds in their Natural Environment: Taking back the Carte de Visit."

She studies at the University of Manitoba, pursuing a native studies major and minor in nutrition. She is a Winnipeg Police Service Indigenous Advisory Council member and she works with children and youth who have been sexually exploited. As well, she is a strong philanthropist throughout Manitoba. 

Christopher Kirouac

Age: 34

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Christopher Kirouac is nominated in the Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism category. (Supplied)

Almost a decade ago, Chris began learning about the plight of bees and pollinators, and since has become a passionate advocate for urban beekeeping.

Honeybees and other pollinators are on the decline globally and are essential for the food supply we rely on. Chris founded Beeproject, an apiary and business that works toward public education regarding the decline of the pollinators and draws awareness to ways the urban dweller can help. He keeps honeybee hives near Gimli and in Winnipeg, focusing on organic and sustainable methods of beekeeping.

Beeproject began teaching workshops for the aspiring beekeeper in 2015. The project has spoken to numerous elementary school classrooms about the importance of the pollinators.

Chris has worked closely with Winnipeg city council members to advocate for change in the urban beekeeping bylaws and now, with bylaws amended, will begin keeping bees in downtown Winnipeg starting this year. 

Monique Woroniak

Age: 37

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Monique Woroniak is nominated in the Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism category. (Submitted)

A librarian with the Winnipeg Public Library, Monique is an in-demand speaker committed to social change through the growth of enduring and just relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Her presentations share what she has learned about supporting Indigenous leadership and opposing racism. She received the Aboriginal Circle of Educators' Honouring Our Allies Award for 2016 recognizing her work to increase awareness and act responsibly around issues of racism and colonialism.

In 2015, Monique co-founded the website as a source of accessible information to support non-Indigenous (settler) people in building relationships, rooted in justice and solidarity, with Indigenous peoples.

On the Prison Libraries Committee of the Manitoba Library Association, she works with the book lending program at the Manitoba Remand Centre.

Monique's dedication to showing up, listening, and waiting to be invited to help is the hallmark of her work as an ally.

Michael Champagne

Age: 28

Category: Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Michael's hand-print can be found on each Winnipeg inner-city community and its people. (Submitted by Sharon Champagne)

Michael is a very caring person who actively goes out of his way to make Winnipeg a better place to live. Some of his many efforts can be found in Winnipeg's North End, where four years ago he started a program called "Meet Me At The Bell Tower." The group meets every Friday at 6 p.m. with a goal aimed at ending violence in the area.

Michael is also a motivational speaker who travels all across Canada and the United States speaking about various topics.

In addition to each of these accomplishments, Michael has also started a program called AYO! (Aboriginal Youth Opportunities) to help get kids off the street and into a better life.

While these are only a few of the many things he has accomplished, Michael's handprint can be found on each Winnipeg inner-city community and its people.

Melissa Brown

Age: 36

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Melissa Brown, 36, is a Navajo/Anishinaabe registered midwife, practising in Winnipeg's core area. (Submitted by Tasha Spillett)

Melissa Brown is a Navajo/Anishinaabe registered midwife practising in Winnipeg's core area.

She is committed to breathing life back into Indigenous birth knowledge as a way of restoring health and well-being to Indigenous communities.

In her work, she is actively involved in birth justice issues, community building, and raising awareness on issues related to women's health.

Brown is a member of Kagike Danikobidan council, the advisory committee on Aboriginal women's issues to the College of Midwives of Manitoba. She is also a member of the core council of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives.

Jonas Watson

Age: 36

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Dr. Jonas Watson is a veterinarian with a passion for helping animals in need. (Submitted by Brittany Semeniuk)

Jonas Watson is a veterinarian with a passion for changing the world and alleviating animal suffering.

In his "spare time," he volunteers his skills on reserves, building positive relationships where he provides veterinary care and pet sterilization clinics to help pet owners in need.

He also travels abroad to voluntarily sterilize and treat stray animals in countries such as Madagascar and Mexico.

His most recent successful initiative involved organizing and fundraising for a Malagasy veterinarian to fly to Winnipeg for extensive training to help hone her medical skills.

Watson is also an active board member on the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association, Canadian Animal Blood Bank and Winnipeg Humane Society, where he uses his title to increase awareness to various plights while pushing for improvements to animal welfare.

Tyler Geisler

Age: 28

Category: Community, Social Activism and Volunteerism

Tyler Geisler, 28, is a father, foster parent, social worker and volunteer board member with numerous community groups. (Submitted by Oleksandr Kondrashov)

Tyler Geisler is from Ashern, Man. He and his partner are raising their one-year-old boy and also provide foster care for two-year-old twin boys.

Tyler works as a renal health social worker and volunteers as a board member of an adult education program, Fieldstone Ventures and the Lakeshore Communities Health Care Committee.

As a renal health social worker, he is piloting a project to educate and prevent kidney disease and diabetes, which are urgent concerns for people in Ashern and many neighbouring First Nation communities.

In September 2015, he became president of the Ashern Arena and under his leadership and fundraising efforts, the arena doubled its income and will maintain operation for the next year to ensure that local kids have regular access to a local recreation facility. He is also leading a local committee in financing a new supportive housing and assisted-living project.


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