The Nellie Awards

These awards are to honour Nellie McClung’s vision by recognizing the spirit of her life’s work being advanced by women leaders of today. The Nellies salute the contributions by these women to social justice, the arts and to promoting democracy. Nominations were graciously accepted through the Winnipeg Free Press and over 60 women were nominated for this prestigious award. There are so many amazing and accomplished women in Manitoba who have made a difference.

An esteemed selection committee selected five rural and five urban recipients for ten Nellie Awards to be presented this evening. Congratulations to all of The Nellie Award recipients.

The Nellie Legacy Awards are special presentations to two individuals who have gone above and beyond for social justice and women’s and human rights. These recipients have devoted their life’s work to advocating equality, societal change and the preservation of human rights.

SONY DSC

The Nellie Awards were designed and curated by Kik Innovation, and feature the inscription “I want to leave something behind when I go; some small legacy of truth, some word that will shine in a dark place.” – Nellie McClung.

The Nellie Award Recipients

Dr. Jessie Lang
Beatrice Watson
Wilma Derksen
Connie Magnusson Schimnowski
Susan Hart-Kulbaba
Dr. Alexandria Wilson
Shirley Kalyniuk
Dr. Dr. Rayleen De Luca
Sherri Walsh
Manitoba Women’s Institute

The Nellie Legacy Award Recipients

Gail Asper O.C., O.M.
The Honourable Janice Filmon, C.M., O.M.

Dr. Jessie Lang

jessie-lang-nellieBorn on April 1st 1916, two months after Manitoba women received the right to vote, Dr. Jessie Lang demonstrated that traditional roles and expectations for women would not limit her. At Wesley College (now the University of Winnipeg) she actively participated on the debate team and in ice hockey, graduating in 1937 with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. As a young wife and mother, Jessie volunteered for the Community Chest (now the United Way), and UNICEF among others.

Widowed, in 1961 she enrolled at the University of Manitoba attaining a Bachelor of Social Work. A gifted counselor for Child Guidance Clinic (for the Winnipeg School Division), she advised, encouraged and mentored high school aged girls. Jessie played active roles with the Board of Governors of University of Manitoba, the Manitoba Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, Mount Carmel Clinic and the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Manitoba and Canada. Jessie served as the first female chair of the Health Science Center, where she helped develop the day nursery which enabled women to stay in the workforce.

Jessie participated in her first MS walk in 2013 at the age 97, to honour the twentieth anniversary of the death of her daughter Wendy (who suffered from MS). At 99, Jessie continues to educate people about the disease and to advance the research and service commitments of the MS Society. Jessie has been an extraordinary role model for the inclusion of all women, challenging society’s perception of women in the workforce and society while remaining committed to serving everyone, regardless of gender.


Beatrice Watson

beatrice-watson-nellieBeatrice Watson has devoted both her working and personal life to ensuring peace, equality and justice, especially for immigrant and refugee women. As an outreach and liaison officer with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, Beatrice has spoken to hundreds of Manitoba newcomers, primarily women, about their rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code.

As part of the Immigrant Women’s Association of Manitoba, she has worked to ensure that the needs of immigrant and refugee women are recognized today. Beatrice is the founder of Global Eyes Magazine, a quarterly publication highlighting the activities, contributions and issues of Manitoba’s African and Caribbean communities.

Originally from Guyana, Beatrice has lived and worked in Manitoba for more than 25 years, as a strong advocate in the African and Caribbean communities. In 2013 she was the recipient of the Manitoba Women Advisory Council and YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg Eira “Babs” Friesen Lifetime Achievement Award for her long standing volunteer involvement in the community, which has also included the Congress of Black Women, the Legal Education Action Fund for Women, as well as the Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre and Mediation Services. She has supported, mentored and guided many young women in the community, encouraging them to follow their dreams.


Wilma Derksen

wilma-derksen-nellieSince the abduction and murder of daughter Candace in 1984, Wilma Derksen has influenced victims, offenders and the community by telling her story. She has also made an impact by facilitating support group of survivors of homicide, organizing dialogue between victims and inmates in prison, conducting trainings, giving lectures, participating in panel discussions, presenting her insights to the justice system, and addressing victims’ needs at restorative justice conferences throughout Manitoba, Canada and the United States.

She has helped found numerous programs, including Child Find Manitoba, Family Survivors of Homicide, Safe Justice Encounters, Voice of Resilience, Victim Companions, Candace House and the Paying Forward Project. She is an international speaker and consultant on victimization and criminal justice.

She has written a number of books on criminal victimization, trauma, and the criminal justice system. Wilma continues to volunteer her time and expertise to various organizations including: Child Find Manitoba, Family Survivors of Homicide, Mennonite Brethren Communications, Sophia Magazine, Church Council of Justice and Corrections, Citizens Advisory Committee, Manitoba Organization of Victim Advocates, Law Commission of Canada Advisory Council, Ron Wiebe Selection Committee, Solicitor General of Canada Round Table, Voice of Resilience and Candace House.


Connie Magnusson Schimnowski

connie-magnusson-nellieRaised in Gimli, Connie Magnusson Schimnowski is a third generation Icelander whose grandparents arrived in the area in 1876.

After attaining her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Manitoba, Connie worked as a Community Services Outreach Coordinator for Seniors and later a social worker for the Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg. In 2005, Connie became the first Palliative Care Support Coordinator for the North East Interlake Region. She is the past chair of the Betel Home Palliative Care committee, as well as a member of the team that developed Camp Stepping Stones, the first camp in Manitoba for children (7-17) who have experienced the loss of a significant person in their lives.

She is an active leader in the Icelandic community, having chaired the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba. Her service to the festival and to the Icelandic community led to her being given a lifetime membership in the IFM and being recognized as Fjallkona (representing mother Iceland) in 2012. Connie’s volunteer work has included a three-year term as the President of the Westshore Community Foundation, a member of the Community Advisory Committee, Cancer Care Manitoba, as well as a past member of LEAF and the Elizabeth Fry Society. Connie is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and was named one of the Winnipeg Women Magazine’s 2012 five “Most Beautiful Women Award’ for courage, strength and perseverance.


Susan Hart-Kulbaba

susan-hart-nellieSusan Hart-Kulbaba has devoted her personal and professional lives to the eradication of gender-based discrimination, workers’ rights and social justice for all.

She was a member and then a staff person of the Retail Clerks Union (now United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832) and in 1985 became the first Federation Coordinator (now called Executive Director) of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. Here she was a driving force in the campaign to dedicate three of the MFL’s executive council seats to women vice-presidents, ensuring that women’s perspective would be included in policy discussions and decision making. In 1989, she became the first woman elected to the Presidency of the MFL and carried her passion for improving the voices of women in their own unions and the lives of women in the workplace throughout her six-year tenure.

She has been, and continues to be, a passionate advocate for those discriminated against and for women. Susan has never been afraid to speak truth to power, regardless of the consequences. When possible, she used logic, laced with a dose of humour. Where not possible, she used actions, including political action. A trademark of her leadership style is her ability to work in partnership with like-minded individuals and organizations.


Dr. Alexandria Wilson

alex-wilson-nellieDr. Alex Wilson gathered her first lessons on leadership in her home community Opaskwayak Cree Nation. “I have always been surrounded by women who lead, most of them leading steadily, some quietly, a few raucously, but always with love in their actions”, she once wrote.

This understanding – that the most valuable leadership is driven by love for the people – has been borne out in her work as a scholar, educator, community activist, and mentor. In 2007, Alex became the first First Nations woman in Canada to receive a doctorate from Harvard University.

Her groundbreaking work on the identity development of two-spirit people is widely cited and has become a touchstone for many LGBTQI Indigenous people. As Associate Professor, University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education, Alex co-developed a Masters program in Land-Based Education, which combines academic study with teachings from the land, community and traditional knowledge holders. Alex is an organizer in Idle No More, which works to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and protection of land and water. Alex’s home remains in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, where, in collaboration with her family and community, she has established an award-winning community garden and nutrition program.

Shirley Kalyniuk

shirley-kalyniuk-nellieShirley Kalyniuk has set an example by encouraging women to break barriers and become involved in the democratic process.

The first woman municipal politician in the Town of Rossburn, elected in 1983. She was elected the first woman mayor of Rossburn, a position she held until 2014. Shirley is the recipient of many honours, including the Rural Economic Leadership Award, the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee medal, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal, and the LCIF Melvin Jones Award for Dedicated Humanitarian Services. In 1999 she was elected as the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) Midwestern Urban District Director. In 2006 she was elected Urban Vice-President, a position she held until 2010.

In 2014 she retired from municipal politics after 31 years. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ prestigious Ann MacLean Award for Outstanding Service by a Woman in Municipal Politics. She continues to be very engaged in her community and serves on the Parkland Employment Resource Centre Board and Lifelong Education for Adults: Reading and Numeracy. She chairs the local Age-Friendly committee, the Affordable Senior Housing committee, the Transportation Options Network for Seniors, and is vice-chair of the Rossburn Senior Resource Council and Handi-van committees.


Dr. Rayleen De Luca

rayleen-deluca-nellieAs a clinical psychologist, Dr Rayleen De Luca has devoted her life’s works to helping others. Her work with children in the area of child abuse and family violence has been described as “ground breaking”.

Rayleen became the first women to be director of clinical training at the University of Manitoba, Department of Psychology. She has presented workshops on women’s issues internationally, with her publications having been translated into seven different languages.

Through her work, hundreds of women and girls who had been sexually abused have received free intervention and access to psychological treatment. Her studies have demonstrated that those who have received treatment have not experienced the negative long-term effects often associated with abuse. A life member of the Catholic Women’s League, she has dedicated hundreds of hours to developing resolutions focusing on women’s issues, annually presented to the federal government, on such important issues as the human trafficking of women and children. She has served as president of Folklorama and as Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors of St. Paul’s College. Recently, she was appointed by the Canadian Conference of Bishops to serve on a National Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable people.


Sherri Walsh

sherri-walsh-nellieThroughout Sherri Walsh’s career and extensive community involvement she has been successful in giving a voice to and protecting the rights of people, often the most vulnerable. Sherri was called to the Bar of Manitoba in 1986 and is a partner at Hill Sokalski Walsh Olson. Her area of practice includes constitutional, human rights issues and respectful workplace issues and is frequently retained in criminal law matters to protect the privacy of rights of victims of sexual assault.

In 2011 Sherri was appointed to act as Commission Counsel to the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry, the first woman in Manitoba to hold such a position. In 2012, Sherri was appointed the Chief Adjudicator of the Adjudication Panel established pursuant to the Human Rights Code of Manitoba. Sherri has served as Chair of Winnipeg Harvest.

A strong believer in the importance of education, Sherri taught at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law and currently teaches at the University of Winnipeg. She is a Director on the Board of the University of Winnipeg Foundation. Sherri has volunteered tirelessly and served for many years as a Director on the Board of LEAF Manitoba and the National Legal Committee. In 1999 she received the Manitoba Bar Association’s award for pro bono work recognizing her role with the Manitoba League Persons with Disabilities. She received the Inaugural Human Rights Commitment Award co-sponsored by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and the Community Legal Education Association. The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities awarded her the Human Rights Star in 2006, as well as being awarded the Manitoba Female Litigator of the Year in 2013 by the Benchmark Litigation Canada.


Manitoba Women’s Institute

institute-nellieDuring its 105 years, the Manitoba Women’s Institute has encouraged the indomitable spirit of Nellie McClung, a speaker at its first annual convention held in 1911.

The MWI supported the suffragist movement that resulted in Manitoba women receiving the right to vote in 1916. It lobbied to bring about the passage of the 1916 Manitoba Dower Law to protect the property rights of a wife. It worked hard to make health care and public health programs accessible for rural people and safe houses accessible for abused women.

The MWI is well known for its understanding of how to use ‘resolutions’ to create change. MWI resolutions over the years have called for flashing lights and stop arms on school buses, white lines on highways, and reflective tape on the sides of rail cars – all now standard practice. The organization’s work is accomplished in many ways: directing resolutions and initiating dialogue with government; delivering planned programs to educate members; providing leadership skills and encouraging personal development; working with partners such as the Faculty of Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba, the Provincial Council of Women, and Keystone Agricultural Producers for the betterment of women and rural communities. MWI welcomes women of all ethnic, religious, and educational backgrounds.

The Nellie Legacy Award Recipients

Gail Asper O.C., O.M.


gail-asper-nellieAs President and Trustee of The Asper Foundation, Gail Asper spent 14 years working to establish the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the first national museum established outside of Ottawa. Gail continues to work on the Museum’s national capital campaign and serves on its Board of Directors. Gail is a member of the Law Society of Manitoba. She was corporate secretary, general counsel and a director of CanWest Global Communications Corp.

Gail serves on the boards of numerous not-for-profit groups: co-chaired the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre Endowment and Capital Campaigns; served on the board and as president of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre; is the past campaign chair and past president of the board of directors for the United Way of Winnipeg. She has long been associated with arts and culture as a volunteer, performer, and fundraiser. She is chair of the board of directors of the National Arts Centre Foundation and is a governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Gail has received numerous community service and humanitarian awards and was the recipient of the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts, a companion award of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards. She is a member of the Order of Manitoba and an Officer of the Order of Canada. Other awards include: YMCA/YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Community Voluntarism, Honorary Doctorates from the University of Manitoba and Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Canadian Bar Association’s President’s Award, Business for the Arts’ Bovey Award, Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, Canadian Red Cross’ Humanitarian of the Year Award, Duff Roblin Award from University of Winnipeg, Peter Lougheed Award for Leadership in Public Policy and The Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award.


The Honourable Janice Filmon, C.M., O.M.


janice-filmon-nellieThe Honourable Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, is only the second female in its history to serve in this role. She was the founding chair of the Nellie McClung Foundation, and led the campaign to install the Nellie McClung Monument on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature. She received the Order of Canada in 2012 and the Order of Manitoba in 2007.

She is widely respected for her engagement in causes, including the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice, Thunderbird Lodge, Canadian Centre for Social Justice, the Manitoba Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer and national board member for Help The Aged. She served as founding co-chair of Leadership Winnipeg, has been chair of the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation and a board member of the Winnipeg Airport Authority. She is the founding chair of Manitoba A.L.I.V.E. (A Leadership Initiative in Voluntary Efforts). Her Honor Janice Filmon was the Chair of Festivals for the 1999 Pan American Games and a member of Toronto’s 2008 Olympic Bid Committee.

She has been honoured with the Guardian Angel Award by the Manitoba Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation; the Manitoba Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation and Great West Life created the Janice C. Filmon Award for Leadership in Cancer Care in Manitoba, honouring those who make significant contributions in this field. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Canon Law by St. John’s College in 2007 and an Honorary Doctorate of Law by the University of Manitoba in 2011. She received the Variety Club’s Gold Heart Humanitarian of the Year award in 2006. She was a National Board member for PRIDE – Canada (Canada’s Adolescent Drug Awareness Program), the inaugural chair of the Winnipeg Festival of Trees, the president of Junior League of Winnipeg, co-chair of the Federation of Junior Leagues of Canada and a member of the Board and executive of the Manitoba Heart Foundation.