New Wel-lukwen Award, other Nova Scotia Human Rights Honours Presented
Four individual Nova Scotians and three groups received Nova Scotia Human Rights Awards in honour of their work creating a more equitable, inclusive, and respectful province at an event held December 9 in Halifax. The awards included a new honour, the Wel-lukwen Award, in recognition and appreciation of L’nu people whose work advances human rights, raises awareness, and brings attention to issues affecting Indigenous people in Nova Scotia.
Elder Dr. Daniel N. Paul, Sipekne’katik, received an inaugural Wel-lukwen Award in recognition of his immense contributions to building cultural awareness and understanding of L’nuk history, traditions, and community. The Grandmother Water Protectors, a grassroots group led by Mi’kmaq women also received the Wel-lukwen Award, for their commitment to Netukulimk, the protection of our water, the environment and the well-being of future generations.
A group of students from Northumberland Regional High School in Alma, Pictou County, received the human rights youth award for their work to provide free, equitable access to essential items such as food, clothing and school supplies throughout their school community, a project known as The Karma Closet.
The charitable organization Stepping Stone was also recognized with an award. For more than 30 years, Stepping Stone has worked to protect and advance the rights of sex workers through advocacy, community outreach and support.
Individual awards were presented to two people:
- journalist Michael Tutton, Halifax, received the award in recognition of his commitment to advancing dignity, equity, and justice through his reporting on issues affecting persons with disabilities'
- Terena Francis, Paqtnkek, was recognized for her work to empower individuals and communities through education and advocacy on issues of importance to Mi’kmaq culture.
An award named in memory of the late Dr. Burnley Allan (Rocky) Jones was presented to Carolann Wright, Beechville, in recognition of her leadership and commitment to social justice and economic prosperity for people of African descent.
Today’s ceremony was held in commemoration of the United Nations International Human Rights Day, observed annually on December 10.
Individuals and groups from Mi’kmaq and Indigenous communities across our region have relentlessly dedicated their efforts to attaining a just, equitable and inclusive society by protecting the culture, traditions and ways of life of the people, championing diverse issues of discrimination, access to justice for all and promoting awareness around racial harmony and reconciliation. These efforts are worthy and deserving of recognition by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
The name of this new award, Wel-lukwen (Well-loog-wen) is a Mi’kmaq term. The Commission consulted with Mi’kmaq language knowledge keepers on whether there would be a phrase that would capture the essence of this award. Wel-lukwen loosely translates to “Congratulations, you are doing extremely well. Your work does not go unrecognized.”
2022 Award Recipients
Daniel Paul is a respected Miꞌkmaq elder, author, columnist, and human rights activist whose life’s work, while covering a wide range professionally, has held steadfastly to his intrinsic belief that his Mi’kmaq culture, and the history and traditions of his people – were not inferior in any way to those proffered by colonialist historians. Elder Daniel published We Were Not the Savages almost 30 years ago. It is widely accepted to be the first book about our shared history written from an Indigenous perspective. The fourth edition of this ground-breaking work was published earlier this year.
The Grandmother Water Protectors are a grassroots, purpose-oriented group composed at its core of Mi’kmaq women, encompassing members who are difficult to count, and impossible to describe without words like dedication, devotion, essential, peaceful and fearless. Despite intimidation, coercion, and criminalization by governments, companies, and community members, these Mi’kmaq grandmothers hold strong to Indigenous self-determination and the concept and practice of caring for M’sit No’kmaq (“all-of-my-relations”). Through knowledge and strategy, they have been grassroots leaders for Indigenous and women’s rights and ecological justice.
The Karma Closet is a project run by a group of students from Northumberland Regional High School in Alma, Pictou County . These youth received this year’s Nova Scotia Human Rights Youth Award for their work to provide free, equitable access to essential items such as food, clothing, and school supplies throughout their school community.
Michael Tutton was selected to receive an Individual Award in recognition of his commitment to advancing dignity, equity, and justice through his reporting over more than 14 years on issues including human rights violations related to the institutionalization of persons with disabilities. Michael’s reporting on these under-told stories has raised awareness of issues impacting the lives of generations of Nova Scotians. His work has turned these issues into stories about lives. These stories have challenged how we do things in Nova Scotia, pushing us to disrupt the status quo in pursuit of greater equity and justice.
Terena Francis received a Nova Scotia Human Rights Award for her work empowering individuals and communities through education and advocacy on issues of importance to Mi’kmaq culture. Terena has been supporting Indigenous students for over 20 years. Her career began with the Paqtnkek Day Care and she is now the Coordinator of Indigenous Student Affairs at Saint Francis Xavier University. Terena earned her Master’s of Education with a focus on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in 2020 and her goal is to use this education alongside the teachings gifted to her by her Elders and family to change settler society’s deficit narrative of Indigenous students’ and communities.
Carolann Wright recievd this year’s Dr. Burnley Allan “RockY” Jones Award in recognition of her leadership and commitment to social justice and economic prosperity for people of African descent. She has worked in community and community economic development for more than 40 years in Toronto, South Africa, Ghana and Nova Scotia. Among many things, she is Chair of the Social Action Committee for the African United Baptist Association, a mother, and grandmother.
Stepping Stone’s motto is “Rights Not Rescue.” It is a feminist, charitable, non-profit organization that provides support, services, and outreach to people who are currently or were formerly involved in sex work and those who are at risk of being trafficked or identify as being trafficked. Stepping Stone supports women, men, gender diverse people, and transgender people using a rights-based and harm reduction model that aims to make sex work as safe and as positive as possible for all individuals involved. It is the only registered non-profit organization of its kind in the Maritimes and marked its 30th anniversary in 2019.