An activist and five others are being recognized for their work promoting human rights in the province.
The late Burnley “Rocky” Jones will be honoured posthumously Tuesday, Dec. 10, with a Human Rights Award at the International Human Rights Day Event at the Prospect Road Community Centre in Hatchet Lake, Halifax Regional Municipality.
This year’s theme is, Speak Up Against Discrimination. The awards are presented by the Human Rights Commission. There will also be a minute’s silence in memory of Nelson Mandela.
“These awards are our way of saying thank you to those special Nova Scotians who have taken that extra step to promote and protect human rights,” said Lena Metlege Diab, Minister responsible for the Human Rights Act. “The people we are honouring are true champions of their causes and deserve this recognition.”
Mr. Jones or Rocky, as he was well-known, was a passionate advocate for civil rights and social equity. He was a founding member of the Black United Front of Nova Scotia, worked for Dalhousie Legal Aid and then started his own law firm. He helped develop the Indigenous Black and Mi’kmaq Program at the Dalhousie Law School and received several awards, including the Order of Nova Scotia. He died in July at the age of 71.
In honour of Mr. Jones the individual award will now be known as the Dr. Burnley Allan “Rocky” Jones Human Rights Award.
“Burnley has fought all of his life against discrimination and racism, all the while fighting for legal justice for the under privileged,” said his widow Sharon Jones. “I am elated to know that he is being recognized for all the work he has done on behalf of marginalized people everywhere.”
“By having the individual award renamed in his honor it will ensure his many achievements will not be forgotten in the years to come and will encourage our youth that they too can make a change.”
The recipients of the newly-named award are Margaret Mauger, Colchester Sexual Assault Centre in Truro and Sherri Lecker, executive director of Adsum House in Halifax.
Ms. Mauger counsels all survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse without discrimination. She works to educate people and lobbies for change for the survivors by working with local colleges, schools and service providers. She is a true advocate for people who have been hurt and is a great champion for their recovery.
Ms. Lecker works with hundreds of women, youth and children at risk, providing them with shelter and stability at a chaotic time of their lives. She has raised awareness about the issues of poverty and the root causes of homelessness. She was also involved with Save the Children and worked overseas doing advocacy and education work for children and families.
Jessica Durling of Milford Station, Hants Co. and Brandon Finyanos of Halifax were the winners in the youth category.
Ms. Durling, a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, has been an advocate of human rights since she was a child. She is a member of the Guideline Development Committee formed by the Minister of the Education and Early Childhood Development to provide policies for a safe environment for transgender and gender non-conforming students and staff in schools.
Brandon is a Grade 12 student at Halifax West High School who became involved in community work in 2009 with the Olympic torch relay and at the multicultural festival in 2010.
He has volunteered with the Salvation Army, Halifax Regional Police Youth Program , Cops ‘n Kids Camp, Gay Straight Alliance and in 2013 was accepted into Canada’s first Youth Ambassador’s Program with the United States.
Also recognized this year is Sheila Lucas, an educator and facilitator with the African Nova Scotian Student Support Workers program in Halifax. Its role is to reach out to African Nova Scotian students and offer help and guidance with the barriers they experience. Ms. Lucas supports, leads, assists and mentors her team. Her commitment has helped keep many students finish high school.
“These awards are important in that they remind us of the genuine capacity that people in our province have for caring and giving,” said Tracey Williams, director and CEO of the Human Rights Commission. “We are grateful to these recipients for reminding us of valuable lessons like inclusivity and dignity for all.”
The community centre is at 2141 Prospect Rd.