INSPIRE Awards Recipients & Nominees for 2011
Click the “+” button before each name to read the bio for the nominees and recipients.
Person of the Year
David Soomarie ⭐️ Recipient
David Soomarie has dedicated two decades of his life to advocating for those less fortunate in society, particularly young people, people living with HIV and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. He was one of the founding members of a national coalition and openly advocated for the inclusion of sexual orientation in Trinidad and Tobago’s laws. In late 2009, he became a board member of Community Action Resource (CARe) an HIV Support organization which he credits for helping him cope with his HIV diagnosis. In May 2010, he became its Coordinator, Programmes & Services and was the first openly gay HIV positive man to lead the organization. Despite the homophobia he experienced, he ran the organization for six and a half years developing & implementing a number of community-based projects and support groups which looked at addressing sexual health, sexual diversity and creating a sex –positive culture in the LGBTQ2S+ community which have been recognized as best practice models in the Caribbean. He migrated to Canada in August 2016 and quickly established himself here. He is currently the MSM Outreach Coordinator at the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, volunteers with Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) and a member of CAAT (Committee for Accessible Aids Treatment). He strongly believes that he should use his privilege to benefit those in his home country and formed Toronto (To) Queers for T&T, a lobby group that advocates for human rights for members of the LGBQTI communities in T&T. He has also written for POZlite and is now a regular contributor to POZ Planet. From this place of safety and privilege, David has been vocal on a number of issues affecting the LGBTQ2S+ community in Trinidad & Tobago. Through the formation of the group ‘TO Queers for T&T’ he highlighted the concerning increase of hate crimes, one of which included a transgender sex worker, and the lack of justice for these crimes. He openly supported the legal challenge, launched by his close friend Jason Jones, by staging a ‘We stand with you’ protest with the Trinidad & Tobago diaspora here in Toronto and was able to get The Caribbean Equality Network in New York to do a similar action. After the legal challenge was won, he launched two fundraising activities for an emergency fund for LGBTQ2S+ persons who were now without shelter and/or lost their jobs as a result of now being targeted or bullied. He has spoken on several panels in Toronto including Pride Toronto ‘Pathways to Freedom: Struggle and Challenges for LGTBQ Refugees Globally’ panel in 2018. He is known for his engaging facilitation skills and conducts facilitating services for the AFFIRM project run by the University of Toronto, as well as LGBTQ2S+ newcomer groups at BlackCAP.
- Lauren Chapple
- Raymond Collingham
- Kim Etherington
- Elle Flanders
- Kathleen Freeman
- Boyd Kodak
- Ian McCallum
- Garrett Metcalf
- Daniela Olivia
- Casey Oraa
- Carol Pasternak
- Shayne Travis
Youth of the Year
Leanne Iskander ⭐️ Recipient
Leanne is in her final year at St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, where she continues to struggle to have her GSA officially recognized. Leanne has given voice to a generation of local youth and sparked a growing movement to demand support for Gay/Straight Alliances in Ontario Catholic schools. After her proposal was denied by the principal of her school, she took matters into her own hands, creating a Facebook page to galvanize support in the community. Her small group of pioneering students ballooned to more than 250 members and supporters. In Toronto, the queer community cheered her on as she marched in this year’s Pride parade and she was 2011’s most honoured dyke.
- Leanne Iskander
- Nathan Rhodes-Truppe
Positive Business of the Year
Sacred Quest ⭐️ Recipient
Sacred Quest is committed to being a socially conscious business by each year picking a charity in the community to support through fundraising efforts. The store also offers free workshops and invites donations from those attending. Sacred Quest has supported My Sister’s Voice, a non-profit organization providing counselling to queer women experiencing intimate relationship abuse, hosted the local drop-off for food bank collection for the AIDS Committee of Durham Region, and have provided facilitators for the Open Doors Conference sponsored by ACDR. They also provide free meeting room in the basement to community groups that support the queer community.
- Eyes on Church
- Mojo Vino Fine Wine & Tapas Restaurant
- Pizzaiolo on Church Street
- Sacred Quest
Inspiring Community Organization of the Year
Fife House ⭐️ Recipient
“It was a great honour to be recognized by the Inspire Awards and I think it’s a testament to the work that our staff and our volunteers do here,” says Keith Hambly, Fife House’s Executive Director of Media. Fife House was established in 1988 and is a support housing group for people living with HIV and AIDS. They have over 190 units they either directly manage or provide case management support for. They also have the Homeless Outreach Program, which facilitates access to housing for marginalized PLHAs (People Living with HIV/AIDS). On an average year Fife House sees between 350 to 400 people and families.
Rainbows Pride in Scarborough RPIS – Nominees
They are a community artist, activist, fighter, educator around disability, sex, gender, and HIV/AIDS educator and enjoy supporting others with mental health and depression who face struggles in their community towards transphobia, homophobia, racism, sexism that prevents suicides and they are a CPR first aid trainer and trained in opioid overdose. They believe in creating a space for the LGBTQ2S+ youth in the community to have a place to go and feel welcomed and valued and share and be open and access resources and etc. in the Scarborough community. And a place where the youth can be free of discrimination. As an activist, they support youth in the community to create their own tools to educate others in the community on topics that they face to decrease the struggles. They are the project director and founder of rainbows pride in Scarborough they work very hard to write grants for the project and for the youth to create a space in the community and give youth the skills and education to fight and be their own facilitators and educators and they gain self-esteem and addressed the importance of the project and how its needed and how it supports individual’s mental health.
Franco Queer – Nominees
FrancoQueer is proud to gather a diverse community of LGBTQ2+ people coming from the entire French-speaking world. They are the only grassroots organization in Toronto serving that population. Their activities and services aim to provide them with a space where they can speak French, whether as a first language or not, and feel comfortable gathering at the intersection of their multiple identities. Their settlement and integration program support newcomers, asylum seekers and refugees in building a new life project in their new home city. They offer individual assistance and orientation, group information workshops and a support group twice a month. Their weekly “Café Bilingue” consists in building bridges between the Francophone and the Anglophone LGBTQ2+ communities by gathering and practicing both official languages in a relaxed environment. Every year, they also organize activities in French during Pride month in Toronto to celebrate their pride in French.
Women’s HIV and AIDS Initiative – Nominees
WHAI is a network of amazing leaders across Ontario fostering a community-based response to HIV and AIDS amongst cis and trans women. They focus on social and structural factors that increase risk, and foster innovative, community driven solutions. In the past 3 years, they have worked with communities across Ontario to identify key areas of work that need to happen, and have created collaborative and collective strategies to address these areas of work. Each year, their network learns from their communities, and in particular: women with lived experience. They share Wise Practices with each other, collaborate on strategies, and collectively measure their progress towards creating meaningful and lasting social change.
Since 2017, he has been an ambassador for Covenant House Canada where he’s mentored LGBTQ2S+ youth from different backgrounds, and uses his time and resources to fund job opportunities for the at-risk youth who reside there. Very recently, he was able to help secure employment for a group of youth looking for work in the food industry by way of a relationship with a popular downtown restaurant. He’s very involved in politics, which have helped him a great deal in the non-profit world where he seeks to create bridges and opportunities through not just communities, but government. He’s worked with Federal MP Yasmin Ratansi and sat on her executive board, and has held discussions with several key leaders like Hillary Clinton and more about issues that affect the LGBTQ2S+ community. He would probably say that the thing that he wants the community and the Inspire awards to know is that he hasn’t been working on these efforts for the last year or 6 months. He’s always had these issues and subjects as a large piece of his brand. He’s been doing these things for several years now, roughly ten to be exact.
The Teresa Group – Nominees
The Teresa Groups advances the dignity of children and families affected by HIV & AIDS. Working from a lifecycle approach, they offer broad range of practical and emotional support programs, from the prenatal stage to 18 years. For many young people, being born with HIV or living in an HIV-affected family, can have a significant impact on the mental health. Children and youth living with or affected by HIV may endure ongoing stress related to worry about their own health, or that of a family member. They lack safe spaces where they can talk about the impact HIV has on their lives, without the fear of judgement and rejection. The Teresa Group has been and continues to be a safe place for children, youth and their parents. Here, there is hope, respect and compassion for everyone that comes through the door. For many, is the only place where they can talk openly about how HIV has impacted their lives.