The annual Premier’s Council Awards publicly acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of individuals, groups, businesses and organizations to develop barrier-free, inclusive communities in Alberta.
The 2018 recipients of the Premier’s Council Awards are:
Gary McPherson Leadership Award
Anne Pype (Barrhead)
For many years, Anne Pype sat on the board for the Barrhead Association for Community Living (BACL) – an organization that provides supports to families who have children with developmental disabilities.
Through her work, Anne supported the creation of the School of New Hope, which allowed children to stay at home and attend school in their own community instead of being institutionalized. This was an important step forward to inclusion. She developed a successful relationship between the school and the media, while establishing workshops to facilitate inclusive learning for people with disabilities.
The workshops eventually grew into the Blue Heron Support Services Association that continues to serve adults with developmental disabilities in the Barrhead community. Thanks to Anne’s efforts at BACL, the Barrhead community grew to better understand how people with disabilities can contribute to the community as a whole.
Marlin Styner Achievement Award
Colin Cantlie (Calgary)
Colin Cantlie is a former ground personnel employee with Canadian Airlines. He experienced hearing loss early on in his career. Now retired, he is dedicated to promoting disability awareness and increasing access for people with hearing loss.
Colin has been involved with numerous education initiatives, which included coordinating a three-year disability awareness training project at the Calgary International Airport. As a member of the Calgary Ability Network, he inspires and educates others about the challenges and limitations facing those who are hard of hearing.
He previously served as president of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and is currently vice president of the Calgary branch. His work in advancing access for those with hearing loss extends to his community, where he strives to break barriers and create more inclusive communities.
Award of Excellence in Community
Access for All Barrier-Free Playscape (Red Deer)
The Access for All Barrier-Free Playscape committee, comprised of several Red Deer community groups, collaborated with the City of Red Deer to build an accessible park where people of all abilities can play and learn together. The park is the brainchild of three parents who noticed children in wheelchairs were not able to play in the city parks. After connecting with interested community groups, Access for All Barrier-Free Playscape was created.
After nearly three years, the park is nearing completion. Much of the consultation with vendors and community partners, site selection, budgeting, fundraising, site preparation and equipment assembly was accomplished through volunteer efforts of the committee.
More than half of the park equipment is accessible, allowing children of all abilities to enjoy it. The committee made great strides in building awareness for the project, rallying other groups to join and garnering interest and momentum for a successful project.
Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta
The Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta is a registered non-profit organization that supports people affected by cerebral palsy and other disabilities. They focus on helping people with disabilities live, learn and have the chance to take an active role in their communities.
They partner with other organizations to promote awareness, acceptance and understanding. Dedicated to an environment of dignity, integrity and respect, they offer programs that promote diversity and independence. These include community education, sport and leisure programs, a funding request program, advocacy and other supports for full citizenship.
Associated Canadian Travellers (Grande Prairie)
The Associated Canadian Travelers (ACT) Club of Grande Prairie provides funding to people requiring specialty equipment not always paid for by government programs. As well as their regular fundraising activities such as casino volunteering, the club raises money through the sale of firewood. Volunteers harvest, split and deliver the firewood to community residents. The Club also obtained a community hall and made modifications to provide barrier-free access. The hall is maintained by the club and is available for rent (at an affordable rate) to community groups.
City of Edmonton Programs for Persons with Disabilities (Edmonton)
The City of Edmonton offers a variety of programs for persons with disabilities. These programs provide opportunities for persons with disabilities to take part in arts, crafts and other recreation activities. The courses and programs are offered throughout various accessible City of Edmonton recreation and leisure centres.
The City believes that satisfying leisure time spent with others is as important as home, school and work activities. Program participants have the chance to develop relationships with peers, experience new things and build positive self-image.
Romeo Crow Chief (Siksika)
For 29 years, Romeo Crow Chief worked for Siksika Nation in various financial and management positions, as well as serving a term as a councillor. In 1994, he launched the Siksika Nation Disability Research Project to determine the number of Siksika people with disabilities. This was a three-month research project funded by Siksika Nation. Thanks to his work, in 1998 Siksika Nation Disability Services opened its doors with funding he helped secure.
Romeo's areas of expertise focus on financial and administrative management, strategic planning as well as conflict resolution and community development. As a certified mediator, Romeo has had the opportunity to share his skills and abilities with indigenous people across Canada and abroad. He also lends his expertise to governments and private corporations.
Valley Bus Society (Drumheller)
The Valley Bus Society provides a barrier-free transportation service to the community of Drumheller and surrounding areas. Services available include dial-a-bus, charters in and out of town and charters to specialist's appointments in larger cities. Through partnerships with community organizations and businesses, the society offers subsidized rates, weekly sponsored trips to stores and special community events.
The Valley Bus Society believes its program is key to inclusion and increases the quality of life for its customers, who are able to access essential services, visit friends and participate in their community. The society’s dedicated staff, board and drivers go above and beyond to ensure their community is inclusive and barrier-free.
Award of Excellence in Employment
Sean McEwen (Calgary)
Sean McEwen is the program manager of Calgary Alternative Employment Services, and owner of RealEyes Capacity Consulting, which designs and directs employment services to help local employers leverage the benefits of workplace diversity and inclusion.
Over the past two decades, Sean’s been focused on developing and managing programs and initiatives to facilitate increased workforce inclusion for people with barriers to employment. Throughout his career, he has gained experience in consulting, human resource management, career counselling, research and reporting, case management and disability awareness training. He also helps facilitate mentorships and peer supports, and supports business plan development for entrepreneurs with disabilities.
Sean has been president of the Alberta and Canadian Associations for Supported Employment. He is also a co-chair of the Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) organizing committee.
Award of Excellence in Public Awareness
Daralynn Swensrude (Edmonton)
Daralynn Swensrude is a speaker who presents to healthcare professionals, students and frontline staff on navigating the healthcare system as a person with a language disorder. Her work within a healthcare setting and lived experience as someone with an acquired brain injury gives her a strong understanding as both a patient and healthcare professional. During her talks, she recounts her story and provides strategies professionals can use to make interactions more positive and productive.
She is an advocate for a healthcare system where communication assistants are always available to patients. She believes everyone has the right to understand and live independently, even with communication challenges. Daralynn also works to educate healthcare professionals around informed consent, advocating for language appropriate to the patient and their disability. No matter the communication issues, she believes it is important to listen and adapt to all needs.
Dr. April Ruzycki (Medicine Hat)
Dr. April Ruzycki is a passionate and proud Medicine Hat resident who is dedicated to improving the health and lives of those in her community. As a chiropractor at the Powers & Jans Centre, she has spent the last decade running a family-centred practice, focusing on pregnancy and pediatrics.
She takes the time to acknowledge and celebrate each person she sees in a day, and gives back to her community as much as possible. April dedicates countless volunteer hours to organizations such as the Sunrise Rotary Club, the Advisory Committee on Disability Issues and her local International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) event organizing committee.
Her involvement with the Medicine Hat IDPD committee began after she volunteered for one of their events in 2008. Over the next ten years, she filled various roles including volunteer coordinator and committee chair. Through this work, she helps raise awareness, advocate for and promote inclusiveness for all individuals.