Two Winnipeg teachers among recipients of Governor General’s History Awards

Two Winnipeg teachers and a Manitoba-born judge are among the winners of this year’s Governor General’s History Awards.

The awards are Canada’s top history honours, and recognize excellence in five categories, including community programming and popular media.

Winnipeg teachers Jacqueline Cleave of Laura Secord School and Kelly Hiebert of Westwood Collegiate are among six recipients for excellence in teaching.

The award comes with a $2,500 prize, while their schools also receive $1,000.

Cleave was recognized for her project translating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action into language that is more accessible to youths. She worked with elementary school students in three classes over two years to create the translation. Students studied the calls, visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and spoke with Indigenous leaders, while researching colonization and the residential school system.

The project culminated in the publication of “Answering the Calls: A Child’s View of the 94 Calls to Action,” a book featuring the original and child-friendly texts, as well as student art and poetry.

“Exploring the TRC’s Calls to Action through the eyes of my students really drove home the extent of the damage we need to repair,” Cleave said in a news release.

“The book they wrote is both an ending and a beginning. I hope it will inspire others to “answer the calls,” to engage with and address these issues in our schools and our broader society.”

Meanwhile, Hiebert was recognized for his project that called on students to interview Holocaust survivors as well as historians, educational experts and theologians about the growing problem of hate and antisemitism in society.

Students then created a documentary called “Truth Against Distortion: Survivors Speak Out Against the Rise in Hate.” It provides a record of survivors’ testimonies and an important educational resource for students.

Hiebert said the award is an honour, and gives the project important credibility.

“There’s so much unfortunate discrimination and prejudice and world events that are happening right now, that make us go back and have to reflect on how we treat one another,” he told CTV News.

“If this documentary, if this award can help get that out there, get conversations going and get people wanting to discuss and learn more, then that’s why I did this.”


Retired senator Murray Sinclair received the Pierre Berton Award, which recognizes exceptional achievement in the exploring and sharing of Canadian history through popular media.

A member of Peguis First Nation, Sinclair was Manitoba’s first Indigenous judge. He also led the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada as it heard testimony from residential school survivors from across Canada.

“The combined work of Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was monumental in scale and scope, having created unique historical archives that document the experiences of multiple generations of Indigenous people,” the award jury said in making its selection.

“The records in their many forms give voice to grief and hurt, resilience and renewal. Furthermore, the commission’s work, with its ninety-four calls to action, has been crucial in revealing the need for a new national narrative. Sinclair’s articulation of that mission has helped to create a profound shift in many Canadians’ understandings of this country’s history, while also charting a path forward based on respect, reciprocity, and good relations.”

The award is administered by Canada’s History Society and comes with a $5,000 prize.

Commission chairman Justice Murray Sinclair raises his arm asking residential school survivors to stand at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

In accepting the award, Sinclair said he hopes he has helped Canadians better understand and respect the stories, traditions, culture and contributions of Indigenous peoples.

“I’m thankful that some of that work has been recognized for its importance, including the work of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Sinclair said in a news release.

“My ambition now is to ensure that other Canadians also know that history and understand the importance of it, for it too has shaped us all in being who we are, and believing what we do.”

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