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YWCA Toronto unveils inspiring slate of Women of Distinction on International Women’s Day

Press Release

TORONTO, March 8, 2016– YWCA Toronto celebrates International Women’s Day by announcing the 2016 Women of Distinction and saluting the impact of their achievements on the lives of girls and women in this city – and beyond.

“The 2016 Women of Distinction have demonstrated an iron-clad commitment to improving the lives of girls, women and marginalized groups – and have delivered remarkable results,” said YWCA Toronto CEO Heather McGregor.   The President’s Award, presented only three times in 36 years, is tailor-made for this year’s recipient, Roberta L. Jamieson, who has worked for decades to secure rights and better conditions for Indigenous women and families.

“This year’s Women of Distinction devote their talent, time and passion to bring about collective change on a range of substantive issues,” said McGregor.  They include: Indigenous rights, reconciliation and empowerment; pay equity for women and greater participation in domestic and international workforces; fairer treatment for sexual assault survivors in the courts; equitable health care for women; early education on sexual consent; and opportunities and access to education for women and marginalized groups with a history of trauma.

The YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction for 2016 are:

  • ROBERTA L. JAMIESON (President’s Award)
    First Nations leader, highly acclaimed public figure and CEO of Indspire, Roberta has spent five decades in numerous breakthrough positions advocating for change and justice for Indigenous people and Canada.
  • TESSA HILL and LIA VALENTE (Young Women of Distinction)
    Tessa Hill and Lia Valente were 13 when they took on rape culture as a documentary project and turned it into a successful public campaign bringing sexual consent into Ontario’s health education curriculum.
  • COLLEEN JOHNSTON (Corporate Leadership)
    This senior executive from TD Bank Group and women’s leadership guru has successfully championed for stronger representation of women in corporate leadership, which helped to significantly increase the number of women in TD’s executive ranks.
  • GEORGIA QUARTARO (Education)
    Georgia created innovative education programs and violence-against-women training that reaches women and marginalized groups who have experienced trauma and responds to their needs and potential.
  • REETA ROY (International Development)
    Reeta Roy saw that opportunities and conditions for girls and women farmers in African countries were disturbingly unequal to men’s. The MasterCard Foundation she heads guarantees that at least 50 percent of program participants are women and girls.
  • ELIZABETH SHILTON (Law and Justice)
    Elizabeth argued before the Supreme Court to uphold the rape shield law; won a pay equity case ending wage inequities; defended the right of sexual assault survivors to keep their names out of the public eye; and prevented the disclosure of counselling records of sexual abuse survivors.
  • DR. CHERYL WAGNER (Health)
    When HIV/AIDS first hit women, Dr. Cheryl Wagner was one of the first – and few – Toronto physicians to whom they could turn for expertise, help and health care. She extended her work to include researching and advocating for services to address their distinct needs.

McGregor said the Award recipients have truly distinguished themselves: “They took difficult steps and stands never before taken; they went the extra mile for women when outcomes were uncertain and challenges daunting. They used ingenuity to buck tradition and embed change.”  It remains as crucial as ever, she said, to recognize these achievements.  “Women’s equality and rights are neither inevitable nor immutable. To sustain and strengthen them, we need the kind of persistence, passion and intelligence that we salute in the Women of Distinction announced today.”

The Award recipients will be introduced and participate in a panel discussion at a reception this evening, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Hosted by TD Bank Group, it will be held in the Lambert Room, 54th Floor, 66 Wellington St. West, Toronto. Former Women of Distinction, YWCA Toronto donors, funders and supporters as well as friends and colleagues of TD Bank will attend.

The 2016 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Event, hosted by CBC Toronto News co-host Anne-Marie Mediwake, will be held Thursday, May 26th. It is the largest fundraising event for YWCA

Toronto, Canada’s largest multi-service women’s organization, which helps women escape violence, move out of poverty and access safe affordable housing.


Image with caption: “YWCA Toronto today announced the 2016 Women of Distinction. Top row (l-r) Roberta L. Jamieson (President’s Award); Tessa Hill and Lia Valente (Young Women of Distinction); Colleen Johnston (Corporate Leadership); Georgia Quartaro (Education). Bottom Row (l-r) Reeta Roy (International Development); Elizabeth Shilton (Law & Justice); and Dr. Cheryl Wagner (Health). For more info (YWCA Toronto)”. Image available at:

For further information: Sine MacKinnon, Communications & Marketing, YWCA Toronto, T. 416.961.8100 x 326, M. 416.660.9483, [email protected];



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