How did you become involved with the Bill 7 Trust?
I was first introduced to the Bill 7 Awards in 2010 through Greg Johns, one of our IBM Out Executives and a Trustee for the Bill 7 Awards Trust (he is now the Chair). IBM has been a supporter of the awards presentation for many years and, thanks to this sponsorship, members of IBM's LGBT+ Business Resource Group are invited to attend the awards reception, which provides an opportunity for meaningful and inspiring connection with the broader LGBT community where we live and work.
What are your most memorable Bill 7 Award moments?
I have experienced many memorable Bill 7 Award moments over the past seven years. The event is always emotional and inspiring. Hearing the personal stories of the recipients – many of whom have overcome tremendous obstacles – really drives home the importance of providing opportunity and support to our LGBTQ community members, who are most at risk and in financial need. The struggles of the recipients are real and they are happening in our own backyards – individuals who came to Canada as refugees fleeing persecution, young LGBTQ people who have been abandoned by their families and found themselves on the streets, mature students who came out later in life and were rejected by their children and extended family. Even more inspiring is that many of these recipients are already giving back to their communities while pursuing a post-secondary education. These are just some of the many journeys represented by recipients over the years. The Bill 7 Awards is an opportunity to celebrate their courage and provide financial support to help these students achieve their full potential.
Why do you think LGBTQ-specific scholarships are important?
Scholarships such as the Bill 7 Award Trust, dedicated to LGBTQ post-secondary students, are important because this group represents some of the most at-risk individuals in our society. The availability of this scholarship and others like it are essential to raising awareness of the specific needs and challenges faced by this community, specifically our LGBTQ community in Canada. LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to be called names, verbally harassed and physically assaulted. These awards recognize these challenges and can help ease the financial burden of those most in need of support. Despite how advanced LGBTQ rights are in Canada, there are still many in our community who face unimaginable hardship. By alleviating financial barriers, we help LGBTQ people on their journey to achieving their full potential.