The 2015 Everyday Political Citizen Jury

Introducing the 2015 Jury

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Our panel of amazing Canadians combs through the hundreds of nominations to name the youth and adult Everyday Political Citizens for 2015. Browse through this year's nominees here.

Everyday Political Citizen 2015 Jury Members


Hannah Godefa is a 17-year old Canadian of Ethiopian origin. At the age of seven, Hannah cultivated a desire for giving and founded a project; Pencil Mountain, which has since delivered close to half a million pencils to thousands of children in rural Ethiopia. Hannah has been recognized locally by the city of Vaughan and internationally through the UN, African Union and various governments for her ability to convey the importance of education and youth leadership. As a young humanitarian, Hannah speaks about how, through education, we can eliminate many problems children and youth face in developing nations today. Hannah is a symbol of education and change for many children. She proceeds to use her power of speech to captivate and mobilize youth to fight for children’s rights to education. Hannah was honoured as  a UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia in 2013 and a Child Advocate for South Sudan. 

Hannah Godefa portrait

 “Institutions and communities perform better when all of us voluntarily contribute our talents, energies, ideas and innovations. It’s everyone’s responsibility to contribute to the processes and decision-making that affect everyday lives, because it ensures more cultural, social, economic and political diversity.”

Rick Mercer is the creator and host of the top-rated, award-winning Rick Mercer Report, featuring his trademark rants, fake newscasts, and comic encounters across Canada. Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, Mercer is the sole civilian recipient of the Canadian Armed Forces Commander Land Forces Command Commendation in recognition of his support of Canadian peacekeepers, and in 2004 he received the National Arts Centre Award at the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. In 2013 he received the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Center Award for Public Service and in 2014 was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

"Declining voter turnout means even the most common form of political participation is on the wane and that means trouble.  Shining a light on ways to be involved and influence the process means we might not only get more people involved — we might get better people too."

Darlene R. Okemaysim-Sicotte is a Cree from Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation in Saskatchewan, educated at Rivier Academy and the University of Saskatchewan; she describes herself as relentless in advocating social justice and safety issues.  Darlene has worked at the University of Saskatchewan for 9 years and currently works at Sask Native Theatre Company Inc.  She has served as Co-Chair of local concerned citizens group Iskwewuk Ewichiwitochik (Women Walking Together) for ten years, which focuses on missing and murdered indigenous women.  Under her leadership the group received the Living Harmony Award and the Joanne Miller Peace award from Cultural Diversity and Race Relations with the City of Saskatoon and Saskatoon Tribal Council.  In 2013 Darlene became the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient and was an Everyday Political Citizen finalist. 

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“Everyday political acts could be doing your thing on social media, volunteering with groups that better society, reading the papers, watching CPAC on television or YouTube, doing an Amnesty International “write for rights,” picking up a sign or joining a march. Engagement, participation, and knowing your neighbours is what makes for better understanding of each other’s differences and sameness.”

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Shad is a critically acclaimed Juno Award-winning rapper regarded for his humour, honesty and intelligence. Born in Kenya to Rwandan parents and relocated to Canada shortly after, he was raised in London, Ontario. Shad holds a business degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and a master's degree in liberal studies from Simon Fraser University. His music has critics incorporating him into the dialogue among the well-regarded emcees in North America and has garnered him nods from the Juno Awards and Polaris Music Prize. With his new role at CBC's q, Shad can now add host to his resume.

"I admire people--especially young people--who participate in a political landscape that has left many of us--myself included-- often feeling disillusioned, detached, and defeated. I'm happy to help shine a light on ordinary people and their extraordinary efforts to reclaim and revolutionize the political realm for the better."

John R. Baird, P.C. is a native of Ottawa and a graduate of Queen's University. He has held a variety of portfolios in the Government of Canada, including President of the Treasury Board (2006 - 2007), Minister of the Environment (2007 - 2008, 2010 - 2011), Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (2008 - 2010), Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (2010 - 2011), and Minister of Foreign Affairs (2011 - 2015). Previously he served as a member of the Ontario Legislature (1995 – 2005), which included service in the Government of Ontario as Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister of Energy and Government House Leader. He currently serves as  Senior Business Advisor at Bennett Jones LLP.

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Peter Milliken, P.C., O.C. was elected Member of Parliament for Kingston-and-the-Islands in 1988. Local voters returned him in 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008, making him the longest-serving MP in Kingston’s history. In 2001, MPs elected Peter their Speaker. He was acclaimed to the prestigious and crucial House of Commons post in 2004. After the 2006 and 2008 general elections, Peter was again elected speaker. In 2009 he surpassed the previous record and became the longest-serving Speaker in Canadian history. Peter retired from politics at the 2011  federal election  and in 2012 he was sworn in as a Member of the Privy Council. In addition to acting as Special Advisor to Cunningham Swan Carty Little & Bonham LLP, Peter now serves Queen’s University as a Fellow in the School of Policy Studies. He was named an officer of the Order of Canada in December 2014.

"Political engagement is essential to maintain our democracy.  Democracy depends on participation in the electoral process by all who have the right to do so at whatever level they choose, as candidates, workers or voters. "

Steve Ladurantaye is the head of Canadian news and government partnerships for Twitter Inc. Prior to joining Twitter, Ladurantaye was a journalist at the Globe and Mail where he covered a ridiculous range of stories. A two-time National Newspaper Award winner (and one-time loser), Ladurantaye is also a regular contributor to radio and television stations across the country.

Steve headshot

"There's never been a better time - in all of history - to be politically engaged in your community. Technological innovations mean everyone not only has a voice, but that voice can be amplified by others and lead to true change. The world is going to change - it's essential everyone has a say in how that happens."

Alison Loat is the co-founder of Samara and the co-author of the #1 best-selling book Tragedy in the Commons: Former MPs Speak Out About Canada’s Failing Democracy. For her public service work, Alison received the Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals and was named to the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders in 2014. She also worked at McKinsey & Company, the Government of Canada, the MaRS Discovery District and was a founder of Canada25.

“Everyday Political Citizens are an inspiring antidote to political malaise.”

Trina McQueen is a veteran broadcaster and journalist who has held a wide range of executive positions in public and private television. She retired in 2003 as President and COO of CTV Inc., and before that was founding President of the Discovery Channel, and chief of News, Current Affairs and Newsworld at CBC. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Mrs. McQueen is an officer of the Order of Canada.


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Neil Desai currently serves as the Director of Corporate Affairs at Magnet Forensics, a software company providing digital forensics solutions to police and national security agencies around the world.  He is a former Chief of Staff to two Ministers of International Development and also served in senior roles in the Office of the Prime Minister.  Neil currently serves on the Board of Directors of the YMCA Canada and as a Fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.  He is an occasional contributor to the Globe and Mail’s editorial page.

“Canada is one of the most egalitarian societies in the world.  While we should celebrate our democratic rights, we too must remember that our citizenship comes with responsibilities.  Everyday Political Citizens remind us that our democracy is animated by the participation of Canadians of all ages and walks of life in our political processes.”

Nancy Close is the Community Relations Coordinator in Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's office and her primary responsibility is supporting the Mayor's Civic Engagement Committee and its 3 Things for Calgary initiative. Nancy is still overwhelmed and inspired by remembering coordinating over 800 amazing volunteers during the Team Nenshi 2010 Mayoral campaign. Nancy was an elected school board trustee for the Calgary Board of Education for 8 years. Current volunteer interests including serving on the board of Education Matters, and VoteKit Calgary, a project focussed on increasing voter turnout at all three levels of government.

Nancy Close headshot

“Everyday Political Citizen is about the importance of each of us having a voice, no matter how small or seemingly irrelevant, and, it is about how we work together to make our community better. I am honoured to once again support Samara’s EPC contest because it is through the sharing of stories that we can inspire others to be politically engaged.”

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Pauline Aunger is President of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) for 2015. Pauline previously served as a Director-at-Large on the CREA Board of Directors. She has been a REALTOR® since 1977 and is the Broker of Record with Royal LePage Advantage Real Estate, Brokerage in Smiths Falls and Perth, Ontario. She is a member and Past President of the Rideau St. Lawrence Real Estate Board where she served as Chair of the Political Affairs Committee and as a member of Professional Standards Committee. Pauline is a member of the Ottawa Real Estate Board and also a Past President of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) and served on many committees including as a member of the Board of Governors of the OREA Foundation and on the Federal Affairs Committee for CREA. 

“Living and working in and around my hometown of Smiths Falls, I am always struck by the amazing ways my neighbours and REALTOR® colleagues contribute to our community. These contributions are the glue that holds us together. Political involvement is one way we can have an influence on  the issues that matter most to us, our neighbours and our communities. I am thrilled to be able to encourage political engagement by supporting Samara’s Everyday Political Citizen project and look forward to hearing about the interesting ways folks across the country are making a difference where they live.”

Bob Sutton has accomplished a 33-year career of heading secondary school counselling programs in Sarnia-Lambton, has been awarded a 100th anniversary Fellowship from Western University for full time graduate study, and has spent another full year travelling in many parts of the world. He has done extensive volunteer work with the Canadian Mental Health Association in elementary schools, with the YMCA's Celebration of Youth post-secondary awards program, and has managed a variety of roles in a number of provincial and federal election campaigns. In the past year he established a community partnership program with a several agencies in Sarnia-Lambton to train 30 volunteers to run Samara’s Democracy Talks sessions.. As well, he has delivered a series of talks on Participatory Democracy to local service clubs and community agencies. He is also a long-time, passionate supporter of Samara!

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“Even as they feel significant degrees of disappointment with various dimensions of political process, most Canadians still retain the highest regard for the visions and principles of democracy. They understand John Ralston Saul's message that, "Democracy is the only system capable of reflecting the humanist premise of equilibrium or balance. The key to its secret is the involvement of the citizen". Samara has responded to the uncertainty of where and how to start that involvement by providing amazing examples of dynamic and diverse Canadians who are daily making a difference. The Everyday Political Citizen project is a key force in the re-engagement of Canadians with the true spirit of their democracy.”


Nessa Deans, aged 12, is the 2014 Youth Everyday Political Citizen. She is an active participant in her community- attending Community League meetings and helping at events. Nessa’s interest in politics took off when she helped in Edmonton’s 2013 municipal election by campaigning for the mayoral candidate.  She worked on an MLA’s campaign in the Alberta provincial election and she is gearing up for some serious door knocking for the fall federal election.  Nessa was excited to visit Ottawa this year, where she was able to attend question period (twice!) and toured the Parliament buildings.

"If you can teach people when they are young that politics and citizenship are important, then you will have more people participating in the democratic system, better voter turnout and a more caring society.  I think that the Samara Youth Everyday Citizen award has given me some street cred, so when I talk to my peers, they are more likely to listen to my message."  

Timothy Halman is the 2014 Canada’s Everyday Political Citizen.  has been interested in politics since childhood.  His first political memory is the free trade election of 1988.  As an 18-year-old, the first time he voted was in the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty.  He learned that night every vote counts.  He learned that democracy matters. For over a decade, Timothy has been engaging youth in the history of Canada and its democratic institutions as a public school teacher in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Tim Halman headshot

“A liberal democracy cannot afford an uninformed citizenry.  History teaches us that democracies are most vulnerable when citizens are disengaged and lack insight into the affairs of their communities. That is why I am so grateful to organizations like Samara Canada, an organization that works diligently to connect our youth and citizens with Canada’s political culture and system of government.”

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Colum Grove-White  is a strong advocate for voting reform and democratic renewal at every level of government in Canada.  He is the spokesperson of Ottawa123, a non-partisan organization aiming to bring ranked choice voting to the City of Ottawa's elections, and is also a part of other voting reform groups including Unlock Democracy Canada and 123Ontario.  Colum did his bachelor's degree at Trinity College, University of Toronto, where he was the president of the Arts and Science Students' Union.  He also obtained a Master's Degree in International Affairs from Carleton University, where he wrote his major research paper on measuring and comparing democracy across countries. 

“At its core, democracy is about people shaping society.  Samara's Everyday Political Citizen recognizes all the unique and great ways in which individual Canadians contribute to making their communities more open, accessible and democratic.  While we can't discount the importance of voting and an elected parliament,  it really is these Everyday Political Citizens  that underpin what it means to live in a democratic society.”

Trina Isakson leads research and strategy projects on the leading edges of nonprofit management and governance, social innovation, and community engagement. As CEO of 27 Shift her clients include government, higher education, and national nonprofit organizations. Trina has taught a variety of university courses on community development and nonprofit leadership, and is founder of the Quiet Changemaker Project and the Do Good Better Podcast, and is outgoing Chair of Canadian Women Voters Congress. Trina holds an MBA in community economic development from Cape Breton University and a Certificate in Dialogue and Civic Engagement from Simon Fraser University. She grew up in Salmon Arm, BC, travels whenever she can, and currently calls Vancouver her home.

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“Civic engagement is fundamental to good policy and a healthy society. A greater diversity of people involved in community and political leadership results in policy and programs that are fair, just, and representative. We must shine light on Everyday Political Citizens whose personal actions model this diversity of voices our country needs. Acknowledging quiet examples of leadership is especially important to me.”

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Parliamentary Internship Programme chooses ten university graduates every year to serve as Parliamentary Interns. They are paid to assist Members of Parliament on both sides of the House of Commons with legislation and constituency matters; to study Parliament through weekly seminars, study tours and research; and to engage others by sharing their experiences and insights through social media, public presentations of their research and workshops for younger Canadians. The Parliamentary Internship Programme was Canada’s first legislative internship. Founded in 1969 with all-party support, it is an initiative of the Canadian Political Science Association delivered in partnership with the House of Commons. The 10 parliamentary interns will act together as an Everyday Political Citizen juror.

"Citizenship is about being responsible for and engaged in your community. We should all strive to be Everyday Political Citizens and recognize those who play an active role in this conversation."

Nominations for 2015 EPCitizen close on October 19th. Nominate today right here.

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EPCitizen on the Blog

  • November 16, 2017

    2017 EPC Nominee: Marcia Dennis

    As a resident of a Neighbourhood Improvement Area (NIA), Marcia has been able encourage other residents of low income backgrounds to increase their community and civic engagement in the community.
  • November 15, 2017

    2017 EPC Nominee: Patricia Santos

    Through her English teacher in the LINC classes at North York Community House, she has come to learn that her voice matters. She grasped onto this idea and learned more about her rights – including starting a petition.
  • November 15, 2017

    2017 EPC Nominee: Nirmala Naidoo

    Throughout Nirmala’s career, Nirmala told the stories of people who had no voice. Nirmala left journalism to bring a voice to those people who needed to be heard, running in the federal election.
  • November 15, 2017

    2017 EPC Nominee: Chris Fudge

    Chris loves canvassing during elections. He loves talking to members of our community on their doorsteps. Door after door after door, Chris pushes on and inspires others to stay connected in the same way.
  • November 15, 2017

    2017 EPC Nominee: Patrick Lloyd Brennan

    Patrick Lloyd is the President of MainLine Theatre & the Montreal FRINGE, Secretary of AIDS Community Care Montreal, and sits on Le Conseil québécois du théâtre’s Political Action Committee.