(Photos: Courtesy House of Commons, Valerie Howes and Getty Images)

(Photos: Courtesy House of Commons, Valerie Howes and Getty Images)

The 2023 Doris Anderson Awards

Welcome to our third-annual celebration of the Canadians who make us feel better about the world.

In 1957, Doris Anderson took the helm of Chatelaine, promising readers “something serious to think about.” At a time when women’s media was often reduced to instructionals on turning your daily chores into an exercise routine and day-by-day plans for ideal housekeeping—real Chatelaine stories that ran before her time—Anderson bucked tradition. She oversaw a progressive Chatelaine that covered everything from abortion rights and male dominance in Parliament to divorce and the wage gap. Her leadership—spanning an impressive 20 years—shaped the magazine into the fearless, multi-faceted publication you read today.

Doris Anderson, Chatelaine's former editor-in-chief and namesake of our annual awards, The Doris Anderson Awards 2023

(Illustration: Chloe Cushman)

Sixty-six years later, it’s in her transformative and tenacious spirit that we recognize the recipients of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023. This year’s 10 honourees have worked to make Canada a better place during unprecedented times: amid a climate crisis, divisive politics and the tail end of a global pandemic. Some are household names; others may be new to you. But, much like Anderson, each shares a passion for doing things differently—and that deserves our attention. —Erica Lenti

Our 2023 recipients:

Connie Walker | Jully Black | Devyn Gale | Carley Fortune | Rachel Manko Lutz | Diana Matheson | Miranda Gould | Lana Payne | Rechie Valdez | The Black Queens of Durham Region

Connie Walker

for telling Indigenous stories our country has overlooked for too long

Connie Walker, Indigenous podcaster, holds a microphone. She is a recipient of the 2023 Doris Anderson Awards.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Journalist Connie Walker took a family anecdote—when her father, while conducting a stop as an RCMP officer, discovered he was facing the former priest who’d abused him in residential school—and spun it into an investigation that has captured both hearts and prestigious awards. In May, Walker received a Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting and a Peabody Award for the Gimlet Media podcast Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s, an eight-episode investigative series that expanded on that story with in-depth reporting and a level of care and empathy not often seen in long-form storytelling about Indigenous people.

The podcast winning two illustrious prizes was a shock to the journalist, who’s from Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan, and months later she was still processing the awards and the podcast itself. “Everything that we were able to uncover and how much I learned about my family, my father and myself—it’s still really overwhelming,” Walker, 44, says.

The bulk of Walker’s journalism career has been spent in Canada at the CBC, producing the documentary series 8th Fire, launching the CBC Indigenous division and creating two seasons of the podcast Missing & Murdered. Walker moved to U.S. podcasting company Gimlet to create Stolen in 2019.

Hearing Walker’s voice—along with the voices of her family members as they piece together the story of her father’s time at the St. Michael’s residential school in Duck Lake, Sask.—allows listeners to connect to the larger theme of intergenerational trauma and the horrors inflicted on Indigenous children.

“As a journalist, when you’re telling stories about our communities, there’s so much you have to cut through—misinformation or stereotypes—[but] there is something about the intimacy of audio that brings people into a world and helps them have the ability to empathize in new ways,” says Walker.

The feedback from listeners who are new to Canada’s history of colonization is gratifying “because it help[s] people understand the truth about our shared history,” she says. (Among those listeners: Sarah Jessica Parker, who recommended Stolen to her 9.6 million Instagram followers.) But most meaningful has been the feedback from other First Nations people, who identify with the questions often unasked and unanswered.

Walker’s greatest takeaway? “The thing that really sticks with me is what a gift it was to reconnect with my family and to feel like I better understand not only my dad’s story but also my own story because of this work,” she says. “That is bigger than anything.” —Kelly Boutsalis

Jully Black

for giving the Canadian national anthem a much-needed update

Jully Black, a recipient of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023

(Photo: Getty Images)

When Jully Black walked out onto the court at this year’s NBA All-Star game in Salt Lake City, she was wearing an ear monitor so she could hear herself sing over the roaring crowd. But it was her late mother’s voice that carried her, floating, to the spot where she would sing Canada’s national anthem.

That February night, Black made history with a single word. Her subtle lyric change—from “our home and native land” to “our home on native land”—called attention not only to the legacy of settler colonialism in Canada but also to the country’s refusal to reckon with that violent history.

“I wanted to ensure that as I was singing this anthem—which was basically force-fed to me as a child—I would be able to stand behind every word,” Black says. “And when the opportunity to represent our country on the largest stage presented itself, I heard the spirit of my late mom [telling me], ‘This is your time to move with wisdom and make this moment meaningful.’”

Born in Toronto to Jamaican parents, Black thinks a lot about the history of Canada’s Indigenous people and her position as a Black Canadian woman who inherited that history. Even though the anthem moment lasted mere minutes, she says she’d been preparing for it for 45 years.

“The preparation was in being Jully more so than doing the song,” she says. “And that’s my message. We need to just be in the moment. Be in the song. Be in the intention.”

Although Black’s decision to change the lyrics of the anthem was widely well-received, she still received major backlash for it. While the 45-year-old singer was presented with a special honour by the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa, many white Canadians bombarded her with racist hate mail and threats.

Still, Black says she doesn’t take her role as a community advocate lightly—even in the face of a hate campaign. “I think my role literally is to be a bridge, a connector, an amplified voice,” she says. “To use the universal language of music to provide healing.”

But her musical talent isn’t the only way she’s making her mark. Through the Jully Black Family Foundation, she offers scholarships, bursaries and grants to women ages 19 to 29 who are single mothers. “My mom had to stop going to nursing school and take a job at General Motors because she had to raise nine of us, so she couldn’t do the schooling,” she says.

Next up for Black: a 2024 Canada-wide tour. “What I’m hoping it’s going to be called—and I’m gonna put this out there so we can manifest it—is ‘Righting History,’” she says. “Let’s make it right.” —Tayo Bero

Devyn Gale

for braving the front lines of Canada’s worst wildfire season on record

Devyn Gale smiles while holding firefighting equipment. She is a recipient of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023.

Wildland firefighting is the kind of job that doesn’t let up. The work demands intense physical, mental and psychological grit. Devyn Gale embodied those traits, says Casey Robinson, a crew supervisor with the British Columbia Wildfire Service (BCWS).

Gale was often the first to volunteer to lay down a water hose to a fire, even after a 12-hour workday, or patrol for hot spots—smouldering stumps or vegetation—in the rain. If the crew needed someone on chainsaw duty, she would be would immediately put up her hand.

“Devyn was a little more superhuman than most people,” says Robinson. He first met Gale three years ago when she started out with the BCWS as a junior firefighter. He recalls thinking at the time, “She’s going to make a great firefighter.”

This past summer, Gale, 19, was in her second season as a full-time initial-attack wildland firefighter (the first responders at a blaze) in Revelstoke, B.C. She worked on the front lines of Canada’s worst wildfire season, including the Donnie Creek Wildfire in the province’s northeast—the largest recorded blaze in B.C.’s history, spanning an area greater in size than all of P.E.I. On July 13, she died while fighting a wildfire near Revelstoke.

“When you watched her work, there was no bravado—it was all, ‘We’re here to work; we’re here to do this,’ and she would do it with a smile on her face,” says Robinson. “You could send her off into the woods and be like, ‘All right, I need you to do this,’ and she would come back and you knew the result would be perfect.”

Gale was a role model, always looking out for the new recruits, offering advice and encouragement. She even inspired her siblings to become firefighters, too. Her crew remembers how she carried additional gear in her 50-pound pack, just in case someone forgot their hosing or needed first aid or an extra snack.

Jeremy MacMillan-Jones, one of her colleagues, recalls Gale’s “calming presence” on the crew, especially during stressful moments. Once, he accidentally severed two tendons while working on a wildfire, and Gale performed first aid on the injury while they waited to be airlifted out. “I had great care,” he says. Gale was studying nursing and dreamt of becoming a doctor.

“We can teach anyone to become a firefighter, but having the mental strength and fortitude to work day in, day out for 14 straight days where you sleep in a field and eat questionable food—now that’s a huge asset,” says Robinson. “Devyn had the drive and grit but also the compassion and empathy to look out for other people and be like, ‘Hey, how are you? Have you drunk enough water today?’”

Today, Gale’s crew mates proudly wear a “Gale Force” badge on their BCWS uniforms to honour their former colleague.

“If you’re having an off-day, it’s a great reminder that Devyn would be out there working hard and smiling as she did it,” says Robinson.

When it rained on a wildfire, they used to jokingly thank Airtanker One. But now Robinson tilts his head up to the sky and thinks of his former colleague, still looking out for everyone.

“Thanks, Devyn.” —Trina Moyles

Carley Fortune

for writing Canadian romances that resonate with the world

Carley Fortune, a recipient of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023.

(Photo: Jenna Marie Wakani)

Even if you have never stepped into a body of fresh, cool lake water, if you’ve read one of Carley Fortune’s novels, you can practically feel it. Her lakeside love stories have resonated worldwide. Her first two Ontario-set romances, Every Summer After and Meet Me at the Lake, were both New York Times bestsellers—cementing Fortune, a former Chatelaine editor-in-chief, as a buzzy new voice in publishing.

Fortune’s books are an escape, plunging readers into a romance they know will deliver a happy ending. And they’re set in a distinctly Canadian world—admirable in an American publishing market not known for championing our stories. “Setting is really important to me. I feel that the more specific a book is, the better,” she says.

Cover of the novel This Summer Will Be Different by Carley Fortune

Growing up on Kamaniskeg Lake in the tiny town of Barry’s Bay, Ont., was formative. “The lake was such an escape for me as a child. It’s where I feel most like myself and I am most creative,” she says. If her first book is a love letter to her hometown, then her second is a love letter to Toronto. (Fortune’s third novel, This Summer Will Be Different, set in P.E.I., will be published next May.)

This year, Meet Me at the Lake found fans in Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who bought the screen rights to the novel through their company Archewell Productions.

Fortune isn’t planning to change her winning formula of page-turning lakeside romance—we probably won’t see a setting outside of our borders any time soon. “There’s so much to explore in Canada, and I’m really happy writing Canadian stories.” —Alicia Cox Thomson

Rachel Manko Lutz

for helping Halifax newcomers forge connection—and find joy—through music

Rachel Manko Lutz, a recipient of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023.

Two years ago, English teacher Rachel Manko Lutz knew a few things for sure. One: Newcomers in Halifax were not getting enough opportunity to practise their English. Two: They were struggling with loneliness. Three: Nova Scotia needed to be more than a quick stop on the way to other parts of Canada. “We know people will stay in a place where they feel connected,” she says. Which brings us to the fourth thing Manko Lutz knew: She loved singing in choirs, something she had done since she was 11. She also knew that there was a way to connect it all together.

So Manko Lutz approached her fellow chorister Rebecca McCauley, saying, “I kind of have this weird idea….” A few weeks later, the pair anxiously waited in the church space Manko Lutz had rented to see who would turn up to take part in what the posters promised: Learn English while you sing. Five newcomers came that night, and the small group sang The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table,” while looking at photos Manko Lutz had printed out of the song’s lyrics: a fireplace, a table surrounded by a family, sowing seeds in a garden. Halifax Newcomer Choir was born. The motto: You are welcome here.

Two years later, the choir has launched a Dartmouth offshoot, and between the two locations, about 35 people gather each week to sing.

These sessions are nothing like the serious, staid choir run-throughs of Manko Lutz’s past.

“Usually there’s a whiteboard covered in doodles and someone trying to act out a word,” she says. “Our primary goal in the choir is not to make beautiful music. It is to make joyful music.” —Kate Rae

Miranda Gould

for making ceremonial clothing more accessible for her First Nation

Miranda Gould, a recipient of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023

(Photo: Shelly Magee Wilson)

As a teenager, Miranda Gould fine-tuned the art of stitching satin ribbons to boldly coloured fabric to create ribbon skirts. Now 50, she has sewn hundreds of the skirts, which symbolize womanhood, and given away at least half. “Giveaways motivated me,” says Gould, a Mi’kmaw woman who lives in We’koqma’q First Nation in Nova Scotia, adding that if she saw a young woman dancing at a powwow without a ribbon skirt, she would give her one.

Last year, Gould and We’koqma’q First Nation Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley had an idea to make ceremonial clothing—which can be hard to find and expensive to acquire—more accessible: They’d start a clothing bank where people could borrow regalia. “We’re in an age of resurgence of our culture,” says Gould. “As we encourage more gatherings, we want women to have skirts so they feel more empowered.”

A ribbon skirt’s design tells a story; each customized garment is infused with teachings and protocols that vary regionally. A skirt can represent a woman’s role as a life-giver and her connection to the earth. The long, flowing skirt allows “energy to flow from our womb to Mother Earth,” says Gould. It can also symbolize a teepee, where a mother is a caretaker and a nurturer.

Gould was tasked with outfitting the clothing bank, which opened last fall. She made 25 peasant-style skirts, adorning them with colourful satin ribbons. She also made five ribbon shirts for men, purchasing collared long-sleeves and then fastening the ribbon herself.

The project has been a huge success. “People are borrowing the pieces and falling in love with them,” says Gould. But no one should pass judgment on those who attend ceremonies without the “proper” ceremonial outfit. “With missing and murdered Indigenous women and also our men and Two-Spirit [people], these teachings need to come back…. If [someone is] lost, put them back on the Red Road to guide them now.” —Charnel Anderson

Lana Payne

for standing up for Canadian workers during a crucial moment for labour rights

Lana Payne, a recipient of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023.

(Photo: Courtesy of Unifor)

Early in her first career as a newspaper reporter in the mid-1980s, Lana Payne was fired when she got a name wrong in a story she wrote about a court case in St. John’s. What happened next may well have influenced the trajectory of her career: Following her father’s advice, she filed a grievance with her union and got her job back. “I was young,” she says. “I was not aware what my rights were in my own workplace. It’s true of young workers—and true of workers generally.”

Payne has spent much of her working life since trying to change that: as a labour reporter, a newspaper columnist, a union activist and organizer and now as the leader of Canada’s largest general trade union.

In August 2022, Payne was elected national president of Unifor, representing more than 315,000 workers in 25 industries. She’s just the second president in the union’s history and the first woman elected to the job. Payne knows through experience how fighting for workplace rights can translate into broader political change. Paid maternity leave in Canada, for example, is the direct result of a 1980s postal-worker strike. Benefits for same-sex couples, paid leave for survivors of intimate-partner violence and child-care allowances or subsidies—all provincial or federal rights that Payne either bargained or advocated for at various earlier stages of her career—also arose in part thanks to labour action.

In her first 15 months on the job, Payne has met with local union leaders across Canada to better understand regional needs among Unifor’s members and to identify broader issues. Three things have consistently come up, she says: retirement security, mental health and structural issues in collective agreements that lead to inequity for marginalized employees.

“For example,” she says, “often you end up in a situation where women or workers of colour are largely the newer employees in a workplace out of a response to a need for diversity.” What ends up happening in these scenarios, she says, is that waves of largely new hires are, by nature of timing, either in temporary positions or in more precarious states of employment.

“So then it becomes a conversation with members [about how] to fix this inequity and what collective bargaining we can do to better that,” she says. Building longer grow-in or progression periods into contracts, she says, are simple and doable ways to start to address this.

But “we know that true equality is bigger than one round of bargaining,” she says. “We have to use what we can leverage to be able to fight for everybody.” —Chantal Braganza

Diana Matheson

for giving Canadian women’s soccer players a league of their own

Diana Matheson, a recipient of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023.

(Photo: Heather Saitz)

Diana Matheson is a five-foot-and-a-quarter-inch Canadian powerhouse. You may recognize her name from her storied career as a soccer player in Norway and the U.S.’s professional women’s leagues. And after scoring in extra time against France to earn a bronze medal for the Canadian National Women’s Team at the 2012 London Olympics, the Oakville, Ont., player became a national hero.

But now, Matheson is behind one of the most prolific movements in Canadian women’s sports.

In 2022, she co-founded and became the CEO of Project 8 Sports Inc., the organization developing Canada’s first professional women’s domestic soccer league. Matheson credits former national-program teammate Carmelina Moscato with planting the seed of the idea for a league in her mind about five years ago. Since then, “I knew I wanted to be involved somehow in the business side [of soccer],” she says.

After retiring from soccer in 2021, Matheson obtained an executive MBA from the Smith School of Business in Kingston, Ont., and a UEFA Executive Master for International Players. At Smith, Matheson met Project 8 co-founder Thomas Gilbert, and they immediately set out to build a new league.

Following a successful career as an athlete and armed with the insight it gave her, Matheson wanted to fill in the major gap at home. “The debate was always: Do we do a team or two in the NWSL [National Women’s Soccer League in the U.S.] or do we build a league of our own?” she says. “The more [we] looked at it and thought about it, a league was the obvious answer.”

Project 8 announced the league in December 2022 to an overwhelmingly positive response. “The timing is good,” says Matheson. “We’re doing this at a time, too, when women’s sport is growing massively.”

Moscato agrees that this new role is the right fit for Matheson: “The road ahead will be challenging, [but] she is absolutely the right person with the intelligence, determination, passion and resilience to bring this project to life.”

Project 8’s league is founded on the principles of inclusion, identity and community. The organization has proposed eight teams in the league; so far, three teams have been announced in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

The league also aspires to create new opportunities for Canadians in soccer in roles such as referees, coaches and managers as well as broader opportunities in sports business and media.

When Matheson is not revitalizing women’s sports, she can be found practising yoga, spending time with her beloved cat, named “The Catty,” and reading sci-fi books to decompress. And in August, she married fellow Olympian Anastasia Bucsis.

There’s still plenty to plan for Project 8, and Matheson continues to build that foundation, creating a space where Canadian girls can dream of playing soccer not only at the highest levels but at home too. —Shireen Ahmed

Rechie Valdez

for representing Filipino Canadians, one of the country’s most politically overlooked communities

Minister of Parliament Rechie Valdez, a recipient of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023.

(Photo: Courtesy of the House of Commons)

It was a historic moment: In July 2023, rookie Member of Parliament Rechie Valdez broke into tears as she was sworn in as Canada’s newest minister of small business and became the first Filipino woman to hold a cabinet position. Less than two years before her appointment, Valdez had made history when she became the first woman of Philippine descent to be elected to the Canadian Parliament. It was the first time since 2000 that a Filipino-Canadian had been elected federally.

“When I look back at my two years as an MP, all the work that I put in, getting out to different communities, being there to support the Filipino community—it just felt really rewarding,” Valdez says.

Born in Zambia to Filipino parents, Valdez moved to Mississauga, Ont., with her family when she was nine. She recalls being surrounded not by blood relatives but by members of Canada’s Filipino diaspora. “My parents built such a nice network of Filipinos around us,” she says. “They became my family.”

According to the 2021 census, more than 950,000 people of Philippine origin—roughly 2.6 percent of the Canadian population—call Canada home, and it’s a number that’s expected to grow in the coming years. Canada’s Filipino community is the fourth-largest visible minority group. Yet only two Filipino-Canadians have been elected to the federal government: Valdez and Rey Pagtakhan, who served from 1988 to 2004.

Valdez acknowledges the weight of responsibility that comes with being the first Filipino woman in the federal cabinet. But she doesn’t consider it intimidating; instead, it’s empowering.

“Every opportunity is [a chance] for me to learn and get better at this role and what I’m doing,” she says. “So, I don’t see it as stress or pressure; it’s an opportunity to grow and push myself out of my comfort [zone].”

Before entering office, Valdez worked as a corporate banker for 15 years and became a small-business owner when she founded and co-owned a Filipino fusion-pastry business. She says she brings to the cabinet an understanding of what it takes to become an entrepreneur and the added challenges of being a Filipino woman in business. “When choosing to be a small-business entrepreneur, you’re daring to dream. You’re daring to believe in yourself.”

Weeks into her new role, Valdez travelled across the country—from Charlottetown to Vancouver—to meet with small-business owners. She also launched #FoodieFriday, a social-media campaign highlighting small Canadian restaurants. Valdez’s appointment comes on the heels of the pandemic and in tandem with the current high cost of living, a time when some small businesses are still trying to recover.

“We’ve been there to support small businesses through this difficult time [by] providing wage subsidies, rent subsidies and Canada Emergency Business Account loans,” she says. “We will continue to be there for them.”

Valdez says her appointment is also an opportunity to show people, especially those from cultures with preconceived notions of which professions are successful, that entrepreneurship is a viable career option.

“In Filipino culture, it’s like you have to be a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or a nurse,” Valdez says. “I want to show that there are so many options outside of those standard options that we’re raised with.” —Arvin Joaquin

The Black Queens of Durham Region

for creating an unstoppable community of support for Black women

Asha Lapps, left, and Erica London, The Black Queens of Durham Region, recipients of the Doris Anderson Awards 2023

(Photo: Valerie Howes)

Asha Lapps founded the Black Queens of Durham Region in 2017 because she sometimes felt isolated as a Black woman living in the suburbs of southern Ontario.

“I put the call out in another larger community group on Facebook to see if there were any Black women in Durham who just wanted to connect,” says Lapps. “I expected [a few] people might reach out.” Instead, in just two days, her post garnered 276 responses.

Six years later, the grassroots group is all about community building and empowerment. They organize holiday markets showcasing Black women–owned businesses, arrange meetups for walks and offer workshops on personal finance and real estate. And that’s just IRL. The private Facebook group is a safe space to joke around, find a local hair braider or talk about microaggressions. Today there are more than 10,000 Black Queens, and Lapps co-runs the group with Fatim Sylla, a fashion designer and entrepreneur.

As well as offering mutual support, the women join forces to lift up other people in need: supporting Black-owned restaurants during the pandemic, giving grocery cards to families during the holidays and helping individuals, like an unhoused single mom who needed assistance securing an apartment.

In September, the group rallied around 23 pregnant women and one new mom who were among the hundreds of asylum seekers, mostly from African countries, forced to sleep in encampments in downtown Toronto in the blistering heat this past summer, while the city and federal government had a standoff over who should fund their shelter.

Group member Erica London had an idea: She wanted to throw a mega baby shower to celebrate the expectant moms. The entrepreneur and children’s author made a Facebook callout to the Queens to bolster her personal network of volunteers. Initially, she asked for gently used baby items, but soon offers of other donations—including party decorations, gift baskets and cakes—came rolling in.

Less than two weeks later, there were hand-knitted blankets and hats, strollers, car seats and brimming gift bags for the guests of honour. A balloon arch provided the perfect backdrop for selfies—which many guests messaged to loved ones in their home countries—and volunteers served culturally relevant foods donated by members of the group as well as cupcake bouquets and tiered cakes slathered in frosting.

London remains in touch with many of the newcomer moms, supporting them through meetups and words of encouragement as their babies arrive. London’s company, Colour Their World, also distributes donations of essential items, such as winter coats, strollers and food. “The baby shower was beyond anything I thought possible,” says London. “I was elated to see one call to action to the group bring about so much support.” But that’s just how the Black Queens of Durham Region roll. —Valerie Howes