Heroes and mentors from Pickering to Clarington highlight International Women’s Day

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Published March 8, 2023 at 9:33 am

Kailen Sheridan

All of us who were around in the mid-60s when the women’s liberation movement ushered in a promised new world free from bias, stereotypes and discrimination had hoped we’d be farther along nearly half a century later.

We all – most of us, anyway – dreamed of living in a gender-equal world by now where we didn’t really need an International Women’s Day to remind us how far we still need to go.

The good news is we have lots to celebrate on this day as we honour the achievements of women. They are our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. They are also our heroes and mentors and we have many women in Durham Region to celebrate, from those who shine on the national and international stage, to those whose flame burns bright right here in our local communities.

The goals for the 2023 International Women’s Day are to:

  • Improve equality for women in tech
  • Forge women’s empowerment world-wide
  • Applaud equality for women in sport

Today we shine that light on ten powerful women in Durham.

Channon Oyeniran, a Pickering author and historian, has written a children’s book that will challenge traditional narratives on Canadian history, especially about the role Black Canadians played in this country’s early years, and “turn children into heroes” to help free enslaved people.

Channon Oyeniran

The Time Travels of Ara, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad is the first in a five-part series written by Oyeniran, a noted public speaker on Black history and the vice-president of the Ontario Black History Society. Oyeniran, also a PhD student and the co-founder of Oyeniran Education Support (OyES), believes the book will help give children the “opportunity to learn about different cultures and histories beyond what they learn” in traditional history books.

Kailen Sheridan is the starting goalkeeper for Canada’s National Women’s Team in soccer and an outspoken advocate for equality in sports.

Kailen Sheridan

Sheridan, who hails from Whitby, is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world and is focused on winning this summer’s World Cup but has one eye on the national squad’s fight for pay equity with Canada Soccer.

“Enough is enough – we deserve better,” is her call for justice and someone may have been listening as embattled Canada Soccer President Nick Bontis recently resigned, paving the way for a woman to at least temporarily take the helm – former track star Charmaine Crooks – and for the two sides to broker a deal that will see the women receive some back pay. It’s a start.

Dr. Barbara Perry, an Ontario Tech University global authority on hate crime and right-wing extremism in Canada, is the Research Chair in Hate Studies for the France-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Dr. Barbara Perry

UNESCO was created in 1945 only months after the conclusion of the Second World War with a mission to contribute to global peace and security, to advance universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Perry’s appointment by UNESCO means the Oshawa university will continue to showcase its leadership in the field and also advance the scope and mission of Ontario Tech’s own Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism, which began operations in 2018.

Kelly LaRocca serves as Chief of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, a post she has held since 2013. LaRocca has degrees in Philosophy and Law and studied Aboriginal Law after practicing as a civil litigation lawyer.

Chief Kelly LaRocca

LaRocca, a noted public speaker, was the Portfolio Chief Representative during the claim negotiations arising from the 1923 Williams Treaties, which led to a partnership managing economic development opportunities.

The Great Blue Heron Casino, which sits on MSIFN land, opened a 100-room hotel and 20,000 sq. ft. addition during her tenure.

Dr. Andrea Kirkwood, a Professor in Biological Science (specializing in aquatic ecology) at Ontario Tech, is the first woman to rise through the ranks of the school to achieve full Professor status.

Dr. Andrea Kirkwood

Kirkwood, a mentor to many young future scientists, is also a huge advocate for preserving Ontario’s wetlands.

Perdita Felicien is former track star from Pickering who is now a television host and broadcaster, having covered track at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and at the last two Olympic Games.

Perdita Felicien

A two-time Olympian herself, Felicien was an NCAA champion (Illinois) and the 2003 World Champion in the 100-metre hurdles. Her time of 12.46 set in 2004 for the event still stands as the Canadian record.

Erin Brandson, a Clarington resident and the owner and head brewer of Little Beasts Brewing in Whitby, is also the co-founder of the Craft Beer Safety Network, a place where people can find statements of accountability and brewers can find toolkits on how to make their spaces welcoming to all.

Erin Brandson

Brandson opened her social media channels during the pandemic for women to share stories of abuse and sexual harassment in the still male dominated brewing industry and continues to advocate for breweries being safe places for everyone.

Mary Krohnert is the founder of the LivingRoom Art Studio, a community-based art hive in Oshawa that provides people with opportunities to make and share art for free.

Mary Krohnert

An Art Therapy major and classically trained actor, Krohnert has been nominated for a DORA Award and has been active in television roles. Her passion, however, is community engagement through art and the Oshawa community – especially the downtown core – is the better for it.

Katie Munshaw is the lead singer of the JUNO-winning Oshawa alternative band Dizzy.

Katie Munshaw

An athlete in her youth, Munshaw picked up guitar and piano in her teens and started to experiment with those talents at Maxwell Heights Secondary, where she would meet future bandmate Charlie Spencer.

A budding career in journalism ended when the band was spotted at a gig at Toronto’s Drake Hotel and immediately signed by independent record label Rocky Mountain Records. The rest, as they say, is history, but Munshaw was still shocked when Dizzy earned its JUNO in 2019 for Best Alternative Album for Baby Teeth. “We’re four friends from Oshawa. We were not expecting this.”

Christine Elliott is a former Ontario Health Minister, Deputy Premier and long-time MPP and a former partner of Whitby law firm Flaherty Dow Elliott & McCarthy.

Christine Elliott

Elliott is a passionate advocate for vulnerable community members and has volunteered for organizations such as Grandview Kids and Durham Mental Health Services. Elliot is also the co-founder (with her husband, the late Jim Flaherty) of the Abilities Centre in Whitby.

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