2018 Award of Recognition Recipients

Lifetime Achievement Award
To recognize an individual with many years of service who has had a major impact on the affordable housing sector in Canada.

Don McBain

Former Executive Director, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (posthumously)

It has been said that Don McBain was a true visionary and champion of housing, particularly for the Aboriginal population that he so tirelessly worked to represent. In 1994, Don worked with Sylvie Maracle to found the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Support Services Corporation (OAHS) to transfer control of Indigenous housing from the province of Ontario to Indigenous people. Don went on to lead OAHS for over 20 years.

One career milestone was when in 2009, OAHS was placed in charge of $60 million in Federal Aboriginal Housing Trust monies to administer Indigenous housing programs across the province outside of the Greater Toronto Area. With over 2000 units and 50 employees, OAHS is the largest off reserve Indigenous housing provider in Canada. This is certainly Don’s legacy. BC Housing’s support for Rooftops Canada started with the participation of its CEO, Shayne Ramsay in a 2008 study visit to East Africa. He followed this up with education and fundraising activities within both BC Housing and CHRA.

BC Housing supported several study visits to BC from the National Association of Social Housing Organizations (NASHO) in South Africa. Most recently, in November 2017, this involved four participants in the Equal Spaces to End Spatial Apartheid in South Africa Project. The four included two from the Social Housing Regulatory Authority and two from social housing providers representing NASHO. They spent half a day with BC Housing which also arranged social housing site visits. Karen Hemmingson was also a resource person to another study visit To recognize an individual with many years of service who has had a major impact on the affordable housing sector in Canada.

Don gave back to the housing sector as well. He was a founding member of the Chartered Institute of Housing Canada, he served on the Ontario Non Profit Housing Association’s Urban Aboriginal Housing Advisory Committee, and CHRA’s Indigenous Caucus Working Group. Don has shared his knowledge and experience with countless Indigenous housing providers across Canada, as well as provincial and municipal governments. Among his many accomplishments in this regard was the development of the First Nations, Inuit, Metis, and Urban and Rural Housing Program guidelines and criteria that recognizes the unique circumstances of Aboriginal people in Ontario.

Marc Maracle, Executive Director of Ottawa’s Gignul Non-Profit Housing Corporation, has described Don as follows: “He knew how to build a team, he knew how to motivate a team, and he certainly knew how to lead a team”.

Sadly, Don passed away in 2017, and therefore this award is presented posthumously. Although Don is no longer with us, his spirit and legacy will remain with us forever.


Leadership Award
To recognize an individual who has shown leadership in improving housing in Canada through program innovation, policy change, outreach, and/or advocacy efforts.

Alexandra Wilson

Chief Executive Officer, The Agency for Co-operative Housing

Alexandra Wilson has had a long and illustrious career in the co-op and affordable housing sector. Notably, Alexandra served as the Executive Director of the Co-op Housing Federation of Canada from 1990 to 2005, during
which time she played an instrumental role in promoting the role and value of coops with federal decision makers. 

In 2005, Alexandra was the lead proponent in creating the Agency for Cooperative Housing, which manages co-operative housing programs in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and PEI. Since 2007, its first full year of operation, the Agency has achieved remarkable results as a risk-based, data-driven, client-focused organization. For example, compliance with operating agreements has increased by 15 percentage points; the percentage of clients with agreement breaches and material compliance variances has fallen 44 per cent from the base year; and more than half the portfolio comprises co-ops at low or moderate risk as opposed to 39 per cent in 2007. These results are a testament to Alexandra’s leadership.

Recently, Alexandra has been named to the Board of Directors of the International Co-operative Alliance, solidifying Alexandra’s involvement in the international co-operative movement that started with her involvement with international development with the Canadian Cooperative Association.

Throughout her career, Alexandra has exemplified the qualities of a leader, and in so doing, has helped strengthen the co-op and affordable housing sector throughout Canada.


Community Builder Award
To recognize an individual, business or organization that has had a major impact at the community level in promoting affordable housing and/or preventing and ending homelessness.

Lord Selkirk Park Housing Project

North End Community Renewal Corporation (Winnipeg, MB)

In the 1990s and into the early 2000s, Lord Selkirk Park, Winnipeg’s largest public housing complex was half-empty—people didn’t want to live there. It was regularly referred to by residents as a “war zone,” because of the high level of street gang activity and related violence. In 2005 the North End Community Renewal Corporation began a community development initiative in Lord Selkirk Park, funded by a federal government Comprehensive Community Initiative grant. The aim of the initiative was to improve safety, and revitalize the community.

This work evolved over an eight-year period. The result is a dramatically transformed community. Every housing unit was renovated and is now occupied; where once Lord Selkirk Park was a war zone, now there is a wait list of people wanting to live in the neighbourhood. A new resource centre is a hub of community activity, and is having a profound impact on the lives of community residents. A new adult learning centre, adult literacy centre, and childcare centre were introduced, and there are waiting lists for both. Sixty newcomer families, mostly African and many Muslim, have moved into the largely Indigenous community and have integrated smoothly and happily.

At a time when low-income Canadians are facing a severe rental housing crisis, Lord Selkirk Park represents a beacon of hope and an excellent example of how to rebuild a troubled community.


CHRA-Rooftops Canada Internatwional Service Award
Recognizes an individual or an organizational member of CHRA that has actively supported Rooftops Canada’s international development work.

BC Housing

BC Housing’s support for Rooftops Canada started with the participation of its CEO, Shayne Ramsay in a 2008 study visit to East Africa. He followed this up with education and fundraising activities within both BC Housing and CHRA.

BC Housing supported several study visits to BC from the National Association of Social Housing Organizations (NASHO) in South Africa. Most recently, in November 2017, this involved four participants in the Equal Spaces to End Spatial Apartheid in South Africa Project. The four included two from the Social Housing Regulatory Authority and two from social housing providers representing NASHO. They spent half a day with BC Housing which also arranged social housing site visits. Karen Hemmingson was also a resource person to another study visit from the Equal Spaces project to Toronto in March 2017. She played a valuable role in explaining how BC Housing and the sector collaborate in the development and management of social housing.

In 2015, Karen Hemmingson, BC Housing’s Chief Research Officer, provided three months of technical assistance support to NASHO, working with Catherine Boucher on capacity building for rapidly expanding social housing institutions. She also help Rooftops Canada’s partner WAT Human Settlements Trust in Dar es Salam, Tanzania with strategic planning and organizational development.

BC Housing has helped to promote Canadian values and Canadian expertise in areas of the globe most in need, which clearly makes BC Housing a deserving recipient of the Rooftops Canada International Service Award.



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