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Youth Leaders

Jeremy Dias, Youth Leader

For Jeremy Dias the fight against discrimination and violence has been a long one in a young life. After coming out in high school, Jeremy faced prejudice and violence from both students and staff. At just 17 years of age, he brought a legal case against his school and school board and four years later won Canada’s largest human rights settlement. Jeremy used the money from the settlement to found Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative, and later the Day of Pink, an international day against bullying, discrimination and homophobia in schools and communities.

In less than five years Jer’s Vision has become one of the world’s largest diversity organizations. Jer’s Vision and the Day of Pink work with youth locally and around the world to engage them in efforts that promote community safety and crime prevention.

Jer’s Vision now runs more than 40 programs, focusing on key areas of education, arts, community involvement and supporting youth ideas. There are more than 800 volunteers involved in Jer’s Vision and the organization worked with more than 30,000 students last year alone. They expect to double that number this year. In 2008-2009 a million people participated in the Day of Pink.

A unique aspect of Jer’s Vision’s in-school programs is that they are customized to fit the school’s needs and address challenges that are specific to each school. Programming can focus on LGBTQ issues, or those of diversity and bullying. Often programming involves education through the arts, and mentoring of younger students by older ones. This year programming will take place in Ottawa and Northern Ontario, Halifax and the surrounding area, in Alberta, BC, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Outside of the school programs, Jer’s Vision also maintains a Poetry Journal that explores poems about diversity and discrimination, and runs a Theatre Company, Troupe de la Lune, which performs at the University of Ottawa and at the Fringe Theatre Festival. The organization is also involved in many youth engagement initiatives and a women’s project, supporting young women and encouraging men to address sexism. Jer’s Vision participates on committees and community boards and runs two annual conferences in region every year.

When asked, Jeremy will tell you that his passion for community and education-based solutions to prevent crime is about team work, and that he is supported by many volunteers, employees and board members from Jer’s Vision, who work very hard to make these many initiatives happen. Jeremy believes that crime prevention is indeed everyone’s responsibility and knows the actions of his wide network of supporters reflect this belief.

Although Jeremy’s time is now split between completing a degree in Psychology and Political Science at University of Ottawa and involvement in many other volunteer organizations, he retains the role of volunteer Executive Director for Jer’s Vision and remains committed to his vision of greater understanding and diversity in support of crime prevention and community safety.

Joshua Zanin, Youth Leader

As a University of Ottawa student and reporter for The Fulcrum, Joshua Zanin took a special interest in Sandy Hill. The neighbourhood contains a diverse mix of peoples, from homeowners to students, diplomats and the less fortunate. At the time, Joshua covered police zero tolerance initiatives and student safety issues. He reported on students being hit with fines they could not afford to pay. His personal turning point came on an eight-hour police ride-along one night. He saw first-hand many of the issues that were troubling the wider community of Sandy Hill, including drinking, late-night parties and noise. He found that people were not talking to one another.

That’s when he sprang to action. In a column for The Fulcrum, he called on both sides to bridge the gulf and work together to improve relations. He joined the local community association, Action Sandy Hill. For four years, he has worked tirelessly to improve the level of community safety enjoyed by all residents.

Now Vice-President of Action Sandy Hill, Joshua believes community safety does not revolve only around crime statistics. Quality of life, safety and security are critical. More fundamentally, he knows the importance of building a sense of community and ensuring that all voices are part of the discussion.

Through his efforts, Joshua has vastly improved relations between students, homeowners and the police. He spearheaded the creation of the annual Welcome Barbecue so that new students and residents can meet and get to know each other as neighbours.  He helped build strong working relationships between the police and the Students’ Federation of the University of Ottawa, allowing police to directly address student safety issues on- and off-campus.

He also helped establish the Good Neighbours Committee to work on long-standing crime and disorder issues which have plagued the area for years. Membership includes: the University of Ottawa, student representatives, residents, Action Sandy Hill, Councilor George Bédard, Ottawa Police and City By-Law Services.

Today, the links between the university, residents, students and the police are strong. Asked why he sticks with it, despite the challenges and false starts, Joshua says he’s simply stubborn. He wants to see progress in dealing proactively with problems before police and bylaw have to get involved. Though he admits, “we’re not there yet,” his commitment to Sandy Hill is strong. As Joshua says, “Sandy Hill is a unique and exciting neighbourhood. There’s a lot of history, and a lot of history that can be made.”