Mayor Jim Watson, with Somerset Ward Councillor Diane Holmes, today presented the Mayor’s City Builder Award to Jeremy Dias for his tireless volunteer work and outstanding contributions to the community.
As a youth, Jeremy was motivated by social and political inequality to take action, volunteering with numerous organizations and charities. In high school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, he started and led various clubs, including Stop Racism and Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving. He also founded and coordinated Sault Ste. Marie’s first regional LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning) youth group.
After coming out in high school, Jeremy faced discrimination by students and school officials. He experienced daily bullying, violence and other forms of assault by students and teachers. At 17, he began a legal case against his school and school board and at 21 won Canada’s second largest human rights settlement.
Now at the University of Ottawa, Jeremy used the settlement proceeds to found Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative and its annual event, the International Day of Pink, where students come to school wearing pink to raise awareness of homophobic and transphobic bullying. The event was so successful in 2010 that more than 7.2 million people wore pink.
Jeremy worked as board chair of Jer’s Vision and now as a volunteer director manages finances and is actively engaged in programming, workshops and day-to-day operations. Under his direction, Jer’s Vision began as a small youth charity managing a scholarship and speaker’s bureau. Their work in Canada was unique as they were one of a few organizations whose anti-homophobic and transphobic bullying work focused on straight people and working to turn bullies and bystanders into allies.
Within five years, the small organization became Canada’s third largest LGBT organization working across the country and internationally doing workshops and presentations. Volunteers pick up where presenters leave off and continue to mentor youth, teachers and schools to create safer and more respectful spaces.
The workshops and presentations reach more than 75,000 people and the organization has a budget of $92,000. Jeremy’s ability to turn a negative school experience into something that helps thousands of people every day and to mobilize volunteers, engage politicians and celebrities is remarkable.
In addition to his work at Jer’s Vision, Jeremy continues to volunteer with a number of organizations including, Housing Help, the Canadian Human Rights Monument and the International Imperial Court.
The Mayor’s City Builder Award is a civic honour created by Mayor Watson to recognize an individual, group or organization that has, through outstanding volunteerism or exemplary action, demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to making our city a better place today and for the future. This may include lifelong service, outstanding acts of kindness, inspiring charitable work, community building or other exemplary achievements. Individuals, groups or organizations may be nominated by members of City Council or the public. The award is presented at the beginning of each City Council meeting.
For the full list of City Builders, please click here.