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PeerWorks 2024 Annual Conference and Lighthouse Awards

May 10, 2024

The Annual Conference and Lighthouse Awards took place on April 30th and May 1st. This year, the “Gathering Together, Dreaming Together, and Transforming Together” conference consistently reminded us that we must look to the past, not only to know the future but to remember how far we have come. 

Opening Speech by Allyson Theodorou, PeerWorks Operations Director

We first felt this when Lee de Bie, Ph.D., presented PeerWorks’ “Drift from Peer Support Values and Standards: A Position Statement and Call for Action.” The document, born from a culmination of focus groups, interviews, and consultations over the past two years, was a potent reminder of how the peer support movement began and how we must continue to protect its authenticity and integrity.

Lee's presentation

A screening of “Beyond Their Years,” a documentary about sports and social justice icons Herb Carnegie (hockey) and Buck O’Neil (baseball), followed by a talk by Carnegie’s granddaughter, Brooke Chambers, was a powerful moment for reflection on the audience but also those in the sports world who knew them. Without Herb Carnegie and Buck O’Neil, many Black athletes in their respective fields may have missed out on a chance to play the game professionally due to the anti-Black racism, which has historically dominated every part of society in the United States and Canada, including sports. It was also a beautiful reminder of how the power of lived experience and peer support can manifest in many forms.

Brooke Chambers discusses her grandfather, Herb Carnegie, and Buck O'Neil's legacies

At the Lighthouse Awards, Seth Compton, our formidable keynote speaker and Founder and Executive Director of OUTLoud North Bay, set the tone for reflecting on the past. He spoke about his painful struggles with gender dysphoria and the barriers that prevented him from realizing his true self. He spoke beautifully about how he overcame these barriers and how they became a driving force in creating an inclusive space for at-risk youth from 2SLGBTQ+ and marginalized communities in North Bay. Our award winners continued these themes of reflecting on how far they have come and the obstacles they have had to overcome to become incredible pillars of support for others in their communities. 

Keynote Address by Seth Compton

On the second day of the conference, Allan (Al) Strong reflected on the history of the Consumer/Survivor movement over the decades. Tanya Shute accompanied it with a discussion of the early findings of a study conducted with PeerWorks on data collection practices. As Al walked us through each decade, starting with the 1960s, the conference attendees were allowed to reflect on how far we have come and how things have changed along the way. 

Tanya Shute and Allan Strong

After two days of reflection, community-building, and brainstorming, we left the conference reinvigorated. Though we come from different corners of the Ontario province and sometimes may feel very alone in this work, we were reminded how many of us there are and how strong we are as a collective. As Seth Compton aptly said, “We become the architects of infinity.”

PeerWorks wants to thank the Honorable Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, for his opening remarks at our conference, Seth Compton for his moving keynote address, our esteemed panellists, community members who brought zines, books, and resources, and everyone who attended the conference. We also want to acknowledge the incredible individuals and organizations honoured at this year’s Lighthouse Awards. 

Opening Remarks by Hon. Michael Tibollo

Lighthouse Award Winners

Theresa Claxton-Wali Community Impact Award

Donna Forget

Peer of the Year 

Erin Russell

Kimberly Swan

Unsung Hero

Kathy Stevenson

Community Builders

House of Friendship

 Innovators Award

 Nipissing University Peer Support Program