Our diverse staff serve Ontarians in their workplaces and in their communities.
We will use this space to tell their stories and how we all benefit from their commitment, compassion and professionalism. We will also highlight key achievements and initiatives in fostering stronger, safer communities across the province.
On September 20, 2017, Correctional Services staff were honoured for their outstanding contributions to helping keep Ontarians safe. In the majestic Great Hall of the University of Toronto’s Hart House, 33 correctional workers and volunteers received citations at the Correctional Services Awards Ceremony. It was the first time the awards were presented in a single ceremony and the first time a member of correctional services received a Premier’s Award, which was presented by Premier Kathleen Wynne to Linda Ogilvie.
As a corporate health care manager in the ministry’s corrections programs branch, Linda’s nursing background has helped meet the health care needs of custodial clients and deliver effective health care services in an institutional setting. Linda was instrumental in leading the implementation of the Ontario Telemedicine Network, which has delivered telemedicine services to correctional facilities across the province. This service has resulted in reduced wait times, costs and safety risks associated with community escorts.
After presenting the award, Premier Wynne invited Linda to say a few words. “I am overwhelmed,” said Ogilvie. “This award is not really mine alone as I wouldn’t be here without the expertise, insight, hard work and sacrifice of the people I work with and for.”
Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, presented Minister’s Awards for bravery, humanitarian service, volunteer service and two special recognition awards. One of the highlights was the presentation to the Thunder Bay Institutional Crisis Intervention Team for their brave and skilled handling of a serious incident at the Thunder Bay Jail. In addition to the team award, Correctional Officer Bill Hayes was cited for his bravery during the incident and two Special Recognition awards were given to Sergeant Neil MacDonald and Correctional Officer Joseph Lozer for their pivotal roles in helping bring the crisis to a successful conclusion.
“We are very honoured to be receiving this award and very humbled by the acknowledgment,” said Correctional Officer Warren Giertuga, speaking on behalf of the team. “This event brought us closer together as a unit and served as a huge learning experience. It made us better prepared for potential future incidents.”
Marg Welch, Associate Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, presented the Viola Desmond Deputy Minister’s Awards. Superintendent Jennifer Alphonso and Program Advisor Richard Pierre (retired) were honoured for achievements in diversity and inclusion. For over 30 years, Jennifer Alphonso contributed to programs and services that supported diversity and inclusion. She said, “To be recognized as a recipient of the Viola Desmond Award – named for a woman who exhibited courage and strength for human rights – I am speechless. I am grateful to the women in corrections who nominated me. I didn’t realize they saw a Viola in me.”
Similarly, Richard Pierre’s distinguished 35-year career was recognized for consistently encouraging and supporting under-represented employees and clients, especially Indigenous peoples. “I am honoured and thrilled to have been selected for this award. If I could give one parting piece of advice, it would be that it takes a very long time to effect real change. If you think something needs to be changed; then change it. Do not wait for others to do it for you.”
The following is the full list 2017 Correctional Services Awards recipients:
Correctional Services Premier’s Award
- Manager Linda Ogilvie, Corporate Health Care
Viola Desmond Deputy Minister’s Award
- Superintendent Jennifer Alphonso, Women’s Secure Treatment Unit
- Program Advisor Richard Pierre (retired), Operational Support
Correctional Services Minister’s Award for Bravery
- Correctional Officer Bill Hayes, Thunder Bay Jail
- Thunder Bay Institutional Crisis Intervention Team – Correctional Officers Shawn Bradshaw, Mike Bilokryli, Dan Boychuk, Shane Fillier, Scott Giertuga, Warren Giertuga, Bill Hayes, Raffaeli Tassone, Scott Wark and Provincial Bailiff Chris Smagac
Correctional Services Award, Special Recognition
- Sergeant Neil MacDonald and Correctional Officer Joseph Lozer, Thunder Bay Jail
Correctional Services Minister’s Award for Humanitarian Service
- Correctional Officer Rocky Newton, Niagara Detention Centre
- Correctional Officer Patrick Sproat, Niagara Detention Centre
- Central Region Probation and Parole Employment Connections Committee – Area Manager Andrew Burston, Area Manager Jesse Andrews (retired), Probation and Parole Officers Tamika Charles, Kiesha James, Angelo Vella, Jaime Carrington, Liron Sondak, Susanne Narciso, Laura Klaehn, Suluxan Paramaguru, Raman Bassan, Natalie Beckford and Pavithra Sritharan.
Correctional Services Minister’s Award for Volunteer Service
- Reverend Grace Adams, volunteer, Central North Correctional Centre
- Correctional Officer Warren Giertuga, Thunder Bay Correctional Centre
- Ruth McLellan, volunteer, Algoma Treatment and Remand Centre
Forty-two years ago, a Canadian immigration officer approved the application of an Armenian family seeking a fresh start in Canada. With the stroke of a pen, the lives of Maida Icliates and her family changed forever. Now, she has set the wheels in motion to assist other families escaping war-torn Syria.
Maida has never lost her gratitude for a life in Canada. “I will always be thankful to the immigration officer who approved our case so I could live in one of the best countries in the world and become an Ontario probation and parole officer.” Her gratitude turned into passionate action when Maida founded the Armenian Family Support Services (AFSS) of Holy Trinity Armenian Church in 2004. The organization is designed to close the gap between available social services and those being accessed by Armenian Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area.
As a member of AFSS’s Refugee and Sponsorship committee, Maida interviews and approves applicants wishing to sponsor families from Syria before submitting each case for approval. “When I signed off on our first application, I was overcome with emotion as it was my signature that would now forever change a desperate family. As I mailed the application, I was transported back to 1974 and realized that life had truly come full circle.”
When the first flight touched down in Toronto last December, Maida and her colleagues were at the hotel to greet the newcomers. “There were a lot of tears. They were overwhelmed with happiness and were thankful for a life of hope and promise.”
AFSS has been working hard to submit as many applications as possible while continuing to greet those who arrive. “My Christmas holiday was filled with airport arrivals, hotel runs and furniture and food deliveries. It was exhausting but we prevailed.”
In January, AFSS organized two refugee job fairs in collaboration with the Armenian Community Centre. In March, they partnered with the YMCA Newcomer Information Centre to facilitate a career needs-assessment and resume-writing workshop. In April, the Community Support Circle was launched, a bi-weekly support group for sharing challenges and learning about life in Toronto. Guest speakers discuss various community resources, depending on the week’s theme.
One man’s story is typical of these successful sponsorships. Last August, AFSS presented cases of vulnerable Syrian Armenians who don’t have sponsors to a national teleconference with Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH). The Kingston Anglican Church agreed to several sponsorships. This man had contacted AFSS via Facebook for help as his life as a hairdresser and university student studying Hotel Management was extremely dangerous. Extremists in the Syrian conflict harassed and threatened him for touching women’s hair. They warned they would chop off his hands. His alarmed parents sent him to Lebanon, where he barely subsisted on cleaning buildings and fixing wigs for cancer patients.
AFSS hastily prepared documentation for the Kingston SAH. When Maida told him the church would sponsor him, he said, “This is unbelievable. It’s like a dream come true.”
Today, he is safe and believes in his new life. He refers to his sponsors as ‘tantik’, meaning ‘aunt’ in Armenian, as they are like family. Several weeks after arriving, he was hired as an apprentice hairdresser at a reputable salon.
His story is just one of many successes. The AFSS will continue their work to help refugees live safe, happy lives with dignity. Thank you, Maida, for your dedication to humanitarian work.