This great honour is awarded to Celina Caesar-Chavannes to mark her significant involvement in the Black community, be it in healthcare or in the political arena. Created at the first edition of the SIFN in 2018, the Viola-Desmond Award recognizes the contribution of Black Women who have led the way and contributed to the advancement of all Women.
An engaged recipient Celina Caesar-Chavannes is an independent member of Ontario’s Whitby constituency. Before embarking on a career in politics, she was an entrepreneur and consultant. Winner of several awards, including the Toronto Board of Trade's Business Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012, Ms. Caesar-Chavannes is also an international speaker. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto, an MBA in Health Management and an Executive MBA from the Rotman School of Management. Ms. Caesar-Chavannes has served on the Board of Directors of the University of Toronto, and the Advisory Board of the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, one of Canada's leading health research institutes. Ms Caesar- Chavannes is also a member of the Black Women's Congress.
Through the many leadership positions she has held within councils and organizations, Ms. Caesar-Chavannes has addressed important issues facing the Black community. She has, among others, denounced to Parliament the micro-aggressions and racism that Blacks in Canada, especially Black Women, experience due to their choices of style or hairstyle. She also spoke publicly about the racism of some politicians towards Blacks and women. Ms. Caesar-Chavannes also dared to speak openly about mental health issues in Black communities, a subject which is still a taboo.
These important denunciations make Celina Caesar-Chavannes a woman whose involvement in the Black community is recognized by all. It is with great pride that the SIFN gives her the Viola Desmond Prize for the 2019 edition.
Awarded in honour of Viola Desmond, who has long fought for the civic rights of Black communities in Canada, this annual award recognizes the contribution of a Black woman to this cause through her work, her beliefs and her perseverance. To receive this merit, a candidate must have made a significant contribution to the advancement of women at a time when it was not always easy to take her place. At the first edition, the Viola- Desmond prize was awarded to Dr. Yvette Bonny, a pediatrician and hematologist at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont.