Hi, I’m Nicole, a humanitarian worker with a background in journalism and human rights activism.
I was born in Vancouver, grew up in a small community in Nova Scotia, and now call Toronto home. I’m a queer, non-binary, Acadian settler raised by a single mother, and these intersections inform the work I do, and the way I engage with the world.
I’ve worked in coffee shops, movie theatres, arcades and in retail mall stores. I know first-hand what it’s like to work minimum wage jobs in expensive cities and think all Canadians deserve to be paid a living wage. After many years working these jobs, I went back to school to study journalism with a goal to shed light on underreported crises and human rights abuses.
I spent time working with journalists in Zambia and Sierra Leone, supporting them to report more effectively on human rights abuses. I spent time volunteering at an independent newspaper in Moldova championing human rights as well as some time in Geneva volunteering for an organization that had me going to the UN Human Rights Council daily.
For the past decade, I have been engaged in humanitarian work, overseas and also in Canada, responding to countless natural disasters, mass migrations, protracted crises and epidemics. My first humanitarian mission was to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and I returned several years later to respond to Hurricane Matthew. I have also supported responses to cholera in Sierra Leone, and to the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. I was in Nepal after the earthquake in 2015, in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, and in Bosnia recently for a mass migration response. In Canada, I supported a BC wildfire operation, as well as the Alberta floods response in 2012.
Most recently, I have been supporting COVID-19 responses abroad remotely. I firmly believe in an equitable and just recovery from COVID-19, which has so clearly exposed the gaps in Canada’s healthcare system and has affected folks already most marginalized.
What I Care About
I have seen first-hand the devastating impacts of natural disasters, increasing year after year, while responding to earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. No matter where the disaster, it’s always the same people impacted over and over, those already living in precarious conditions, struggling long before the disaster strikes. We can’t keep reacting to disasters as they happen, we need to proactively put systems in place that protect those most impacted, while taking strong actions on reducing emissions and investing in renewable energy.
If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed even further, it’s the homelessness crisis we’re facing in Toronto. We need to put into action plans that have been in the works for years and promised by governments but not implemented. Governments are putting money into temporary housing, but what we really need is for that money to be invested into long-term, sustainable, affordable, and supportive housing solutions. We also need to take a step back and work with communities to identify what they need, and work with them on creating infrastructure to meet those needs.
There are a large number of folks across the city of Toronto who are underhoused and being pushed out of their own communities. We need to do a better job of protecting these community members by closing loopholes around evictions and making it harder to raise rents.
Equitable Access to Healthcare
I’ve worked in field hospitals sent to support folks affected by disasters in last mile contexts, where I’ve seen inequitable access to healthcare magnified. I believe in a healthcare system that prioritizes mental health along with physical health, and where eyes and teeth are taken care of just like the rest of the body. This also means having equitable access to gender affirming surgeries across Canada, which I have been able to receive, but where many barriers to access still remain. We must remove those barriers and acknowledge the systemic racism and transphobia that exists in healthcare, and work to do more to ensure everyone has access to the healthcare and medications they need, at no cost.
I have worked in refugee camps and spoken to folks who’ve travelled for years, sometimes with young children, escaping horrific situations in their home countries. We need to make sure Canada welcomes more refugees, and we need to work to remove the barriers and bureaucracy around this process. Once they’re in our community, we need to do more to support their integration, and ensure they have access to all the services they need.
I grew up in Saint Mary’s Bay, in Nova Scotia, where recently Mi'kmaw fishers have been exercising their right to fish for a moderate livelihood. I stand firmly with the Mi'kmaw and all other Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island asserting their rights to land and resources.
As queer and non-binary, I work to support 2SLGBTQIA+ rights in my community and as part of the Ontario NDP LGBTQ Committee. We need to do more, especially to affirm the rights and protection of trans people of colour, both in Canada and abroad. I also believe that Canada can and should play a greater role championing 2SLGBTQIA+ rights on the world stage.