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Honouring Allies 2024

| Categories: Educational Leadership, Events & Celebrations, Indigenous
Allies 2024

On May 30, 2024, the auditorium at Magee Secondary hosted the second annual Peter Henderson Bryce Ally awards. 

What are the annual Peter Henderson Bryce Ally awards? 

The VSB Indigenous Education department honours select District staff, as well as others who work alongside them, as allies in advancing and supporting Indigenous knowledge and reconciliation within the school district. 

Who was Peter Henderson Bryce? 

Born in 1853, Dr. Bryce was a Canadian doctor and a pioneer of public health and sanitation policy. He is most notably remembered for his efforts in advocating for better health conditions for Indigenous children living in residential schools. 

As chief medical officer for the Department of Indian Affairs, Dr. Bryce began collecting statistics for Indigenous people across the country and advocated for temporary hospitals near reserves to combat the alarming rate of tuberculosis deaths among Indigenous people (approximately 20 times higher than non-Indigenous people in Canada at the time). 

His report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories exposed the unsanitary living conditions in residential schools and prompted reform for these institutions on a national level. 

The meaning of the awards 

Dr. Bryce’s legacy emphasizes the importance of advocating for what is right, not what is commonplace. 

“Like morals, allyship is what’s done when you think nobody is looking, and nobody is listening,” says Brandon Peters, Indigenous Education curriculum consultant for VSB.  “These people have risen to this occasion.” 

The Indigenous Education department recognizes the same courage and tenacity of Dr. Bryce in the seven allies who are honoured with this year’s award. 

"Allies work alongside Indigenous Educators with humility and respect. They have learned to understand when to step ahead, when to walk alongside and when to step back in the collective work,” says Chas Desjarlais, director of instruction (DOI) for Indigenous Education. “Their commitment and dedication to reflecting on their learning journey helps to transform others understanding.” 

Seven people were honoured for their commitment to reconciliation and deepening relations with Indigenous people. This year’s recipients are: 

  • Teddie Wosk 
  • Janet Fraser 
  • Rose MacKenzie 
  • Celia Jong 
  • Julie Mendgen 
  • Keith Jones 
  • Thomas Hicks 

Teddie Wosk 

Teddie Wosk was born and raised in Vancouver and is a graduate of stəywəte:n̓ Point Grey Secondary. She spent the last nine and a half years as the office administrative assistant in the Indigenous Education department, where she has made many strong connections within the department staff and community. Teddie always goes the extra mile to support her department, and continuously strives to be a good role model for her three children, and as a result, those around her. 

“She is our family, she is our sister. We have adopted her into our Indigenous Education family,” says Chas, welcoming Teddie to the stage. “She has been the glue that kept our department together. She does all this work in a kind way. She is a helper, and she does it in such an unassuming fashion.” 

Teddie feels fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the rich culture and history of the local Nations, and that of many other Indigenous peoples in Canada. She enjoys supporting staff and students and assisting with annual workshops and events.

Janet Fraser 

Janet is a trustee for the Vancouver School Board and is a liaison trustee to the Indigenous Education department. Janet was not able to attend the event. However, Chas shared some words with the audience about Janet, her work, and why her efforts in allyship are being recognized with this award. 

“Janet shows up. Janet helps out. Janet wants to continue to learn,” Chas says. “She’s always there assisting; you never have to ask her for any support. That makes her an ideal candidate for receiving this award. She gets into community and she wants to learn. We’re very, very grateful for her to continue to walk alongside us as a department.” 

Janet was first elected as a trustee in 2014 and was re-elected in 2017 (by-election), 2018 and 2022. Janet served as Board chair for four, one-year terms and is a member of BC School Trustee Association’s Indigenous Education Committee. 

In her own words, Janet adds, “as an immigrant I have much to learn (and unlearn) about Canada’s poor treatment of Indigenous Peoples. Learning the truth of this history is an important step towards reconciliation. In my early years in Canada, I didn’t think truth and reconciliation was something I had to engage with as a new Canadian, but now realize it is essential for all Canadians. It’s especially important to engage with VSB students as they will carry forward this work.” 

Rose MacKenzie 

Rose Mackenzie has worked in education for 40 years as a teacher, mentor and administrator, and is currently at Britannia Secondary. Rose’s dedication to equity and inclusion is unwavering, as she continues to work to amplify the voices of all students. 

“It is her personal mission to ensure every student, especially those on the margins, find their place in the educational narrative,” shares David Delorme, district principal for the Indigenous Education department. “With a humility that speaks volumes, she walks alongside Indigenous families, students and educators, fostering an environment where dignity, pride and purpose are not just ideas, but tangible realities for every graduate.” 

David shares about the experience he had working with Rose, noting her relentless advocacy and commitment to learning. 

“It’s been a real honour to be in the Vancouver School District,” Rose says. “Working with Chas, David and all the other Indigenous Education staff has been transformative for me. Over the last eight years, it’s really changed my way of being, my way of thinking, and the work that still needs to be done.” 

Celia Jong 

Celia is privileged to live and work on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) peoples. 

She is a collaborative arts administrator and artist with a background in film and television, originating from Brisbane, Australia. Her journey led her to Vancouver’s vibrant arts community, where she has contributed to local organizations such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, Arts Umbrella, Bard on the Beach and BC Film. 

“Within VSB, Celia stands as a pillar of support, embodying the values of collaboration and allyship, making her not just a colleague but a cherished friend to all who know her. She’s always someone you can rely one,” says David. “Celia is indeed an ally in every way.” 

Dedicated to the journey of truth and reconciliation and honouring Indigenous First Peoples, Celia is committed to working toward a more inclusive and understanding future with Indigenous communities. 

Julie Mendgen 

Julie began her impressive teaching career at Vancouver Technical Secondary School, where she taught for 20 years. There, she began teaching the English First Peoples courses and completed her diploma as teacher librarian. 

Two years ago, Julie joined the Learning Services Division as a district resource teacher, where she has worked closely with VSB’s Indigenous Education department. She is a passionate advocate of Indigenous authors, always foregrounding Indigenous voices in her choice of resources and speakers. Julie was the primary author of the Indigenous graduation courses start-up guideline documents and was instrumental in the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam)-focus days for professional development. 

“I just want to say how incredibly honoured I am. It is such a privilege to be here,” says Julie. “I am incredibly grateful for all the work VSB’s Indigenous Education department has put in place.” 

Julie is a supportive, compassionate and empathetic ally, who radiates warmth and kindness with her inclusive nature. 

Keith Jones 

Keith Jones has been with VSB since 1992 in a variety of roles. It was not until he arrived at uuqinak’uuh/Grandview in 2006 that his learning of Indigenous issues began in earnest. It was here his allyship was developed by learning from Indigenous staff and community members. 

“You will be hard-pressed to find someone who is more real [than Keith],” says Brandon. “He has worked among our Indigenous kids, and he has been not only a positive role model but an advocate. A fierce one. He has always stood up for our children.” 

Never afraid to challenge assumptions, Keith worked with colleagues to change the dominant narrative to ensure Indigenous ways of knowing and being are at the forefront of their school community. 

“An untold number of Indigenous kids have benefitted from his empathy,” Brandon adds. 

Thomas Hicks 

Thomas has worked for VSB for 10 years and has spent most of his time at Florence Nightingale Elementary School. He is a support worker and has been the anti-racist and diversity lead at the school for several years. He has a focus on anti-Indigenous racism while also on cultivating a school culture that stands up against all forms of discrimination. 

"One thing I have always noticed about Thomas is he walks the talk,” says Brandon. “He put a motion forward to have our flags fly at half-mast for our stolen Indigenous sisters in May. It was that initiative that caused a ripple-effect across the entire Vancouver School Board.”


All recipients were wrapped in a blanket upon receiving their award. A heartfelt appreciation is visibly felt by each recipient, as several were brought to tears by the honour. Applause from the audience celebrated all who received this meaningful award.

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