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Calgary Awards 2024 recipients

Incredible Happens Here

Through their exceptional achievements and contributions, these Calgarians and organizations make life better in Calgary.

Incredible Happens Here

Click on each award to see photos, biographies, and videos.

2024 Calgary Awards presentation

The 2024 Calgary Awards were presented on Wednesday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m. Video of the presentation will be added here when available.

City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

Clem Martini for Cantata and The Extinction Therapist

Clem Martini

Clem Martini (born at Calgary 25 Aug 1956) is a celebrated playwright, novelist, and screenwriter with over thirty plays, and thirteen books of fiction and nonfiction to his credit. His text on playwriting, The Blunt Playwright is employed by colleges and universities across the country. His books include Upside Down: A Family’s Journey Through Mental Illness, the W.O. Mitchell Award-winning Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness and the Alberta Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award-winning, The Unravelling. A passionate advocate on behalf of issues associated with suicide, mental-illness-related-stigma, and family caregiving, Clem Martini was a member of the Canadian Mental Health Commission, and has been an invited speaker at a number of conferences, symposia and health related gatherings. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada, a recipient of the ATB Financial Healing through the Arts Award and a Professor of Drama in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary.

Clem Martini video profile

Community Achievement Award: Arts

Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation

Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation logo

The Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI) has been a groundbreaking and transformative influence on Calgary's arts community since it formed in 2019. With a mission to connect, empower and advocate for immigrant and newcomer artists and arts and culture workers, the ICAI provides specialized resources to support an inclusive environment, removing professional barriers for newcomers, and creating an atmosphere in which every arts professional can thrive.

ICAI stands as the third organization of its kind in North America, pioneering paid mentorship opportunities for arts professionals and connecting over 1,500 immigrants and newcomers to the arts sector in Calgary every year. Through this work, the organization’s programs bring a greater diversity of artistic backgrounds and cultural traditions to Calgary that enrich our city’s artistic landscape.

In its first 3 years, ICAI created opportunities for 400 arts professionals to access paid opportunities in their field. The Newcomer Arts Professional Program (NAPP) is ICAI's flagship initiative providing paid mentorship, professional development, and networking opportunities. NAPP is the fourth program of its kind in North America after New York City, Quebec and Toronto and has already transformed the arts sector in Calgary. This year, ICAI will expand NAPP, doubling the number of newcomers impacted through the program.

By creating safe and inclusive spaces for immigrant arts professionals, ICAI's unique services are creating a more expansive and welcoming arts ecosystem in Calgary. ICAI shines bright in the Calgary arts community, improving the diversity of artistic traditions available for Calgarians to experience, and ensuring the cultural tapestry of Calgary’s arts sector from this point forward.

Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation video profile

Community Achievement Award: Calgarian of the Year

Heather Culbert

Calgarian of the Year Heather Culbert

To say Heather Culbert is a leader in the community is a vast understatement of her impact on Calgary. She is best described as an innovator and change-maker in countless community-enhancing initiatives in our city. Calgary is fortunate that Heather decided to step away from her executive position after nearly three decades in the oil and gas sector to focus her time, passion, and attention towards improving our community.

In the last decade, she has served as chair of SAIT’s Board of Governors and co-chaired the Promising Futures Campaign; she serves as Chair and co-founder of both Board Ready Women and Axis Connects and the CIWB awards, where she works tirelessly with her fellow volunteers towards the advancement of women on local Boards and helping women advance their careers in Calgary’s business community. She has volunteered as a trustee for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, was a past chair for United Way of Calgary and Area, and currently serves as chairperson of the United Way World Leadership Council.

Heather’s efforts do not end there. In 2021, she set out on one of her most important philanthropic missions by being a champion for the new cancer centre, now named The Arthur JE Child Comprehensive Cancer Centre. As co-Chair for the OWN.CANCER campaign, she leads the efforts to raise over $250 million for the OWN.CANCER campaign as co-chair of the campaign and, to date, donations are $225 million has been to ensure the success of the only comprehensive cancer centre in Canada which will lead the way for some of the best cancer treatments in North America. Thanks to Heather and her fellow OWN.CANCER volunteers and supporters, the Calgary Cancer Centre is set to open its doors this year and will have an incredible impact in Calgary and Alberta to improve the survival rates and outcomes for individuals battling cancer.

Heather Culbert video profile

Community Achievement Award: Community Advocate-Individual

Karen Begg

Karen Begg

Karen Begg is a long-time community advocate, volunteer, and outstanding neighbour; not to mention a professional artist with artwork displayed in five installments along the 17 BRT Max Purple line. For over 40 years, Karen’s enrichment of our city has also been exhibited through her actions as a dedicated community advocate, and her interest in the betterment of our city and her fellow community members.

Karen goes out of her way to make a positive impact and support initiatives that add value to the lives of her fellow residents. As a resident of Dover, Karen has initiated and supported several community-based projects including Jane's Walk, Free Food Pantry, anti-graffiti initiatives, Little Free Library, Free Seed Library, The City's Neighbourhood Grants Committee, and the beautification of her Community Garden. Karen is also the President of Elephant Artist Relief Society (EAR) and champions the arts community through initiatives and programs she oversees in that role that provide professional and personal support and resources to creative professionals.

Karen optimizes the definition of community advocate with the transformative and positive work that has impacted Calgary and made life better every day for the residents in her community.

Karen Begg video profile

Community Achievement Award: Community Advocate-Organization

Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary

Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary logo

Friendship centers have a long and important history across Canada. The Aboriginal Friendship Center of Calgary (AFCC) is an organization that assists urban Indigenous people who enter the city and struggle with a number of social conditions. These include exclusion, racism, and involvement in “sorrow system” including justice, social housing supports and involvement in child welfare services.

The AFCC went above and beyond in 2023 by establishing and opening the AFCC Elders Lodge - a 12-unit Indigenous seniors apartment complex offering vulnerable Indigenous community members a place to stay and thrive. Through the dedicated support of the housing staff, Indigenous Elders and seniors will find companionship at the lodge and wrap around supports to assist with daily living. The first-of-its-kind building was designed to include cultural spaces for community members to regain cultural practices which in turn may be shared with family and community seeking knowledge and support.

The AFCC plays a critical role in Calgary as a community leader in the advocacy of Indigenous social and cultural services while serving as a support and community resource to other Indigenous service agencies on the local, provincial, and national level. With a mission to offer holistic and traditional approaches to a broad spectrum of specialized services providers to urban Indigenous people across Calgary, the AFCC is making a real difference in the lives they touch.

Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary video profile

Community Achievement Award: Education

Bill Rosehart

Bill Rosehart

Dr. Bill Rosehart has been Dean of the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary since 2014. A passionate advocate and leader for excellence in engineering education through innovation and community building, Bill has collaboratively led a faculty that is home to over 6000 students.

Bill was appointed as Schulich’s Dean in April 2014 and has been committed to supporting and advancing both individual leaders and a high-performing leadership team. He has led Schulich in launching new undergraduate, graduate, and transfer programs. These initiatives, which include new undergraduate programs in Sustainable Systems Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, and a one-year Master of Engineering Software Specialization, have expanded student access to the engineering profession. Bill is particularly proud of Schulich’s efforts in the past decade to inspire the next generation of engineers through youth (K-12) outreach activities and programs including Women in Engineering Day, Go Eng Girl, Cybermentor, Minds in Motion, Schulich Ignite, Discover Engineering, U-Connect and Engineering for Humanity. Since the 2019 introduction of the Diversity Champions in Engineering Award, Schulich has provided a $4,000 entrance award to 60-80 incoming first-year students per year who have been selected and engaged through the faculty’s commitment to championing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Unrelenting in his pursuit of excellence, new programs, teaching strategies and collaboration spaces, Bill’s leadership at the Schulich School of Engineering has increased the breadth of engineering opportunities in Calgary. Keeping ‘local students local’ and producing skilled graduates – many of whom stay in Calgary to live and work – has strengthened our community and benefits the local.

Bill Rosehart video profile

Community Achievement Award: Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement

Elaine Cairns

Elaine Cairns

Elaine Cairns is the co-Executive Director of the Further Education Society of Alberta (FESA) which she co-founded in 1996. With over 30 years of experience in education and the field of literacy, Elaine is a literacy specialist, workplace learning specialist, mentor, facilitator, and trainer. Elaine has been a longtime advocate of the importance of women’s leadership, literacy, and foundational learning. She has participated in both provincial and federal committees on literacy policy and was the President of Literacy Alberta.

Elaine is the co-author of the award-winning, nationally recognized, Literacy and Parenting Skills (LAPS), an innovative family literacy program that provides literacy and parenting skills training to vulnerable parents and assists them to build their children’s literacy and reading skills. Elaine has partnered with Indigenous-serving agencies, on curriculum development for Indigenous low-literate learners, and visited many remote and isolated communities to offer training and mentoring of Indigenous community workers.

Elaine led FESA to develop a strength-based integrated approach that is highly successful in assisting low-literate learners and the organizations that work with them. Her commitment and compassionate advocacy of literacy has transformed the lives of many Calgarian families. Upon her retirement this year, Elaine leaves a significant legacy of dedication to women’s leadership, literacy and learning in Calgary.

Elaine Cairns video profile

Community Achievement Award: Heritage

Edworthy Park Heritage Society

Edworthy Park Heritage Society book

The Edworthy Park Heritage Society was incorporated as a registered charity and non-profit society in 1991, with one of the groups objectives being to foster awareness of the archaeology, natural history, and history of the cultural landscape of Edworthy Park.

In 2022, the Society published a comprehensive and inclusive book, Shaganappi Point and Edworthy Park; A New History, Inniiwaa'Iitaainniksissta'Poohpi Where the Buffalo Run Down the Hill. The book includes overviews of the archaeology, paleontology, and geology, and history of the area. Through the advice from Indigenous elders, indigenous studies professors and knowledge keepers, the book contains history specific to First Nations cultures and stories in the Blackfoot, Tsuut'ina and Stoney languages. It also presents the history of the Métis in early Calgary, and the small hivernant settlement at Shaganappi Point, making it the first publication about the Métis history in this geographical area. The book also has new, unpublished material from primary sources about settler history, with a focus on the historic quarries along the Shaganappi escarpment. 

Along with publishing the book and donating copies to public organizations in Calgary and archives and universities across Canada, the society has installed interpretive signage at the park, developed a short monograph on the history of the park and surrounding areas, and sponsored history talks. The Edworthy Park Heritage Society is enriching Calgarians future understanding of Edworthy Park by keeping its history alive.   

Edworthy Park Heritage Society video profile

Community Achievement Award: Social Impact-Business

Park by Sidewalk Citizen and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Park by Sidewalk Citizen logo

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery started in 2009 as a one-person delivery operation for zero carbon emissions. The company’s first $2,500 from bread sales were donated to CODE, the Canadian Organization for Development Through Education. The business mission statement has been to become a contributing part of Calgary’s community by supporting local organizations as well as local growers and producers.

Today, the bakery in East Village and Park restaurant are well-known and well-loved award-winning culinary landmarks in Calgary. They have kept true to Sidewalk Citizen’s original goals of providing exceptional quality products using local ingredients, having a minimal environmental footprint and cultivating a community.

Park Restaurant in Central Memorial Park, launched in 2019, continues the vision by creating a space and a menu to serve as designed to be a community hub with a menu, meant for sharing. Designed and built locally, the unique solarium structure is one of a kind, winning international and national awards for its unique design and sustainable build.

However the most impactful and distinctive contribution to the city is the Tzavta Salon series, bringing global leaders and thinkers for a meaningful conversation and a unique intersection between academia, art, philosophy and science. Collaborating with numerous organizations in Calgary, the salons have been a true community builder. A new series of talks has recently been added in collaboration with Women in Science and Engineering at the University of Calgary. Through the Salon series, Michal formed a collaboration with Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Nadia Murad to launch a foundation for women’s rights advocating for social justice.

Park, as a business, is designed to ensure the space is available for these kinds of intimate, creative, unpredictable and warm gatherings. They are as central to Park’s business model as the organic sourdough that made the Sidewalk Citizen famous in Calgary.

Park by Sidewalk Citizen and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery video profile

Community Achievement Award: Youth

Laiba Nasir

Laiba Nasir

While most students in Grade 10 are trying to figure out life in high school, Laiba Nasir founded the Medically Autonomous Youth Society to bridge gaps in medical education for young people in Calgary. The society produces youth autonomy guides for 12 medical clinics across Calgary, attempting to help youth find the resources necessary to transition from pediatric into adult healthcare.

Laiba is a dedicated volunteer at the Calgary Distress Centre and was quickly promoted to Leadership Volunteer because of her maturity and ability to connect with individuals in crisis, offer non-judgmental support, and recognize when someone is at immediate risk. Laiba is an advocate for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) access for rural Indigenous students, a Youth Consultant for Alberta Health Services, a collaborator with Canadians for Global Care, and involved with TAKMIL-Canada who provide education to over 3000 out-of-school children in developing countries.

While doing all of this, Laiba also was chosen as a delegate to the 2024 Experiences Canada National Youth Forum. She is also a prolific debater, winning over 35 awards from various debate and speech competitions, and this is just the tip of the iceberg of her community involvement and achievements over the past couple of years. Calgary is a better place because of this ambitious high schooler dedicated to helping our communities and influencing positive change now and into the future.   

Laiba Nasir video profile

Environmental Achievement Award

Goodwill Industries of Alberta

Goodwill Industries of Alberta logo

For 60 years, Goodwill Industries of Alberta has been a leader in programs that provide employment opportunities for Albertans with disabilities, while also prioritizing sustainability and the environment. With the establishment of Goodwill@Work in 2023, Calgary is benefiting from Goodwill’s dedication to a circular economy and zero waste goal.

The Repair for Good and Cleaning Cloth programs are two key initiatives under the Goodwill@Work umbrella focused on reducing the amount of furniture and textiles entering landfills and training persons with disabilities to gain skills and employment, all while maximizing the value of furniture donations sold in Goodwill’s thrift stores. Both programs are staffed by Calgarians with disabilities and operate to upcycle, refurbish or recycle items unable to be sold in-store. The achievements of Goodwill@Work in Calgary are evidence of the ability to think outside of the box when it comes to repurposing and upcycling items that formerly ended up in landfills. Province-wide in 2022, Goodwill diverted 18,220,130 kgs from Alberta landfills. With over 20 million kg's donated to Goodwill, this means 87 per cent of items were diverted utilizing re-purpose, reuse, upcycle and recycle initiatives, in large part thanks to Goodwill@Work. The diversion rate is at an all-time high for Goodwill Industries of Alberta as the organization focuses on becoming a zero-waste operation.

Goodwill Industries of Alberta continues to make a difference in the lives of Albertans, strengthening people and communities through the power of work and the dignity of a job. This group is living up to their core purpose of “Impacting People and the Planet for an Amazing Alberta”.

Goodwill Industries of Alberta video profile

International Achievement Award

Naser El-Sheimy

Naser El-Sheimy

Dr. Naser El-Sheimy has made breakthroughs in mobile mapping and positioning technology that have changed the way individuals navigate. He has made global positioning a global reality, placing Calgary on the world stage as a centre of geomatics research excellence.

As a professor of geomatics engineering at the University of Calgary, Dr. Naser El-Sheimy's innovations underpin everything from smartphone location capabilities to Google Street View. His work enables self-driving cars to navigate safely, firefighters to locate wildfires, and search and rescue teams to find vulnerable or injured people - even without a satellite connection. This transformative technology makes it possible to find a precise location anytime, anywhere, and in any type of condition.

Dr. El-Sheimy is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Multi-Sensor Systems, a cherished mentor of generations of engineering students, and an entrepreneur who brings his technology to the market through patents and startups. He founded TECTERRA, the largest geomatics innovation hub in Canada, right here in Calgary. TECTERRA has launched hundreds of Canadian startups and brought millions of dollars to the local, provincial, and national economies. He also elevates Calgary talent by funding student scholarships, providing graduates with industry connections, and supporting trainee entrepreneurship.

While his roots are firmly planted in the city, he has a global reach, teaching, presenting, and collaborating with peers across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Dr. El-Sheimy is recognized as a Killam Professor, a Fellow by the US-based Institute of Navigation, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Engineering Institute of Canada, the highest honours a Canadian engineer can receive. His achievements have put Calgary at the heart of global navigation research.

Naser El-Sheimy video profile