HALIFAX - While the world bids farewell to iconic anti-apartheid activist and South African leader Nelson Mandela, Nova Scotia is paying tribute to another, home-grown human rights champion.
The late Dr. Burnley “Rocky” Jones has become one of the inaugural recipients of a human rights accolade recently renamed in his honour.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission renamed its individual award the Dr. Burnley Allan “Rocky” Jones Human Rights Award in recognition of the province’s celebrated lawyer and political activist.
Jones died in July 2013. He was 71.
“Rocky gave so much of his life,” said Floria Aghdamimehr, co-chair of Partners for Human Rights. “He was a steadfast promoter and civil rights advocate.”
Aghdamimehr helped to select the award recipients, who were celebrated on Tuesday at an event to mark International Human Rights Day.
The theme was “Speak up Against Discrimination.”
Tuesday’s award ceremony coincided with Mandela’s funeral celebrations taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The event in Halifax honoured Mandela with a minute of silence.
Besides Jones, homelessness activist Sherri Lecker also received the newly-named human rights award.
Lecker said she remembers hearing Mandela in-person while she was working in southern Africa during the fall of South Africa’s apartheid regime.
“Personally, he was the greatest giant I’d ever heard speak,” she said. “He’s the biggest hero in my family.”
Lecker is the executive director of Adsum for Women and Children, a non-profit organization in Halifax dedicated to helping women, children and youth threatened by homelessness.
She described receiving the Rocky Jones human rights award as humbling.
“For me it’s really an affirmation that the work we do matters, that it makes a difference in peoples lives,” she added.
Margaret Mauger of the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre in Truro was the award’s third recipient.
Human rights awards winners in the youth category also recognized on Tuesday were Jessica Durling of Milford Station and Brandon Finyanos of Halifax.
Sheila Lucas of Halifax’s African Nova Scotian Student Support Workers program was also recognized.
“Human rights and diversity is more than a one-day celebration,” said Aghdamimehr. “We’ve come a long way but we have much work to do.”
- by Geordon Omand - Metro Halifax