The Future is NOW! Awards: Canada’s Top 10 Young Changemakers Announced

Ten children from across Canada honoured for their leadership in making social change.

TORONTO, MAY 7, 2024 – Canada’s top young changemakers were unveiled today by The Future is NOW! Awards. Ten inspirational children and youth from across the country were chosen for their leadership in defending children’s rights and tackling urgent issues that matter most to Generation Z, including mental health, racism and discrimination, climate change, reconciliation, bullying, physical activity and more.

The inaugural awards are organized by Children First Canada, in consultation with its Youth Advisory Council, offering a platform to celebrate and support young Canadians who are working to make this the best place in the world for kids to grow up. Sophie Gregoire Trudeau serves as the Honourary Patron for the awards, while Peter MacKay, Counsel at McInnes Cooper and former Parliamentarian, and Nazanin Afshin-Jam, human rights activist, are the Honourary Co-Chairs. All nominees and several members of the judging panel were aged 18-and-under. Winners will receive financial awards to support their cause and benefit from year-round coaching and mentorship to increase their social impact.

The winners are:

  • Bullying: Brendan McFatridge, Fort Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan
  • Civic Engagement and Advocacy: Luke MacDonald, Calgary, Alberta
  • Climate Change: Jarden Braves, Toronto, Ontario
  • Equitable Education: Chinazam (Zammie) Igwe, Moncton, New Brunswick
  • Insecurity & Hunger: Chloe Quassa, Igloolik, Nunavut
  • Mental Health: Hanna Grover, Surrey, BC
  • Play and Physical Activity: Autumn Hanak, Peterborough, Ontario
  • Preventing Violence & Abuse: Marigold Mioc, Calgary, Alberta
  • Systemic Racism & Discrimination: Stella Nadeau, St-Bruno de Montarville, Quebec
  • Truth and Reconciliation: Meilun Yu, Markham, Ontario

(Bios and details are included below)

The 10 young child rights defenders will be honoured today with a full day of celebrations, starting with a Changemaker Forum that will unite 50 diverse young leaders from across Canada to grow their leadership skills, influence and network to increase their social impact. The event will culminate this evening at the prestigious The Future is NOW! Awards ceremony. The star-studded event, dubbed the “Oscars for Social Change,” will be held at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle, and hosted by CTV’s Chief News Anchor, Omar Sachedina. Other dignitaries who will participate in today’s events include Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Honourable Jenna Sudds, along with numerous special guests and celebrities.

Children First Canada acts as a catalyst to ensure every child in Canada thrives – now and for generations to come – by protecting their rights and equipping them as the leaders of today and tomorrow. “Canada is in good hands when we have these courageous young people working tirelessly to bring about change in their communities and build a more equitable and prosperous country. They see how slow progress can be, and they can’t wait for us to do it. Their creativity, innovation and fierce determination to build a better, brighter Canada is an example for all of us,” says Sara Austin, Founder and CEO of Children First Canada.

Further details on the Future is NOW! Award winners is available here

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact:

Andrea Chrysanthou


The Future is NOW! Awards are made possible thanks to the generous support of:

The Government of Canada, KPMG, TELUS, Rogers, BellMedia, Canadian Tire Jumpstart, Six by the Sea, the Creators Bureau, the Power Corporation of Canada, Canadian North, Century Initiative, Alison Dalglish-Pottow, Ripleys Aquarium of Canada, CN Tower, VIA Rail, and the 6ix Academy.

The Future is Now Award Winners are:

The Upstander Award for Combating Bullying, presented by Rogers: Brendan McFatridge, Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Brendan McFatridge is an exceptional leader, bravely standing up for himself and others by combating bullying and discrimination in hockey and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity in sport. In February of 2021, he came out as gay while playing hockey at the highest club level (AAA), becoming the first openly gay hockey player at the elite level in Alberta, and was the first openly gay player to be drafted into the Western Hockey League. These accomplishments will leave a lasting impact on the hockey culture in the AEHL and the WHL forever– proving to young gay athletes that they can do it too. At his Catholic high school, he publicly confronted homophobic attitudes, earning a place at the Student Voice Summit and gaining respect from peers for his courage. Additionally, Brendan contributes to various charitable initiatives in his community.

The Shake the Movers Award for Civic Engagement and Advocacy: Luke MacDonald, Calgary, AB

Luke MacDonald, diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 5, has become a dedicated advocate, fundraiser, and mentor for children living with the disease. Luke has been a prominent advocate, raising over $50,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) through various roles, including government advocacy, fundraising, mentorship, and serving as a youth ambassador. He has shared his story at several events in Calgary and has been to Ottawa to lobby the federal government for increased support for those with T1D. He also frequently reaches out to newly diagnosed children with Type 1 to let them know they are not alone. Luke and his father were part of a handful of participants in JDRF’s national Campaign to Accellerate, during which they sat atop a flagpole for 24 hours to increase awareness and help raise $23 million across Canada.

The No Planet B Award for Climate Action, presented by KPMG: Jaden Braves, Toronto, ON

Jaden Braves, a trailblazing young leader, is a strong advocate for combating climate change and for youth voices in democracy and civic engagement. As the founder of Young Politicians of Canada (YPC) and an youth advisor to many Canadian political circles, he empowers Canadian youth to defend their rights to a sustainable future and have a voice in policy making, marking him as a transformative force in advocating for reshaping Canada’s political landscape towards greater youth participation and inclusivity and a more sustainable future for all.

The Together We Rise Award for Equitable Education and Opportunities: Chinazam (Zammie) Igwe, Moncton, NB

Zammie Igwe, a dynamic advocate for inclusive education, is on the front lines as a changemaker and first-generation Canadian and racial minority. She founded letsinnov8, an avenue to create more opportunities in STEM and entrepreneurship for high school students and particularly for females of colour in Atlantic Canada, who have been held back by discrimination, lack of opportunity and lack of resources. Zammie is a long-time proponent of diversity in education. In middle school she organized a fundraiser to purchase diverse novels for the school. She also contacted PR teams of several authors for free novels to add to the collection. In high school, Zammie is an instrumental part of Culture Club promoting diversity and inclusion and organized the Culture Fashion Show which showcased the diverse clothing from students’ home countries.

The Big Crunch Award for Combatting Poverty and Food Insecurity: Chloe Quassa, Igloolik, NU

Chloe Quassa is a passionate champion for the rights of Inuit children and youth to grow up free from poverty and hunger. She runs winter and summer youth programming at the Igloolik Recreation Center, providing much needed recreational opportunities for youth to realize their potential. She also volunteers in food security initiatives, including volunteering at the local soup kitchen three times a week serving food to a community where many families are struggling to meet their basic needs for safe and secure housing, access to clean water and access to adequate food.

The Strong Minds, Strong Hearts Award for Youth Mental Health, presented by KPMG: Hanna Grover, Surrey, BC

Hanna Grover is a strong advocate for youth mental health and ardently committed to combating discrimination and forging pathways to success for young Canadians. She is a Digital Health Youth Fellow for Our Kids Health, where she is creating evidence-based and culturally relevant health content, that empowers children and young families to navigate complex health challenges regardless of cultural or linguistic background. Her content has reached more than 100,000 people across all social media platforms, breaking down inclusivity barriers. She is also the founder of Poet2Poet, a website aimed at dismantling the stigma surrounding mental health among youth through poetry. Poet2Poet challenges the notion that vulnerability is weakness and instead embraces it as a source of strength and resilience. The website has published more than 100 poems submitted by youth, giving voice to the voiceless and shining a light on the often-overlooked struggles of young Canadians.

The Sporting Chance Award for Play and Physical Activity, presented by Canadian Tire Jumpstart: Autumn Hanak, Peterborough, Ontario

Autumn Hanak is a dynamic force for change and strong champion for the right to play along with greater inclusivity in sport. She noticed the higher sports dropout rate among girls in her community and understood that it negatively impacted their physical and mental health, and access to leadership skills and sense of belonging. To solve this, she worked with her Rugby coach to apply for a Jumspstart Grant to start a program called “Play Rugby Like a Girl.” The free program ran for five weeks, providing 85-120 girls each week the opportunity to try a new sport and meet new people. The free program also eliminates barriers to access for girls who face socioeconomic barriers and who are members of underrepresented communities in sports. Autumn collaborates with several community partners, from coaches, to dieticians, to health care practitioners to bring a holistic approach to sport retention issues and supporting girls to stay in sport. Autumn has received a new Jumpstart Grant for a second season of the program.

The Shine a Spotlight Award for Ending Violence and Abuse, Presented by Anonymous Donor: Marigold Mioc, Calgary, Alberta

Marigold Mioc is beacon of inspiration and activism, advocating for survivors of domestic violence and the protection of human rights. She created Marigold’s Heart Garden at the age of 5, making and selling headbands with proceeds going to her charitable work. In 2021, she worked with Senator Rosemary Moodie’s office to co-facilitate online focus groups with youth across Canada, on the topic of creating an office of the Child and Youth Commissioner in Canada. She is a Youth Ambassador for HundrED, a global educational organization based in Helsinki, Finland. She is also part of numerous charitable organizations including being the youngest member of Engineers Without Borders- Calgary City Chapter, the Youth Ambassador for 1Girl, the first Youth Ambassador for United Way of Calgary, Youth Ambassador for Gems for Gems and member of the Child and Youth Advisory Council at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

The We Belong Award for Combatting Systemic Racism & Discrimination, presented by Six by the Sea: Stella Nadeau, St-Bruno de Montarville, Quebec

Stella Nadeau is a dedicated advocate for human rights and inclusivity, spearheading impactful initiatives that provide equitable opportunities for youth and combating racism and discrimination. Her active involvement in community projects educate others to create positive change, and she is driving local and global impact through initiatives like food drives and blood donation clinics, collecting hygiene products for Ukraine, showcasing her commitment to improving lives and inspiring those around her. She is also part of a group for inclusion and participated in the school’s shaved head challenge. She is involved in all school projects that aim to improve people’s lives.

The Friendly Future Award for Truth and Reconciliation, Presented by TELUS: Meilun Yu, Markham, Ontario

Meilun Yu is a passionate advocate for youth empowerment and equitable opportunities, organizing impactful initiatives that promote truth and reconciliation and amplifying Indigenous and Northern artists’ voices. As the co-founder of a not-for-profit, The New Gen, she empowers young newcomers, immigrants, and BIPOC youth through the arts. Notably, she hosted an art gallery event in Markham, Ontario to promote 30 works of Inuit and Indigenous youth from Nunavut, Yukon and The Northwest Territories. She has also partnered with immigration and culture centres across Canada to deliver online classes to their students. Meilun also partners with Global Vision, an organisation led by an Order of Canada recipient, to advocate for equitable education for all youth on their National Advisory Council. Her recommendations have been drafted into reports sent to provincial and national members of Parliament.