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Human Rights Award - December 2016

PEI Human Rights Commission Award

for the

Advancement of Human Rights



       Brenda Picard, Executive Director; John Rogers, Chair; Thilak Tennekone,
       Award Recipient; and David Dunphy, Mayor of Stratford.

The Award for the Advancement of Human Rights was created by the Prince Edward Island Human Rights Commission to recognize Island individuals or groups who have made an important contribution to the promotion of the values enshrined in the PEI Human Rights Act, namely that every person is free and equal in dignity and rights. 

The Award was established in 2008 to mark the 60th Anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has been presented periodically since then. 

On the 40th Anniversary of the Commission, the Commission chose to present this Award to acknowledge a person who has spent much of their work and volunteer life encouraging diversity and inclusion.

Originally from Sri Lanka, Thilak Tennekone and his family chose to settle in PEI in the early 1990s.  At that time, there was little access to community and social networks for immigrant families.  Opportunities to speak their own language or practice their religious traditions were limited. Thanks in part to Thilak’s efforts to make the province more inclusive, the Island’s Sri Lankan community and other diverse ethnic communities have grown.

Thilak helped establish P.E.I.’s first immigrant service agency, the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada, in 1993.  He was also one of the founding members of the PEI International Friendship Association.  This association is responsible for designing The International Tea House, the main purpose of which is to develop a sense of community among all cultural groups through presentations, costume shows, ethnic food, traditional arts and crafts displays, music performances and other family-friendly social events.

Thilak has a talent for promoting diversity and is proud to have been a role model to help others learn about cultural differences.  He is always willing and interested to share information about his cultural identity, Buddhism, Sri Lankan music, food, traditions and other cultural practices.

Thilak has served as the Chair of the Asian Heritage Society and the PEI Multicultural Association.  He is the Chair of the Town of Stratford’s Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee.  Stratford is the only community in PEI which is a signatory to the United Nations-sponsored Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination. Among other things, the subcommittee hosts an annual event to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

In addition to his volunteer work, Thilak promotes inclusion in his role as the diversity consultant for the provincial Public Service Commission.  Thilak obtained a Diploma in Adult Education in 2001 and he received his Masters Degree in Education from the University of Prince Edward Island in 2006.  Thilak also holds a Bachelor’s Degree, with a Major in Sociology from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

At the 2013 International Day for the Elimination of Racism, Thilak welcomed community members saying:

“I am pleased that the town has invited residents to this luncheon to learn how we can strengthen our neighbourhood and attract immigrants to PEI and retain them as productive citizens. It is important for us to learn more about building a welcoming diverse community.” 

In 2015, Thilak was a recipient of the RBC Top 25 Immigrant Award.  In accepting the award, Thilak, the only Islander to receive the award, said:

"Canada is my home and promoting the cultural learning experience and respect of different cultures, that's something I'm very proud of."

The PEI Human Rights Commission is proud that Thilak chose to make PEI his home and is  pleased to acknowledge his work in building PEI into a welcoming and diverse community by presenting him with the 2016 Human Rights Commission Award for the Advancement of Human Rights.

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