at the ceremony (l-r): Belle Jarniewski, President, Manitoba Multifaith Council; Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon; award recipient Michel Aziza
By BERNIE BELLAN

On Monday, January 7, Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon presented the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Under-standing to Michel Aziza at a ceremony at Government House that took place with many guests of different denominations, as well as members of the Yazidi community, supporters of Operation Ezra, along with friends and family of Michel Aziza in attendance.

In presenting the award, Lt.-Gov. Filmon referred to Aziza having quietly led and being the driving force behind the Operation Ezra project to rescue, sponsor and resettle Yazidi refugees since its very inception. In addition to Operation Ezra’s 55 Yazidi sponsored refugees, Aziza has worked tirelessly to help government-sponsored Yazidi refugees, and has organized relief for those living in desperate circumstances overseas in the refugee camps. Aziza has personally and generously intervened to help individual refugees and their families. Under his leadership, an Operation Ezra English as an Additional Language Program was created, expanding to include government-sponsored refugees. Thanks to Aziza’s work, Operation Ezra, a project rooted in the Winnipeg Jewish community has grown organically to include many partners in the multi-faith community, advancing interreligious understanding and knowledge about the Yazidi religion and culture.
“Michel Aziza’s visionary outreach and passion for inclusion exemplifies the spirit of this award.” said Lt.-Gov. Filmon. “In this province where we so proudly embrace multiculturalism, Mr. Aziza has been a model of excellence, bringing voices throughout the multi-faith community together to effect change.”
The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding is presented each year at a ceremony at Government House, most often to an individual, who best embodies understanding between all religious groups.

Interestingly, rather than a medal or a certificate, Lt.-Gov. Filmon has chosen to honour award recipients with a tree developed especially in Manitoba, the Red Silver Maple. Following is some information about the tree:
•    The Lieutenant Governor’s Tree Project is a legacy initiative of the Honourable Janice C. Filmon. This program will see trees planted in honour of recipients of Lieutenant Governor’s awards, replacing the awarding of medals. Trees will also be planted in honour of visiting royalty and dignitaries, and recognizing outstanding Manitobans who have made notable contributions positively impacting the overall quality of life in the province.
•     Lt.-Gov. Filmon believes that planting a tree is a meaningful way to recognize and honour award winners and volunteers, while at the same time providing communities with a living legacy.