Jacq Brasseur is from the North. In the North, community members take care of each other, they said.
That’s the attitude Brasseur has carried forward in their 10-plus years of community service work in their hometown of Yellowknife and current home, Regina, Sask.
Brasseur, who uses they/them pronouns, is the most recent recipient of the University of Regina’s Humanitarian and community service award – a distinction recognizing alumni for service that has made a difference to the well being of others in the community.
Since transferring to the University of Regina (UR) from Aurora College, Brasseur has launched the Colourful Campus Housing and Monarch Mental Health initiatives through the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity. They have also expanded UR Pride’s Positive Space Network program, a program providing professional development and education in 2SLGBTQ+ fields.
Community rainbow launcher
Looking back on their resume of community work, Brasseur said launching the Rainbow Coalition continues to be one of their proudest achievements.
Having watched the group grow, Brasseur said seeing photos from Rainbow Coalition events and not recognizing any of the new members has been rewarding.
“That’s also shaped my idea around how organizing happens,” Brasseur said. “You set something up and you contribute in the way that you can and then when your ideas get stale, or you’re catching yourself pushing back against new ideas, you’ve got to walk away because things are going to stall and aren’t gonna grow as much.”
Seeing the $304,925 the coalition was recently awarded from Women and Gender Equality Canada has been particularly special, they said.
“If I was still there, I’m pretty sure we’d still be in that tiny little room,” they said. “I couldn’t have even dreamed that that’s what would have happened after I left.”
While the Rainbow Coalition, and some of Brasseur’s other initiatives, might be acknowledged as some of the first inclusive spaces in their communities, Brasseur is forthright in saying there have always been residents organizing community groups in the territories and beyond.
“I’m just good at putting things down on paper and making things look really fancy,” they said. “When it comes to doing the community work, thousands of people are better than me at that, arguably more.”
Standing on the shoulders of giants
Brasseur insists they are standing on the shoulders of giants so to speak, and that much of the work they have brought to Regina is based on things they’ve seen be successful in Yellowknife and the North. They point specifically to the Saskatchewan Queer and Trans Youth Network, a project Brasseur brought to life with colleagues, which is based on the FOXY peer retreats, they said.
Brasseur credits Nancy MacNeill, one of the FOXY founders, as a mentor having “voluntold” Brasseur to start becoming involved in community organizing.
While MacNeill admits she may have given Brasseur a push in the right direction, “it was clear that Jacq was a budding activist from the minute I met them,” she said. “As soon as Jacq decides they’re going to do something, it’s a success in waiting.”
MacNeill said she is never surprised to see Brasseur win awards and that even if Brasseur asserts they’re not inventing the wheel, “it actually takes a pretty special kind of person to look at what is happening elsewhere and ask, how can we adapt it and change it to fit our needs.”
She said that while nowhere is perfect when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Yellowknife has become an extremely queer friendly city and that Brasseur has been instrumental in that evolution.
“Jacq has been an undeniably huge positive influence on the community,” MacNeill said. “Even if they never come back to Yellowknife our community has changed because of them, in a very good way.”