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2016 Civic Treasure Award Recipients

The 2016 Surrey Civic Treasure Award recipients will receive their awards during the annual Business and the Arts Reception at Surrey Arts Centre!

Award Recipient: Allen Aubert

  • Allen Aubert, Bachelor of Architecture and member of Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
  • Allen was born in Jersey, Channel Islands and gained his architectural degree from the University of Bath (UK) located in the famous Georgian city of Bath.
  • South Surrey resident for 28 years now retired architect and former President of the Surrey Chamber of Commerce (2000 –2001) now the Surrey Board of Trade and past president of the BC Arbitration and Mediation Institute. While president of the Surrey Chamber of Commerce Allen worked to establish an International Trade Centre. Allen Aubert is described by his proponents as an “amazing ideas factory” an extraordinary individual, who brings considerable talent, loyalty, determination, creativity, business acumen, intuition, charm, organizational skills, knowledge, perfection, energy and vision to the selected projects he has chosen to tackle.”
  • Allen served for 12 years on the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission, acting as Chair of Special Projects for several years. He organized and produced a series of 4 broadcast quality videos on Surrey’s Cultural, Built and Natural Heritage. The series was aired on the History Channel across the US and Canada and continues as a welcome tool to support and advertise the richness and variety of Surrey’s Heritage preserved to that date. These videos have made the appreciation of Surrey’s rich heritage very simple and enjoyable.
  • Allen was a founding member of the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway and has served since inception of the society in 2001 as secretary, membership chair, fundraiser, planner, architect, newsletter editor, ‘visionary’ and business consultant. He designed and raised the funds to build the rail barns in Sullivan and Cloverdale. He oversaw construction of the barns to store the trams and he led the team to build the replica rail stations at Cloverdale and Sullivan.
  • Allen has fundraised and received millions of dollars in cash and in-kind donations of volunteer labour and materials to ensure the many and various Heritage Rail projects were completed.  He has been steadfast in seeing each additional project, as it came forward, succeed and succeed with excellence.
  • Allen was the originator of the monumental “Townshift”  Surrey town centres ideas design competition in 2010.  “TownShift: Suburb Into City" design competition was the largest ever launched in North America seeking fresh concepts from designers worldwide for each of the Surrey Town Centres, sponsored by the City of Surrey. Fresh design ideas were submitted from all corners of the world to provide a ‘vision’ for the future development of Surrey’s growing town centres.
  • Allen working with then-Mayor Watts created and launched the Surrey Sustainability Charter which is a living document with a focus on creating a framework of guiding principles for future sustainability throughout the city of Surrey.
  • Surrey is a richer and better community as a result of what Allen has contributed and his legacies will continue to live on to be enjoyed by generations to come.


Award Recipient: Mohammed Aminul Islam

  • Mr. Islam is the President of the Mother Language Lovers of the World Society based in Surrey.
  • For the past ten years he has worked tirelessly to promote and preserve linguistic diversity and cultural heritage within Surrey and throughout the Province through the celebration of International Mother Language Day (IMLD), recognized annually on February, 21st world-wide.
  • In 2008, as a Cultural Capitals of Canada project, Mr. Islam worked with City staff and the Public Art Advisory Committee to establish Lingua Aqua, a public art installation located in Bear Creek Park that pays tribute to mother languages and recognizes International Mother Language Day formally established by the United Nations.
  • One of his proponents wrote “I am a First Nations member; I had an opportunity to work with Mr. Islam closely and participate in the Mother Language Festivals organized by him every year. Mr. Islam’s innovative ideas always impressed me. As the children are basic carriers of mother languages, he has launched a model for the new generation to learn about their mother language. The model is called “Implementation of Mother Languages: Surrey Model”, as it was initiated in Surrey and has been adopted by the Surrey School District. Within a short period of time most of the School Districts in the Lower Mainland have also accepted this model.” (June Laitar)
  • In Surrey, every year approximately 70,000 students, representing 172 various mother language speakers will get an opportunity to know about and celebrate their languages, identify their cultural heritage and share this with others.
  • Mr. Islam’s passion for this work is reflected in the following passage, “Language is a city, to the building of which every human being has brought a stone” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
  • Mr. Islam works collaboratively to promote diversity and respect for other cultures resulting in cross cultural sharing and understanding that makes Surrey a better place to live and raise a family.

Award Recipient: Ursula Maxwell Lewis

  • Ursula has been a resident of Surrey for 40 years, where she has worked as publisher, travel writer, photographer, blogger, videographer and volunteer extraordinaire.
  • A former South African journalist and Air Hostess, she travels the world writing articles and photographing faraway places for the pleasure of her loyal readers. Her columns are widely published in print and online.
  • Twenty years ago Ursula, urged by retired Saskatchewan publisher Wally Coombes, founded the Cloverdale Reporter. Home-delivered in print to over 21,000 Surrey readers, the Cloverdale Reporter also featured an extensive website. As a publisher, editor, columnist, and photographer she mentored aspiring Surrey high school work experience students interested in entering the rapdily changing journalism world. The Reporter, now owned by Black Press, continues to thrive and serve the community. Ursula is still a Reporter columnist and freelance travel photojournalist.
  • Ursula’s commitment to the Literary Arts extends far beyond journalism.  She is a founding director of the Surrey International Writers' Conference. Established in 1996, SIWC is arguably one of the largest, most successful conferences of its kind in North America.
  • She is also past director of the Surrey Library Board, the Cloverdale Board of Trade, the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Board and currently serves on the Friends of the Poet Laureate Committee.
  • A long-time honourary member of the Surrey Arts Council, Ursula served for four years as managing editor of the ACS monthly magazine “Spotlight on the Arts”.
  • As President of the Friends of Surrey Museum and Archives Society, Ursula has worked tirelessly to garner support for Heritage projects, which includes the up-coming completion of the Surrey Museum.
  • On a national level, she twice served on Travel Media Association of Canada National Board as BC Chapter Chair. She also served on the Surrey Board of Trade International Trade Awards Committee.  She was 2016/17 president of the Langley Area Council of Beta Sigma Phi International, is BC chairperson of the Society of American Travel Writers, and a member of the Canadian Authors Association.
  • Ursula currently serves on the City of Surrey’s Culture Development Advisory Committee, and is chairperson of the Heritage  Services Community Advisory Board.
  • She is a recipient of the Royal Canadian Legion Media Award, and the Cloverdale Elks Service to Community Award. She is Director Emeritus of the Surrey International Writers' Conference.
  • Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is an outstanding citizen of Surrey, who, through her work and her advocacy for Surrey as she travels the world, demonstrates clearly those qualities that represent significant achievement in both arts and heritage.  She is an ideal candidate for a 2016 Surrey Civic Treasure award.

Award Recipient: Virginia Gillespie

  • Since 1998, Virginia Gillespie has lived and worked in South Surrey amidst the inspiring surroundings of her home she calls “Bardsroost”. She is a verbal artist, writer, arts and heritage advocate, community organizer and articulate champion for artists of all disciplines: visual, performing and particularly literary arts.
  • Everything Virginia undertakes informs, motivates and inspires.  Whether it’s creating the contemplative Eagle Nest Labyrinth space at Kwomais Point Park, editing “Diverse” magazine, a publication devoted to multiculturalism and art, volunteering on the City’s Public Art Advisory Committee or writing and devising plays on topical issues; Virginia’s projects are about building relationships. Words are of particular interest to her.
  • The power of words has fascinated Virginia Gillespie since she realized that words, both written and spoken, have the power to transform.  A recent visit to Derry, Northern Ireland led her to open a studio to develop events, projects and training in the verbal arts, reinforcing her belief that to keep stories relevant “we must find the courage to change the ones that no longer serve our stewardship of the future of this planet, and learn to prune off the dead wood so that new growth can appear”.
  • She recently opened the VG PlayRoom studio by renting a space from Alexandra Neighbourhood House, Crescent Beach as a place to write and develop projects, events and training in the verbal arts.
  • One of her short plays “Hoarder” was selected for a curated reading at the SHIFT Festival in Vancouver in support of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. She also produced and acted with Rosie Flanagan Miller in the Canadian premier in English of Eve and Lilith by Johannes Galli who traveled with the two original German actors to Surrey to view it.
  • She initiated and produced “INvision”, a performance fundraiser where South Surrey word, sound, image and movement artists combined to create original pieces in support of the Eagle Nest Labyrinth at Kwomais Point Park.
  • Virginia collaborated with award winning Surrey fabric artist Elizabeth Carefoot on “Grandmothers: Agents of Transformation”, a multimedia exhibition of shamanic robes and objects,  poetry, narrative and  a soundscape-spoken word CD at the Amelia Douglas Gallery, New Westminster.
  • She was publicist/communications specialist with South Surrey’s In Harmony Music Festival, The Harrison Festival of the Arts, Vancouver Latin American Film Festival, Western Canada Theatre Company, Galli Theater's International Fairy Tale Project, University of the Fraser Valley, City of Surrey, City of Abbotsford and Ministry of Multiculturalism.
  • Virginia published a book of poems and songs entitled “Taoist Inner Tube Rider” with an accompanying CD, featuring South Surrey actor and musician friends: Rosie Flanagan Miller, Mickey Hovan, Peter Tennant and Stephen Chitty.
  • A brief bio of Virginia on Performance Disciplines’ international site, reads: “I find ways to bring art alive in words, images, movement and sound.  I initiated and host VG PlayRoom (multidisciplinary arts exploration), am a member of the Wet Ink Collective (women playwrights), am a founding member of Contemporary Art Matters and sit on Surrey’s Public Art Advisory Committee.”  She could have said much more, however Virginia prefers to let her work speak for itself. She is more interested in discovering ways to ensure that art and culture are topical, alive and relevant in Surrey. (“Contemporary Art Matters”, is a group of artists seeking a contemporary gallery and cafe in South Surrey. She rents  spaces for VG PlayRoom events where artists  can explore new and original ideas.)
  • Virginia is a catalyst; she hosts seasonal pot luck cultural events in her home which include music, poetry and discourse to encourage a cross-fertilization of the arts. Innovators and artists from a variety of fields often go on to work collaboratively on various projects.
  • One of Virginia’s advocates wrote…”She recently donated to the social art action project in Newton called The PLOT/Medicine Wheel, for the medicine wheel specifically. This is another example of Virginia’s support for the collaboration of artists with other professionals in the expansion of ways that artists can serve our communities. We are fortunate to have her in our community.
  • Virginia Gillespie is a writer, an arts advocate and a multi-media artist who is passionate about making performance an innovative tool for personal, societal and cultural transformation.