George Stamatis became a spokesperson for children's rights at age 14, after reading a news article about an investigation into a Quebec youth services centre, where staff locked children in their rooms for long durations as punishment for misbehaviour. Mr. Stamatis and fellow activist Robert Hatton gathered a group of classmates to stage a protest, and organized a petition demanding the closure of the centre.
The Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission of Quebec eventually ordered the closure of what was known as the Chapel Unit of the Batshaw child care agency. The incident sparked a movement to examine the province's juvenile system, and whether the practice of locking up children was a violation of basic human rights.
In 1999, Mr. Stamatis was selected by the One Day Foundation as a youth representative from Canada to attend the United Youth Conference in Arizona, which convened 20 young people from 12 countries. Through this conference, he co-founded the Global Youth Action Network (GYAN), one of the largest networks of youth organizations ever created.
Mr. Stamatis is former vice-president for the International Bureau for Children's Rights, a special- status organization with the UN. During his tenure, he promoted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on a global scale, and today sits on the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention.
Mr. Stamatis continues to work within his local community. He received accolades from the city of Montreal for co-ordinating relief efforts after the 2006 Dawson College shooting, using Concordia University's campus as a temporary crisis centre offering food, blankets, bus tickets, taxi vouchers, and counselling services to traumatized students, staff and families - he organized a supply delivery, of water and blankets, mere hours after the crisis, and arranged transportation to the funeral of Anastasia DeSousa, a shooting victim who lost her life at 18.
Recently, Mr. Stamatis collaborated in the drafting of a Bill presented by Member of Parliament Marc Garneau in the House of Commons to establish a Children's Commissioner for of Canada, an independent official to ensure government accountability with respect of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
He has advocated on behalf of children in meetings with political and religious leaders, including prime ministers, presidents and CEOs of major corporations -Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William of Wales, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Nominator: Dianne Russel, Ottawa