Scholarship honours social worker’s passion for justice

Her work and warmth touched so many people that 500 attended Danielle (Dani) Horwitz’s memorial at the provincial criminal court on Main Street in 2012.

Friends and family are furthering Horwitz’s passion for youth and social justice with the Danielle Horwitz Social Justice Award. Juno-Award winning musicians Jim Byrnes and Shari Ulrich will perform at the second annual benefit for the scholarship Jan. 18.

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Rick Craig, executive director of the Justice Education Society where Horwitz worked for 17 years, knew Horwitz’s work before she moved to Vancouver.

He heard of Horwitz when he visited her homeland of South Africa in the early 1990s, where Horwitz worked with disenfranchised youth in the townships and volunteered with anti-apartheid forces.

In 1986, Horwitz, a social worker, arrived in Vancouver to enter a master’s program in criminology at Simon Fraser University. She subsequently worked as regional coordinator at the Justice Education Society and helped disadvantaged youth and adults learn about and navigate the justice system.  

Craig recalled Wednesday how effectively Horwitz brought judges and people living on the street together for an education session.

“And made everyone feel really comfortable,” he said.

“If we would deal with aboriginal youth she would get aboriginal Crown, or aboriginal lawyers or even aboriginal judges. She would try to create more role models to say to people listen, this system’s a human system and you can dream to [these positions] if you want to.”

Horwitz’s husband, Phil Moses, said someone at the court suggested a scholarship and he ran with it.

Craig said the mother of two, who was 50 when she died with cancer, was deeply loved.

“She was the kind of person that never said a bad word about people,” he said. “She’d come out, she’d smile and I’d be in a cranky mood and she’d console me. She was very, very special and [maintained] just an incredible empathy for people and just went the extra mile.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson proclaimed April 6, 2013 Danielle Horwitz Day and the inaugural benefit raised nearly $50,000.

Rita Steele, former vice president of the Vancouver District Student Council, received the first $12,000 scholarship. She had initiated a forum to discuss the Stanley Cup riots, led anti-racism and anti-discrimination workshops and organized an anti-homophobia and anti-bullying press conference.

The second annual Artists for Education benefit starts at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, 950 West 41st Ave. Participants could win a Hornby Island holiday, Canucks tickets and jerseys and a boat cruise.

“I’m there for sure,” Craig said.

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