City of Kingston announces Civic Award recipients

Clockwise from top left: Michael Stephenson, Dr. Aba Mortley, Roland Billings and Namirah Quadir are the recipients of the City of Kingston Civic Awards. Images via the City of Kingston.

The City of Kingston Civic Awards recognize residents who have made significant contributions to our community through volunteerism in the areas of culture, heritage, recreation, sports, health, education, health care, environment, safety, volunteering or business. On Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, the city released this year’s award recipients.

“I’m regularly inspired by the incredible people that devote themselves to making Kingston a better place to live. It’s a privilege for me to be able to acknowledge some of these individuals and the great work they do through the annual civic awards program,” said Mayor Bryan Paterson. “Congratulations to this year’s recipients, all the nominees, and a big thank you to everyone who took the time to submit nominations to highlight the many kind and generous individuals who give their time and energy to benefit others.”

The city shared the following details on each recipient:

First Capital Distinguished Citizen

Roland Billings

Roland shows how one individual can change the world around him through sport.

He first started volunteering with the Knights of Columbus Basketball League as a coach in1978. Since then, he has worked as a referee, scorekeeper, coach, convenor, board member and President. He is also President of the Pete Petersen Basketball League which offers more than 500 children opportunities to play basketball just for the fun of it. 

Billings manages the league, and more than 100 volunteers annually, so that children from across the city can have a safe and fun place to play and experience the dignity and inspiration of team sport.

“Roland’s commitment to youth basketball, and commitment to organizing a league that provides all youth, but particularly children at the margins, a chance to learn and love the game, has left a legacy in sport worth celebrating and emulating,” wrote his nominator.

Honourable Achievement Award

Dr. Aba Mortley

Dr. Mortley has long had a habit of volunteering. She has been involved with Youth Diversion for 17 years and is a life-long advocate for vulnerable youth. 

But residents may be more familiar with her recent anti-racism efforts including the Let’s Talk Kingston series she founded and her work as Co-Chair of the Queen’s University Council on Anti-Racism & Equity, which recently created a bursary in her honour. She has led and guided timely and challenging local discussions aimed at promoting inclusion, equity, anti-racism and diversity for and on behalf of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour who call Kingston home.

Mortley, who runs two businesses, is also active in Kingston’s business community, acting as the Chair of Tourism Kingston’s Board for the past two years and sitting as a member of the Downtown Kingston! Business Improvement Area.

She is particularly skilled at identifying and pursuing opportunities where she sees a need. For instance, she collaborated with the United Way of KFL&A and the Chamber of Commerce to provide mental health services to employees of small businesses during the pandemic.

“Aba is an incredible person and deserves to be recognized for her significant generosity in leading the way in continuing to create an amazing culture within our city, particularly for our BIPOC and vulnerable youth communities,” wrote her nominator.

Michael Stephenson

Looking for a way to increase his community involvement, make new friends, and stay mentally and physically fit, Stephenson started volunteering with Partners in Mission Food Bank in 1994. 

For the past 28 years, he has worked to ensure that food that comes in is quickly circulated back into the community. Even during the pandemic, he has consistently volunteered to sort food donations, assemble food orders, break down bulk items, pack fruit and vegetable bags, and train new volunteers.

“Michael repeatedly goes out of his way to extend a helping hand,” said his nominator, who also mentioned that Michael met his wife of 26 years, Gloria, at the Partners in Mission Food Bank.

Youth Volunteerism Award Winner

Namirah Quadir

On top of being an exceptional Kingston Secondary School student, Quadir is a dedicated advocate for social justice and mental health. 

As the Limestone District School Board’s Urban Trustee, she has brought forward and passed two human rights and anti-racism motions, offered advice on mental health modules and worked with City Council to plant forests in schools.

She also brings her amazing capacity to organize and lead to a number of other efforts, including First Robotics, Little Forests, the Harmony Movement – initiating anti-racism work with staff, students and advisors – Student Council, the Blood Club, the Environment Club and Sweetgrass Circle, the Arts Council and the Mental Health and Well-Being Committee.

“Her volunteer participation in each of these groups is with a whole heart and an engaged spirit,” wrote her nominator.

To find out more about the Civic Awards, go to, and watch the City of Kingston’s social media channels this month for videos about the recipients, and to learn what being a volunteer in Kingston means to them.

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