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 2015 Allison Roach Alumna Award

 Nicole LEVESQUE'95

Nicole LEVESQUE'95 is one of Canada's leaders in helping people with criminal records put bad behaviour behind them and become fully engaged members of society.

Since 2002, and as co-founder of the Montreal-based National Pardon Centre with her husband, Michael Ashby, she has assisted thousands of Canadians in obtaining a federal pardon for past convictions and getting rid of a record that can hamstring them in later life—in employment, in education, even in coaching sports or crossing the U.S. border.

"People deserve the chance to prove themselves," says Nicole, whose firm walks them through the process. She can also help people who were never convicted but may have been fingerprinted. That alone can deny people security clearances or cause a U.S. border official to refuse them entry.

After growing up in Thornhill, Ontario, Nicole moved to Rosedale with her family as her teen years dawned, and she attended Branksome for Grades 7 to 9. The school, she says, helped her become "a proud, strong woman." Her studies continued at the University of Surrey in England where she received her MA in Sociology and Criminology, and an associated internship in Jamaica, working in the women's prison.

Nicole proudly calls herself an entrepreneur, even though her organization is non-profit. "It's run the same way as a for-profit business—you have all the same challenges," she says. "I wanted to make a difference, and I also wanted to be my own boss."

Nicole gives back by plowing surplus revenues into education and youth counselling. She briefs young people on what rights they have even with a criminal record, and goes into prisons to talk about re-integration in society, counselling many women about their employment options.

"Pardons are the light at the tunnel for so many people," she says. "I really get a lot of pleasure out of seeing people turn their lives around."

 

10 Elm Avenue, Toronto, ON M4W 1N4, Canada

Tel: 416-920-9741 | admissions@branksome.on.ca