meet the board
Blaine Wilkins, Board Chair
Born and raised on the prairies, Blaine has had a diverse work background including many years in the music industry as a recording studio operator in Saskatoon and Calgary. He worked with the Calgary Stampede producing shows for ten years. He moved to Vancouver Island in 2000 and has held various positions with Service Canada and Service BC. Blaine is well known in the local LGBTQ community. He is a co-ordinator of Reaching Out at Brechin United Church and was present at the founding meeting of ROAR in July 2016.
Blaine loves to travel. He and his partner have visited 25 countries. Blaine is retired and lives in Nanaimo. In a November 2017 interview with the Nanaimo News Bulletin he stated, “Some LGBTQ refugees are in fear of their lives, and we decided early on that helping them would be our mission — and we're very dedicated. We're hoping the community embraces our mission and our goals.”
Horst Backé, Treasurer
Since 2011 Horst has been involved with LGBT people fleeing intense persecution in their home countries, supporting them abroad as well as helping them resettle in Canada as permanent residents. Horst moved to Nanaimo in 2016 and immediately got involved in the establishment of ROAR. Before his retirement Horst was a senior health care manager in Manitoba. During the 80s Horst was a committed AIDS activist and one of the founders of Winnipeg's Village Clinic. He was also a founding member of Reaching Out Winnipeg, an organization with a similar name
and objective: bringing at-risk LGBT refugees to Canada. Horst has a wealth of professional experience. As well as being active in all aspects of ROAR's activities, Horst is also the coordinator of the LOVE Community Response Network, working with local stakeholders to end abuse, neglect and self-neglect of sexual and gender minority adults on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
Mark Rabnett, Communications
A former medical librarian and academic, Mark was a gay activist for many years in Winnipeg and with the AIDS Committee of Toronto. He retired to Nanaimo with his partner Horst in 2016. He is one of the founders of ROAR and a dedicated volunteer in LGBTQ refugee resettlement since 2011. Mark set up the ROAR website and fosters ROAR's continuing online presence and social networking. He is passionate about his refugee work and has said this about why he volunteers with ROAR: "Our encounters with refugees over the years have enriched us and broadened our horizons. Across
the very real divide of culture, language and social conditioning, refugees have taught us some big lessons: the evil and boundless stupidity of prejudice; the resilience of LGBTQ people in the face of it; how love, solidarity and unceasing struggle can lead to justice; and how important it is for all of us to have a home."
Anne Manikel, United Church Liaison
Anne is a retired United Church minister who is the Refugee Coordinator for Brechin United Church, representing the SAH (Sponsorship Agreement Holder) for many of ROAR's refugee sponsorships. She and her partner Randy raised their three children on their farm in southern Manitoba while running their own agricultural equipment dealership. As U.C. Chaplain at the University of Manitoba in the late 90s, Anne helped to develop the "Allies: Safe Space on Campus" Program. After moving to Nanaimo, she was also instrumental in leading Brechin United Church into achieving the Affirming Ministry designation. Anne loves the outdoor life
of Vancouver Island along with her bridge groups and volunteer activities. In addition to her refugee work, she enjoys volunteering at Brechin's Loaves & Fishes Food Bank depot. Anne has been a hard-working board member since ROAR's founding. In 2020, in recognition of her significant contributions to the work of the United Church and to the communities she serves, Anne received the distinguished Companion of the Centre award from the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg.
James Chamberlain, Secretary
James grew up near Abbotsford. As a teacher he devoted more than three decades to making British Columbia schools a safe, welcoming place for LGBTQ+ students and teachers. One of his many leadership roles was in Gay and Lesbian Educators (GALE-BC), which later became the Pride Education Network. He also worked with the BC Teachers Federation and helped many school boards to develop LGBTQ+ policies to protect and support students. He ended his career as an out elementary school Principal with the Vancouver School Board. For his extraordinary advocacy work James recently received an honorary Doctor of Letters Degree
from the University of the Fraser Valley. A longtime Vancouverite, he now lives in Nanaimo. In 2022 James founded Island Queers and Allies Who Care, an organization dedicated to raising funds to help local groups or projects that benefit the queer (2SLGBTQIA+) communities on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. He joined the ROAR board in July 2022. James says, “ROAR’s work is critically important. It is an opportunity for us to critically examine our immense global privilege, pay kindness forward, and concretely assist LGBTQ+ people to have safe, accepting futures here in Nanaimo.” (Photo by Rick Collins)
Gary Bosomworth, Sponsorship Group Rep
Gary is a farm boy from Alberta. He was born to an English mom from London, and a Canadian dad with roots from New Zealand, Scotland and Germany. His parents gave him the genes to explore the world. Besides family trips, his first 'big' excursion was a school trip to the then Soviet Union. From that point on he was hooked. Next was a government exchange program to Indonesia with Canada World Youth before returning to Canada to attend the University of Alberta. Upon graduation Gary moved back to Asia to work in education and publishing for 14 years in Taiwan and Singapore, with projects
taking him to New Zealand, Korea, China, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, France, England, Germany and the United States. Eventually, Gary moved back to Canada to set up the North American office in Vancouver for his Taiwan based employer. In 2016, Gary moved to Nanaimo for his partner's work. This resulted in a dramatic career change for Gary, who is now kept hopping in the hustle and bustle of Costco Wholesale. His work and travel abroad has left an indelible mark on his life and he continues to contribute where he can, whether it be tutoring at a local elementary school or with ROAR. Gary joined the board in November 2021.
Sponsorship Group Rep (Gabriola Island)
New to the ROAR Board, Sally joins by way of Gabriola ROAR, which recently formed as a sponsorship group committed to welcoming an LGBTQ+ refugee as a newcomer to Canada. Sally is a retired United Church minister and lives on Gabriola Island with her partner, John, also a retired United Church minister. Their shared passion for outreach and social justice frames their activities in retirement, along with all that Island living has to offer, such as kayaking, boating, swimming, and hiking. With family stretched across Canada and eleven grandchildren between them, summers are chock full of visitors. Rounding things out, Sally volunteers with several organizations on Gabriola and serves the church as a supply minister. She enjoys reading, photography, quilting, and dabbling in watercolours. Sally was the minister at Brechin United Church as it transitioned to become an Affirming Ministry, launched Reaching Out as a space to connect and provide outreach to the LGBTQ+ community, and participated in developing a community-wide approach to sponsoring refugees.
Sponsorship Group Rep
Elizabeth is a clinical herbalist, medical administrator, singer, and mother of three. She grew up in Montreal’s diverse and multilingual environment, which fed her fascination for languages and cultures. After completing a Bachelor’s of East Asian Studies at McGill, she lived, studied and worked in Japan for two years where she met her husband. Upon her return to North America, she completed two Master’s degrees in History and East Asian Studies at Stanford University. Elizabeth moved to Nanaimo in 2007 with her husband and twins. Her third child was born in Nanaimo in 2008. During this time, she completed a four year program in Clinical Herbalism from Dominion Herbal College and worked as a herbalist and instructor for the College for many years. A music lover, Elizabeth completed her ARCT in Vocal Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in 2020 and sings and performs regularly in the mid-Island area as well as with two choirs. Elizabeth became involved with refugee sponsorship in 2016 and has since officially sponsored two families and supported numerous others. She is passionate about bringing refugees from diverse backgrounds to Canada and to safety. Elizabeth joined the ROAR board in September 2023 and is excited to be embarking on a new sponsorship to support an LGBTQ+ refugee.