Danielle (Dani) Horwitz was born in the small town Bloemfontein in South Africa in 1961. As a child and youth, she was an accomplished student, winning many achievement and citizenship awards. She attended the University of Cape Town earning a degree in Social Work in 1983 and began working with disenfranchised youth in the townships and volunteering with anti-apartheid forces. Led by her strong commitment to social justice, her work often took her to dangerous places in her service to others. Dani’s life was dedicated to justice, family and service.
In 1986, Dani arrived in Vancouver to enter a Master’s program in criminology at SFU where she wrote a 300-page thesis about notions of “People’s Justice” in South Africa. Her thesis was that post apartheid South Africa could be transformed by its justice system, but that transformation could only occur if marginalized citizens had knowledge of and access to the justice system. Dani believed that was possible in post apartheid South Africa. It is no coincidence that Dani chose to dedicate herself to a career that helped educate marginalized members of our community about the Canadian justice system.
Her view on the power of social change directed her career from the beginning. Her early jobs in Vancouver included brokering services for young adults with disabilities, work with teenagers at the Jewish Community Centre, and with girls who had been through the criminal justice system through Elizabeth Fry Society.
For the last 17 years Dani was the Regional Coordinator at the Justice Education Society, formerly know as Law Courts Education Society. She was based at Vancouver Provincial Court and provided services from Richmond to Mt Curry, and more recently at the Vancouver Law Courts. As one of the longest standing employees of the Society, Dani delivered hands-on educational programs and workshops to the general public, students of all ages, youth at risk, and Aboriginal, ethnic and immigrant communities. She also helped those working within the justice system become aware of the humanity of all people and the barriers people face in accessing the justice system. Her work taught us all about cultural diversity, domestic violence, mental illness, addiction and other social issues that brought people to the justice system.
In educational sessions she facilitated over the years, Dani often quoted the well known anthropologist Margaret Mead who once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Thousands of her students, teachers, members of the downtown eastside community , court staff and colleagues in all areas of the justice system would say they have experienced first hand, how one thoughtful, committed woman, made a change to their world.
Dani treasured her relationship with her parents, her siblings, her husband, her children, cousins and close friends and colleagues. They gave her great pleasure and she gave them the gifts of thoughtfulness, kindness, laughter, virtue, and above all, joyous love, patience and devotion. Danielle will be deeply missed by all those that had the privilege of knowing her.