The OHRC has created a Community Advisory Group to provide ongoing ideas and advice as we work to meet our strategic priorities: embodying human rights through reconciliation, enforcing human rights in the criminal justice system, advancing human rights by addressing poverty, and promoting a human rights culture through education. This group was set up to begin – and in many cases to continue – an ongoing, meaningful conversation between the OHRC and the many communities we serve. The conversation is about collaboration, partnerships and mutual support.
Our Strategic Plan commits us to putting people and their rights at the centre – and this group will help us do just that.
We had an application and selection process, which began with inviting individuals to submit a statement of interest. We asked members to commit to one-year terms, which are renewable.
Community Advisory Group members reflect a wide cross-section of Ontario communities, including:
- Persons with lived experience, across Code grounds
- Persons who have worked in organizations providing services to the community or representing community members in their area of related expertise
- Persons with diverse geographic representation
- Persons with academic or policy expertise
- First Nations, Métis, and/or Inuit peoples
- Representation from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC)
- Representation from the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).
The OHRC works with many diverse stakeholders across Ontario. We will continue to seek advice, partnerships and support on an ongoing basis with individuals who may not be members of the Advisory Group. Our ultimate goal is to make sure that all Ontarians have a voice on human rights issues.
Zanana Akande was the first Black woman to be appointed to Ontario’s Cabinet, when she served as Minister of Community and Social Services in Premier Bob Rae’s government.
After leaving politics, Ms. Akande served as president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Canadian Alliance of Black Educators and the Toronto Child Abuse Centre. She worked with several other community-based endeavours including the United Way of Greater Toronto, the Family Services Association, the Elizabeth Fry Society and Doctors Hospital. She was the recipient of the African Canadian Achievement Award for Education and the Award of Distinction from the Congress of Black Women.
Ms. Akande is quoted as saying “A city as large and culturally diverse as Toronto owes whatever success in racial harmony it enjoys to the constant vigilance of its citizens, its officials, and its organizations.” In her years of public service she has continued to demonstrate the vigilance necessary to promote and encourage Toronto’s attempts towards racial harmony.
President, Urban Alliance on Race Relations
A community organizer and an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board in Rexdale, Nigel is a Board member of the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Board Chair of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and a member of the Good Jobs For All Coalition. Nigel’s activist work focuses on quality public education, good green jobs, and a more just society for all inside and outside the classroom.
Director of Policy and Communication, Association of Ontario Midwives
Juana Berinstein is the Director of Policy and Communications for the Association of Ontario Midwives (since 2007). Under her leadership, the Association has successfully campaigned for the expansion of midwifery, the development of birth centres and funding for Aboriginal midwifery. She has been involved in policy initiatives, systemic advocacy and community consultation at the municipal, provincial and federal level in the areas of health, workers’ rights and social justice.
Juana has a Master’s degree in Communication and Culture. She was a Board Member (2010-13) at Health Nexus, a leading non-profit organization working on health promotion and equity, and a mentor with Rainbow Health Ontario’s public policy institute, which looked at addressing health barriers for the 2SLGBTQ community (2014). She immigrated to Canada at the age of 7 from Argentina and lives in Toronto with her partner and their two wonderful daughters.
Champ and Associates
Paul Champ is a human rights and employment lawyer based in Ottawa. Paul and his clients have established legal precedents in disability rights, privacy, racial discrimination, First Nations’ health care and child welfare, prisoners’ rights, and corporate accountability for abuses in foreign countries. Paul has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada on several occasions and in 2013 he was honoured by the International Commission of Jurists with the Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award for outstanding contributions to domestic and international human rights.
Director, Public Policy, Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario
Uppala Chandrasekera has over 15 years of work experience in the health sector, ranging from front-line work assisting individuals and families with mental health and addictions issues, to supporting mental health programming province-wide, and implementing the national strategy to address mental health across Canada.
Currently, Uppala is the Director of Public Policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, and she also serves on the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Her writings examine impact of the lived experience of discrimination on the health and well-being of marginalized individuals and communities, and her advocacy efforts are focused on reducing health disparities, promoting human rights and addressing discrimination in the health care and social services systems.
Superintendent, Equity, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression, Toronto District School Board
Jeewan Chanicka is the Superintendent of Equity, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression at Toronto District School Board. His work is focused on embedding an anti-oppressive/racist approach through structures that impact student achievement and well-being. As an instructional leader in schools, he has worked to develop culturally responsive social justice inquiry for classrooms and schools. He has also spent much of his career working with students identified as being "at risk" and re-engaging them in schooling. He has consulted with the United Nations University of Peace, and was a Torchbearer for the 2015 PanAm games.
Jeewan is the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee award for his work in Education and Community Service. He is a community organizer and co-founder of the Coalition Against White Supremacy and Islamophobia. Recently, he recieved the Mary Samuels Educational Leadership Award from the Harmony Movement. Jeewan sits at the Anti-Racism Directorate's Provincial Roundtable on Islamophobia.
Executive Director, Downtown Legal Services,University of Toronto Faculty of Law Community Legal Clinic
Lisa Cirillo is the Executive Director of Downtown Legal Services, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law legal clinic. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto. She studied law at Queen’s University and received her LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School.
Since her call the Bar in 1998, Lisa has practiced law in a wide variety of social justice organizations including DLS, ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In addition to her legal work, Lisa has extensive experience in public legal education, community outreach, teaching and training. She is a frequent presenter and requested speaker on a wide variety of public interest topics including family law, violence against women, poverty law, access to justice and human rights issues.
Lisa joined the Board of ACCLE (the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education) in 2011 and served as President from 2013 – 2017. She also serves as a member of the National Steering Committee for NAWL (National Association of Women and the Law) and Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Law Advisory Committee.
Executive Director, First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres
National Director of Anti-Racism and Human Rights, Canadian Labour Congress
Mojdeh Cox is an award-winning and provincially recognized anti-racism and anti-oppression public educator and speaker. She has worked with municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, and small- to medium-sized businesses to develop strategies to be more inclusive and address system racism. In her professional life, Mojdeh works in government relations within the labour movement, advocating for better social, political and economic conditions for working people.
Mojdeh’s profound personal experiences with racism, sexism and xenophobia propelled her into what is not only her passion, but also survival as an activist for human rights. Mojdeh lives in Ottawa with her spouse and four children.
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Working For Change
Michael Creek is the Director of Strategic Initiatives with Working for Change (www.Workingforchage.ca); former coordinator of the Toronto Speakers Bureau, Voices from the Street, where he has learned research, public policy and public speaking. Michael is a psychiatric consumer/survivor and a person with a lived experience of homelessness and poverty.
Michael is also a Board Director at the Inner-city Family Health at Saint Michael’s Hospital, and is an Honorary Friend of Nursing with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).
Michael continues to work with marginalized communities and people, and encourages them to speak out so that their voices can make a difference in shaping policy and planning with governments. Only when we as a society allow people who have been silenced by oppression and circumstance to be heard can we understand how to build a better place for us all.
Director, Policy, Research and International Division, Canadian Human Rights Commission
Natalie Dagenais is the Director of the Policy, Research and International Division at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). Natalie has spent most of her career working in the human rights field. She started her career with a federally regulated employer, then joined the Public Service where, except for an assignment with the Treasury Board Secretariat in the early 2000s, she has worked mainly for the CHRC, where she has held various other positions, including that of Director of the Investigations Division.
Natalie has a Civil Law Degree (LL.L) and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), both from the University of Ottawa. She has been a member of the Quebec Bar since 1995.
Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity
Jeremy Dias was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and grew up there until moving to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he attended high school. As a youth, he was motivated by social and political inequality to take action, volunteering with many organizations and charities. In high school, he started and led several clubs including Stop Racism and Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving. He also founded and coordinated Sault Ste. Marie’s first regional LGBTQ youth group.
After coming out in high school, Jeremy faced extreme cases of discrimination by students and school officials. At 17, he began a legal case against his school and school board, and at 21 won Canada’s second largest human rights settlement. Jeremy used the money to found the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity, the International Day of Pink and the Jeremy Dias Scholarship.
Jeremy has been featured on Canada AM, Much Music, CTV News, Global News and CBC News; and has been a keynote speaker at countless conferences and events.
He has completed a degree in Psychology and Political Science at the University of Ottawa, continues to volunteer for several organizations including Minister of the Status of Women’s Gender Based Violence Prevention Advisory Committee and the Ottawa Police Liaison Committee. He is also a columnist for 2B Magazine in Montreal. Jeremy Dias currently serves as Director of the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (and the International Day of Pink).
Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Debbie Douglas is an active feminist and anti-racism activist. She is the Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, where she leads a sector of more than 230 agencies concerned with immigrant and refugee integration and social and economic inclusion.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Debbie was active in the leadership of Ontario’s first shelter geared to abused immigrant women; was also an advocate for employment equity and worked to establish anti-discriminatory systems and practices in public institutions with a focus on the intersection of identities. Debbie serves on many boards including the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, Women’s College Hospital, and co-chairs the City of Toronto’s Newcomer Leadership Table. She is the former co-chair of the National Working Group on Immigration and Settlement at the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Among her many awards are the 2004 YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award, and the 2014 Race Relations award from the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. This year, she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Inspire Awards.
Imam Yasin Dwyer was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to parents of Jamaican heritage. Before joining Muslim Chaplaincy at Ryerson University, Yasin was a part of the multi-faith chaplaincy team at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He has lectured extensively on topics such as spirituality and the arts, Black Canadian culture and the history of Muslims in the west. Along with working alongside many non-profit organizations in Canada, Yasin was the first full-time Canadian Muslim chaplain to work with the Correctional Service of Canada, a position he held for 12 years. He is also a board member of the Montreal based Institut Route de la Soie/Silk Road Institute, which is dedicated to expressing Canadian Muslim narratives through the visual, auditory and performing arts.
Executive Director, Ne-Chee Friendship Centre
Patti Fairfield is the Executive Director of the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre in Kenora, Ontario. Patti first started working at the friendship centre as an Employment Counsellor in October 2002. She started serving as Acting Executive Director in January 2013 and became the permanent Executive Director in October 2013, overseeing 20 programs that cover everything from employment and training, education, health, justice and social services.
Through her employment she sits on many committees. She has been a Rotarian since 2014 and sits as a volunteer Board member for both Sunset Area Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service and the Adult Learning Line.
Senior Counsel and Manager of Legal Services, Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC)
Janina Fogels is currently Senior Counsel and Manager of Legal Services at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, the clinic pillar of the human rights system. She is dedicated to advancing social justice and human rights through advocacy, education and community outreach initiatives. Janina was Executive Advisor to the Chief Commissioner of the OHRC from 2017-2018, where she provided the Chief Commissioner with advice and support in the implementation of strategic priorities, and worked with OHRC partners, stakeholders, government and community in matters of governance and strategy. Before this, she was the Manager of Client Services at the HRLSC where she directed a team in the provision of intake and application-stage legal services, a project which resulted in increasing the number of human rights applicants who are represented by the HRLSC at mediations and in significant and sustained increases in the number of cases settled by the HRLSC. Prior to joining the HRLSC in 2009, Janina practiced union-side labour and employment law in Toronto. A graduate of McGill University and the University of Toronto, Janina has worked with the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Human Rights Watch, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Executive Director, National Council of Canadian Muslims
Ihsaan joined the National Council of Canadian Muslims in 2006 when he first served as Community Relations & Operations Director. In October 2008, he took the helm of the organization as Executive Director.
As Executive Director, Ihsaan regularly appears on local and national news media & programs on issues related to Canadian Muslims, Islam and civil liberties and his writings have appeared in major Canadian dailies as well as international publications. He also speaks at numerous Canadian and global forums and conferences on public policy matters. In his professional capacity, Ihsaan has provided expert testimony to several Parliamentary and Senate committees on how proposed legislation, including national security laws, could adversely impact civil liberties and diverse communities.
Ihsaan has a background working in both the public and private sectors primarily in marketing, communications and management roles and has worked, lived and travelled extensively across Canada, Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.
Ihsaan is a former Co-Chair of the Islamophobia Subcommittee under the Anti-Racism Directorate (ARD) set up by the previous provincial government.
Clinic Director, Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Avvy Go is the Clinic Director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (formerly known as the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.) She received her B.A. in economics and management studies from the University of Waterloo, LL.B. from the University of Toronto, and LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School. Since her call to the Bar in 1991, she has worked exclusively in the legal clinic system, serving the legal needs of low-income individuals and families, the majority of whom are non-English speaking immigrants and refugees. Immigration, human rights, and employment law are some of the main areas of law that she practices in.
Avvy is a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), and has been serving in that role, on and off, since 2001. She also serves on the LSUC’s Access to Justice Committee, the Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee and the Human Rights Monitoring Group.
Avvy was a part time adjudicator of the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (from 2006 to 2016), and a member of the Health Services Appeal and Review Board (from 2011 to 2016). In March, 2016, Avvy was appointed to the Licence Appeal Tribunal as a part-time adjudicator.
Between 2009 and 2011, Avvy served on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Justice Education Network. Avvy served on the Advisory Council of the Canadian Human Rights Museum between 2011 and 2013. Since 2011, she has been serving as a member of the Community Council of the Law Commission of Ontario.
Avvy has given many lectures and educational seminars in various areas of law. She has also published articles in various publications including law journals, law books, community and mainstream newspapers, dealing with a variety of subject matters, most notably legal and policy issues affecting immigrants and racialized communities. Avvy spends much time doing community organizing and advocacy work.
Avvy has received the following awards: Senate of Canada 150 medal (2017), SOAR Medal (2017), Order of Ontario (2014), Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers’ Lawyer of Distinction Award (2012), City of Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations (2008) and President's Award of the Women's Law Association of Ontario (2002).
Director of Advocacy and Legal Services, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)
Kenneth Hale is a lawyer and the Legal Director of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). His work there focuses on law reform, training and test cases on behalf of low-income residential tenants. He was the Lawyer-Director of South Etobicoke Community Legal Services for over 20 years before moving to ACTO in 2008. His commitment to human rights arises from helping clients and communities to overcome the impact of poverty and housing insecurity, and seeing the barriers to success faced by members of equality-seeking groups.
Executive Director, Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education
As Executive Director of Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education, Ian helps set the strategic directions and oversee the work of a team of 40 staff. This team designs and delivers innovative human rights education programs across Canada and overseas, which empower learners, particularly children and youth, to become leaders for social change in their communities. Before joining Equitas in 1997, Ian worked with Rights and Democracy and then spent almost two years in Thailand assisting their campaign to establish a National Human Rights Commission. Ian grew up in Toronto and graduated from University of Toronto in 1990 with a Bachelor’s Degree in History.
Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, University of Toronto
As the University of Toronto’s Vice President, Human Resources & Equity, Professor Kelly Hannah-Moffat is responsible for employment and labour relations with 22 unions and three staff associations, salary and benefits negotiations with the Faculty Association, as well as addressing risks associated with collective agreement negotiations, mediations, grievances and work stoppages. She creates and implements policies that reflect the University's commitment to equity and diversity for students, faculty and staff. She is the Crisis Manager for the University, the Co-Chair for the High Risk Committee and is part of the Institutional On-Call Executive system.
Professor Hannah-Moffat is responsible for the Personal Safety, High Risk, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support team and assisted in the development of the new Sexual Violence Policy. She is a Full Professor in Criminology, and her research has made important contributions to criminology, sociology, and legal issues. Her interdisciplinary research on criminal records disclosures, risk, punishment, and marginalized and diverse populations has contributed to the advancement of knowledge in sociology, criminology, law and social justice, and penal history. Her work has had concrete implications for social and criminal justice policy change, institutional/legal reform and institutional risk meeting practices.
Meeting Co-chair, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres – Indigenous Youth Council
Aanii, Wachey, Sago, and Hello. My name is Dakota Heon and I was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, but now reside in North Bay, Ontario. I am an Indigenous student currently enrolled at Nipissing University and am completing a Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare and Development with a Social Services Work Diploma.
Outside of being a student, I also do quite a bit of volunteer work. Some of this work includes sitting on the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres’ Indigenous Youth Council. My current position is the meeting co-chair and my previous position was the Northeast Regional Youth Representative.
Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan has over 10 years’ experience designing, leading and implementing educational initiatives for youth and adult learners on disability, ableism and accessibility, human rights, leadership development, anti-oppression and Islamophobia.
Raihanna holds a degree in Law, a Master of Science in Business & IT, a Master of Arts in Critical Disability Studies and is a LLM Canadian Common Law candidate at Osgoode Law School.
In her former role as Accessibility Officer at McMaster University’s Equity and Inclusion Office, Raihanna managed the University’s compliance obligations with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). She also co-led a campus-wide initiative on Challenging Islamophobia on Campus that sought to identify and acknowledge everyday forms of racism and islamophobia with a view to creating support mechanisms on campus for staff, students and faculty.
Raihanna is passionate about supporting the development of women and youth. She lives in Mississauga, Ontario and is currently a homeschooling mom.
Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, York University
Dr. Carl James is the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education, and cross-appointed to the Graduate Programs in Sociology, Social Work, and Social and Political Thought at York University. In his role as Chair, he gives particular attention to issues of Black and other racialized people using a framework of equity, inclusivity, and social justice; and in the process seeks to foster university-school-community-government partnerships.
A former youth and community worker, James is widely recognized for his work with racialized communities; and nationally and internationally, for his scholarship and research pertaining to equity and access to opportunities in terms of race, class, gender, racialization, immigration and citizenship. On an international level, James has worked with teacher educators, teachers and teacher-candidates at Uppsala University, Sweden (1997 to 2013). In addition to his many community awards, James also holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Uppsala University for his contribution to social equity and anti-racism education; and is an elected Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada.
Senior Manager, Equitable and Inclusive System Culture, Toronto District School Board
Ken Jeffers is the newly appointed Senior Manager for Equitable and Inclusive System Culture at the Toronto District School Board. Ken’s background is as a teacher and child and youth worker and he has been an employee of the TDSB since amalgamation. He began his career within the TDSB as an Equity Program Advisor, designing and delivering programs for staff and youth, playing an advocate role for students experiencing discrimination – helping to draft and implement the TDSB’s Equity and Human Right’s polices as early as 1999. From 2009-2017, Ken worked as Coordinator of the Board’s Gender-Based Violence Prevention Office, implementing a system-wide prevention strategy for almost 600 schools and programs, over 230,000 students and over 30,000 employees across the district.
Dr. Salha Jeizan, EdD.
Chair, MIAG – Centre for Diverse Women and Families
Dr. Salha Jeizan is an educator, community leader and activist who works and volunteers with grassroots organizations, advocating for women and youth. She is committed to raising awareness of issues facing diverse comminutes. Salha is a professor with Sheridan College and Adjunct Faculty at Capella University. She has served on many boards and is the chair of MIAG – Centre for Diverse Women and Families, immediate past president of The Federation of Muslim Women, a committee member on Parent Involvement Committee of the Peel District School Board (PDSB), Muslim Advisory Committee of Peel Regional Police, and founder of Umoja Women’s Association.
Director of Education, Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust
April Julian joined the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Education Trust (CCLET) in 2009. She became Deputy Director of Education in 2014, and Director in 2016. An Ontario Certified Teacher, April is responsible for developing and delivering CCLET’s various education initiatives in Ontario and beyond. With the help of her colleagues at CCLA/CCLET, April delivers civil liberties programming to nearly 10,000 learners each year – including elementary and high school students, pre-service and in-service teachers, newcomers to Canada, and youth in custody. In her work, April strives to encourage a deeper understanding and respect for the rights and freedoms of everyone in Canada.
Manager, Consent Comes First – Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University
Farrah Khan has spent two decades working diligently to raise awareness about the connection between equity and gender-based violence. She was named co-chair of Ontario’s first permanent provincial roundtable on Violence Against Women and the Federal Strategy Against Gender-based Violence Advisory Council. She conducts training across North America on gender justice, sexual violence, forced marriage and consent. Farrah is co-founder of innovative community projects including Use the Right Words: Media Reporting on Sexual Violence, Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project, and is a regular contributor to major news media outlets. She is the Manager of Consent Comes First, Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University, where she works with community members affected by sexual violence, creates educational programming and aids in shaping campus policy and procedures. Farrah has received many awards, including the Toronto Community Foundation Vital People Award and a Women Who Inspire award from Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
Organizational Development Specialist – Diversity & Inclusion, City of London
Saleha J. Khan is a human rights and social justice activist and educator with more than 15 years of experience in training with law enforcement and the public service sector, working with diverse communities in Ontario, Canada and abroad. Saleha’s areas of expertise include social justice, human rights and responsibilities, hate crimes, and the settlement sector’s challenges and opportunities with the new Canadians. She has worked in the human capital, equity and inclusion field for more than 15 years, She is involved in volunteer efforts in empowering women and members of immigrant and racialized communities, regarding family and partner abuse. Saleha is the co-founder of the Family Honour Project, housed out of London, Ontario, She is also a charter member of the London Chapter for Sorpotimist International. Saleha received the Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s Women who Inspire Award for 2015.
She is currently employed as the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist with the City of London, Ontario. Saleha can be reached via LinkedIn.
National Coordinator, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty
Anita Khanna works at Family Service Toronto as National Coordinator, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty in Canada and Director of Social Action and Community Building. Anita is an advocate for social justice and equity whose work is driven by anti-racist, anti-oppressive analysis. She was Executive Director of the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) and City-Wide organizer at Social Planning Toronto. Anita’s work and activist experience spans legal, gender-based violence, migrant justice and youth advocacy issues. Please tag @campaign2000 on twitter and on Facebook.
President, Canadian Arab Institute
Raja Khouri is president of the Canadian Arab Institute, a policy think tank he co-founded in 2011. Raja is co-founder of the Canadian Arab/Jewish Leadership Dialogue Group, and an international consultant in organizational development and capacity building. Raja formerly served on several government and civil society bodies, such as Ontario’s Hate Crimes Community Working Group (for the Attorney General and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services), the Minister of Education’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy Roundtable, the Pride Toronto Community Advisory Panel, the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, and as advocacy co-chair of Human Rights Watch Canada. He served as president of the Canadian Arab Federation in the period following the events of 9/11.
Raja’s earlier career included a senior management position at CIBC and management consulting tenures in Europe and the Middle East. He has designed and chaired conferences, given and moderated lectures, many media interviews, and published commentaries in journals and major Canadian dailies. He’s the author of Arabs in Canada: Post 9/11. Raja served as a Commissioner with the OHRC from 2006 to 2016.
Health Promoter, Bridges Community Health Centre
Lori Kleinsmith has worked as a Health Promoter at Bridges Community Health Centre since 2009. Lori is a passionate social justice and health equity advocate and has been an active member of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network for several years. She is the current chair of the Niagara Dental Health Coalition and co-chair of the City of Port Colborne’s Social Determinants of Health Committee of Council. Follow Lori on Twitter at @LoriKleinsmith.
Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law
Roberto Lattanzio is the Executive Director of ARCH Disability Law Centre. He joined ARCH as an articling student in 2003 and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2004. Robert received his LL.B and B.C.L. law degrees from McGill University in 2003 with distinction, and received his B.A. from Concordia University in 1999 with honours. He has acted as counsel in test case litigation at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and has made law reform submissions to various levels of government, committees and administrative bodies. Robert has presented and written on topics such as equality and human rights law, administrative law, education law, legislative reform, and social science evidence. Robert has a long-standing interest in disability issues and worked extensively with disability communities prior to attending law school.
President, Maytree Foundation
Elizabeth McIsaac is the president of Maytree, an organization committed to exploring solutions to poverty in Canada using a human rights approach. She has a deep history with Maytree; she previously served as the Director of Policy and was the executive director of one of Maytree’s signature ideas: the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC). Elizabeth is also a dedicated champion of the non-profit sector, having most recently established and led a research hub at the Mowat Centre focused on public policy and the sector.
Policy Counsel, Legal Aid Ontario
Fallon Melander is Anishinaabe, a mother, a wife, a travel enthusiast and a member of Wikwemikoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. She completed her B.A. at the University of Western Ontario and her LL.B. at the University of Ottawa. She is Policy Counsel for Legal Aid Ontario leading the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, and is a member of the Indigenous Bar Association.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
Director, Equality Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv joined CCLA in 2002 as a legal researcher. Since 2005 she has directed CCLA’s Expression and Equality programs. Noa has been published, made submissions, appearances and presentations, and advocated on such issues as refugee protection, LGBTQ rights, racial profiling, freedom of expression and religion, and the intersectionality of rights, in particular religious freedom and equality. Noa has coordinated many CCLA interventions in a variety of Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and human rights tribunals; appeared before Parliamentary and provincial legislative committees, governmental and public bodies; and provided written submissions. She has also appeared on panels, at conferences, in press interviews, and provided guest workshops and lessons through CCLET’s public education project. In addition, Noa manages CCLA’s law student volunteer programs.
Noa has an LL.B. and LL.M. from the Hebrew University in Israel, and a B.A. (with distinction) from York University. She completed her legal articles at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and was called to the Israeli Bar in 1998. She worked for a few years as an associate at a private law firm in Jerusalem, practicing litigation, labour, commercial and corporate law. Noa has also served as Field Coordinator for a large research project on eating disorders in women, and as Acting Administrative Director of Hebrew University Law Faculty’s Center for Human Rights.
Project Manager – One Vision One Voice: Changing the Child Welfare System for African Canadian Families
Kike Ojo is the Project Manager for One Vision One Voice: Changing the Child Welfare System for African Canadian Families, a community-led project facilitated by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Kike has worked in the field of child welfare in Ontario for over 10 years, advancing an equity agenda to address services to all marginalized people. Prior to her child welfare career, Kike worked within multiple social service sectors and within communities in the US and Canada, and has presented many keynotes, guest lectures and workshops.
Kike’s work and volunteer efforts earned her the Lincoln M. Alexander Community Award for extraordinary leadership in eliminating racial discrimination in Ontario, and several other awards and recognitions. Over the past two years, Kike has been featured in the Toronto Star, on The Agenda with Steve Paikin (TVO), CBC News, and CBC Radio across Ontario.
Kike’s formal education includes a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in International Justice and Human Rights from McMaster University, a Master of Arts in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Education, University of Toronto. Additionally Kike is a certified Alternative Dispute Resolution mediator.
Executive Director, John Howard Society of Ontario
Paula Osmok is the Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Ontario, a position she has held since 2002. During this time, she established the Centre of Research and Policy, and through its team of professional researchers, policy analysts and evaluators, has engaged in leading-edge research and policy work, making significant contributions to social and criminal justice literature and program development in Ontario. She was elected for four successive terms as a public school trustee in her local community, serving as Chair of the Board and of many committees.
She has presented at many conferences and training sessions on a range of criminal and social justice topics including the importance of human rights in carceral settings. A special focus is required for carceral settings because prisons are environments where human rights can be most easily disregarded.
Paula holds an MSc, in Criminal Justice Studies from the University of Leicester in the UK.
Chair in Indigenous Governance, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University
Pam Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation. She’s been a practicing lawyer for 18 years and holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. Pam is an activist and was one of the spokespeople and educators for the Idle No More movement. She is a well-known public speaker often called before Parliamentary and United Nations committees as an expert on Indigenous rights.
Jessica Reekie, B.A. LL.B.
Executive Director, Ontario Justice Education Network
Jess Reekie is the Executive Director of the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), a charitable not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that develops innovative educational tools that introduce young people to the justice system, help them understand the law, and build their legal capability (www.ojen.ca).
A graduate of Harvard University and Dalhousie Law School, Jess practiced immigration and refugee law before she began working in the field of public legal education. She joined OJEN in 2008, first as a Program Manager developing public legal education programs and resources for newcomer youth, later becoming Director of Programs where she oversaw all of OJEN’s justice education work with vulnerable and marginalized youth. In 2014, she became OJEN’s Executive Director. Jess also serves as a Board Member for the Public Legal Education Association of Canada (PLEAC).
Coordinating Superintendent, Equity and Community Services, York Region District School Board
In his 33-year career as an educator, Cecil Roach has had the opportunity to have a very profound impact on the lives of young people. He has done this as a classroom teacher, school administrator, and now Coordinating Superintendent.
Born on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat (now sadly devastated by a continuously erupting volcano) and arriving in Canada in his early teens, Cecil completed most of his schooling in Montreal where he graduated from Marymount High School, Vanier College CEGEP, and Concordia and McGill Universities. He maintains that his time as one of the “barrel children” (children whose parents left them behind with a grandparent while they prepared for their reunion in Canada) has given him special insight into the dynamics of immigration and its effect on student achievement and well-being. This experience has also strengthened Mr. Roach’s belief that schools are places where students, regardless of their social identities, can expand dreams on their journey towards full participation in Canadian society.
Cecil taught English for 16 years in Quebec at Chambly County High School and Centennial Regional High School and in Ontario at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute before becoming an administrator in 1995. He is currently serving as Coordinating Superintendent, Equity and Community Services for the York Region District School Board.
Chair, Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council
Paul Robitaille is a Métis graduate student and community organizer, with a strong passion for youth empowerment and cultural revitalization. Paul’s academic and professional work seeks to promote greater understanding and collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through creating opportunities for respectful cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge exchange. Paul is excited to join the Community Advisory Group and to collectively work towards building a more inclusive, equitable and barrier-free Ontario for all Ontarians.
Elder, Traditional Teacher
Giidaakunadaad (The Spirit Who Lives in High Places) n’dizhinikaaz (is my name): Nancy Rowe is a Mississauga, Ojibwe of the Anishinaabek Nation located at New Credit First Nation, Ontario. Nancy holds an honors BA in Indigenous Studies and Political Science. She is an educator, consultant and a Traditional Practitioner of Anishinaabek lifeways, views and customary practices, and is currently completing a Master’s degree of Environmental Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo.
She is an avid volunteer who coordinates Akinomaagaye Gaamik, a grassroots initiative to provide educational opportunities for all peoples interested in Indigenous perspectives of life, health, education, history and the environment. “Education is the doorway through which we all can create a common ground and understanding of not only Indigenous Peoples but also, and more importantly, our environment.”
Legal Counsel, World Sikh Organization of Canada
Balpreet Singh received his law degree from the University of Ottawa. After articling with a boutique disability and human rights law firm in Toronto, he became legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization of Canada in 2009.
His practice focuses on human rights law and religious accommodation. Balpreet Singh has helped resolve several key accommodation issues for Sikhs in Canada, including accommodation for the wearing of the kirpan in courthouses in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, on VIA Rail trains, as well as in Canadian embassies and consulates internationally.
Balpreet Singh has worked with various public and private sector organizations to create resources and provide training on religious accommodation issues and best practices when interacting with persons of the Sikh faith. He currently also serves as a director for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
Catherine Soplet joins the OHRC Community Advisory Group with a musician’s insight and results since 2007 on complex issues of education and poverty. Her 2017 collaborations in a new role as Executive Director (Acting) for NabrHUBS INC. intend to gauge impact of parent mentoring on student tutoring. Since joining the Peel Poverty Action Group and Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2010, Catherine’s mantra, “Schools anchor neighbourhoods, attract talent and build prosperity,” has been taken to every level of government
Lawyer, Human Rights Legal Support Centre
Chantal Tie is an advocate, litigator and educator, dedicated to social justice and the defense of human rights. She wrote her LLM thesis on discrimination in Canadian immigration, and the same interest in the rights of immigrants, women and marginalized groups drives her advocacy and litigation work. She was awarded the Law Society Medal from the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2015, in recognition of her social justice work.
She has represented individuals and organizations in rights-based litigation at all court levels, including among others, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Elizabeth Fry Society, Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and Amnesty International.
Called to the Bar in 1982, her interest in social justice extends beyond Canada, having worked for the Canadian Bar Association on justice projects in Bangladesh and China. She currently volunteers on collaborative projects with The Equality Effect, including a successful constitutional challenge in Kenya on behalf of 160 girl victims of rape and a challenge to the requirement for corroboration in rape in Malawi.
Chantal was Chair of the Court Challenges Program of Canada, Co-chair of LEAF’s litigation committee and CCR’s Inland Protection Working Group and is now on the Executive of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, co-chairing the litigation committee. For 21 years, she was Executive Director of South Ottawa Community Legal Services and is now counsel at the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre. She teaches Immigration and Refugee Law at the University of Ottawa.
Director – Policy, Learning and Evaluation, Tamarack Institute
As a lifelong resident of Windsor, I have strong ties to my community and am passionate about creating an equitable, inclusive community. Following studies in political science, law and social work, for the last nine years I have worked as an anti-poverty advocate. I believe that human rights should be the foundation of any poverty reduction strategy. I am currently the Tamarack Institute's Director of Policy, Learning and Evaluation, and prior to that I worked for the Downtown Mission of Windsor and Pathway to Potential.. Twitter: @adam_vasey
Duty Counsel, Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto
Jessica Wolfe is Anishinaabe from Brunswick House First Nation, and mother of two children, Meghan and Ruby. A recovering social worker, she graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in 2006 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2007. Jessica worked for 10 years as Criminal Duty Counsel at Old City Hall Courthouse in Toronto, and specifically in the Gladue Courts representing Indigenous persons in conflict with the settler criminal justice system. She recently accepted the Senior Staff Lawyer position at Aboriginal Legal Services, a legal clinic that provides legal services to low-income Indigenous persons in the areas of human rights and poverty law, and engages in law reform activities, community organizing, public legal organizing, test-case litigation, coroner’s inquests, public inquiries, and interventions at all levels of court including the Supreme Court of Canada.