The Panelists-May 30th, 2016 Symposium

Biofoto.jpegSue Croweagle

Sue Croweagle is from the Piikani First Nation in southern Alberta. She is a 2 spirit female who enjoys singing and dancing. She came to Toronto in 2010 and reestablished a female aboriginal drum group called the Eagle Woman Singerz. She has been facilitating drum circles thru out the GTA and has done many events.


BiophotoMelisse Watson, the RAWHIDE project

Artist & Founder – I am a Black, Cherokee, adopted mixed-settler, who occupies a non-binary gender identity and as such, face violence on a daily basis. I do have many privileges that have allowed me the opportunities, education and space that I occupy. I have not experienced the mental health or the criminal justice system as a participant. Through personal experience – one experience of many – unresolved interpersonal conflict has affected my confidence, self-esteem, safety and supportive resources. Isolation has hindered my ability to reach out and form meaningful, healthy relationships and has resulted in a difficulty to understand my personal value. My background in Restorative and Transformative Justice, knowledge of the Canadian Criminal Justice system and a passion for healing and building through creation and the arts has lead me to, and drives me through this work to create a new kind of less-violent, living reality for many.

FB_IMG_1463453181395Harriet Badua-Baffoe

Years ago, Harriet watched her parents be instrumental players in the opening of the Ghanaian Canadian Association of Montreal. This is where for the first time she saw what collective change looks like and the power a community can have. The association brought people together and help them with their conflict as well as their adjustment into Canadian society. From then she committed herself into helping members within her community and others to overcome their obstacles. Harriet is a graduate of the Community and justice Services at Humber College and hopes to help youth through programming find alternative ways to deal with their struggles. She is a former dancer that sees the arts a good way for youth to express themselves when words are too hard to find. “ I don’t believe in bad apples I believe she must help the crop grow better”.

dean barnesDean Barnes

Dean Barnes is the Principal of T.A. Blakelock High School in Oakville Ontario. Dean has been a school administrator for 14 years and is a PhD graduate of the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. His thesis was entitled: “Restorative Peacemaking Circles and other Conflict Management Efforts in Three Ontario High Schools” explored implementation approaches of pro-active and post-incident restorative circles. Dean’s leadership focuses on promoting high student achievement through healthy school-wide and classroom initiatives, such as increased physical activity and wellness, mindfulness, co-curricular activities, restorative practices, school-community partnerships, and relationship building interventions. He will speak about the impact of restorative justice circles in the classroom and the positive impact they have on the wellness of students.

jeffJeff Catania

Jeff was a computer engineer briefly, then a teacher of math, physics, computer science and communications technology longingly. Since 1999 he has supported a variety of areas at the district level as instructional program leader including assessment, eLearning, mathematics, technology in the classroom. He is currently supporting applied learning, with a passion for social-emotional learning and mindfulness, in the Halton District School Board.

pearlPearl Lee, Full Circle – Art Therapy Centre

I was brought up in Hong Kong and Malaysia. I never thought I had the ‘artistic skills’ or ‘techniques’ to make any kind of art. I always failed my art classes. During my high school years, I became more interested in graphic designing. I took Art as one out of the six subjects I have for my International Baccalaureate diploma. In the beginning, I measured every single angle in my art works. Until one day, I was given a 72” x 72” canvas to make a piece of art work. I no longer have that mathematical patience and just ran with it. That piece was the beginning of my therapeutic journey through art.
From a young age, I have learned to put up a strong mask and conceal my emotions. My elder brother actually told me that he didn’t know I had emotions until he saw me crying one day when I was 21. During my International Baccalaureate course, I was supposed to make a series of painting circling one theme. Through that process, I was able to find the right expressions for my concealed emotions and begin to discover, explore, learn and heal.
I took some time off art, because I was told that it is really hard to make a living through art. I moved to Toronto when I was 19, went to York University, obtained my B.A Honors in Psychology, took a year off to spend time with my father before he pass away. When my dad passed, I thought back about the times I used to spend in the art room, the effect it had on me. I decided to follow my gut and pursue a career as an art therapist, and applied to the Toronto Art Therapy Institute. Now, here I am, perusing the vision of free mental health services for all through the way I know how- Art Therapy, to promote the importance of mental health and self-awareness.

laceyLacey Ford, Full Circle – Art Therapy Centre

Lacey Ford was born 1989 in rural Prince Edward Island, Canada. Lacey is a self-taught artist and began showing an interest in art when she was only seven years old, and started out by doodling cartoon characters she saw in children books. However, due to financial constraints she was unable to fully explore her interest in art until high school, where free art classes were offered.
During her adolescence, Lacey experienced a great deal of emotional distress caused by the negative effects of trauma, which she responded to by acting out. Fortunately, when she entered into high school and began taking art classes, she was able to express her feelings in a safe way and organize her thoughts, from this point visual arts became a regular therapeutic outlet for her.
In 2012, Lacey obtained her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). During the last year of her undergraduate at UPEI, Lacey randomly came across the definition for art therapy for the first time online, and realized this is what she had been practicing on herself, and decided then that she wanted to share the power of healing through art with other people in the world. Immediately after completing her undergraduate degree at UPEI, Lacey moved to Toronto in order to study art therapy at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute.
Lacey has recently launched a grass roots non-profit organization with her friend and business partner Pearl Lee, called the ‘Full Circle-Art Therapy Centre’. The aim of the organization is to deliver art therapy services throughout Toronto and making mental health services more accessible to those who cannot afford private services.

NgaNga Dinh, Full Circle – Art Therapy Centre

Nga Dinh, of Vietnamese descent was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada when she was only two years old. She was raised in low-income environments that fostered her resilience, determination and quest for knowledge. As a young child, she was able to hone her artistic skills and use them to portray the world around her. Her love and passion for sports and art became her allies that have enabled her to pursue a successful and happy life. She is also a free-lance artist and painter.

She completed her B.A. in Kinesiology and B.F.A at Wilfrid Laurier University. Throughout her life, she has worked to provide assistance to anyone she could. A smile, a thank you, a little help goes a long way to help brighten someone else’s day. She has worked and volunteered at Street Haven Women’s Shelter, Meals on Wheels, Curated the student/staff show at Wilfrid Laurier University, WWF, Toronto Flying Tigers Volleyball Club, Toronto District School Board and has made appearances on several television and movie productions through BCAST.

After working 6 years in broadcasting, she knew that it was time to use her skills to assist others towards a fulfilling emotionally healthy life. She enrolled and has completed her coursework at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute and is currently completing her thesis. Her goal in life is to use her skills and talents to assist others using Art Therapy as means to provide healthier mental states, positive enjoyment of life and easier means of communication and self-expression.

Currently she is involved with the Blue Jays Care Foundation, volunteers at the Royal Ontario Museum, the Student Representative on the TATI Advisory Board and is the Director of Events for the National Association of Asian American Professionals Toronto Chapter.

jenny starkeJenny Starke, ANBU – Abuse Never Becomes Us

Jenny Starke M.S.W., R.S.W. completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at York University (Toronto, ON 2009) and her Masters in Social Work at the University of Toronto (Toronto, ON 2012). She is a Registered Social Worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.
Jenny is a German Tamil Canadian woman that allows her intuitions to guide her to live a life of purpose. Jenny is a woman of many identities that has and is embracing her personal struggles and sharing them to create awareness, challenge normative ideologies and inspire self and political transformation. She is a Geriatric Social Worker at Humber River Hospital and a Peer Group Facilitator for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse at The Gatehouse. Due to her own personal experiences of trauma within the Tamil community, her passion and what she truly believes is the purpose to her life has been to work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
With A.N.B.U., she hopes to create a voice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and shed light, build capacity, strengthen awareness and compassion within the Tamil community and across many communities. She is constantly growing and developing her knowledge and understanding of life with trauma through mindfulness and meditation practices. Her personal and professional journeys have enabled her to believe in living and serving within an anti-oppressive, strengths-based and feminist framework.

tharshigaTharshiga Elankeeran, ANBU – Abuse Never Becomes Us

Tharshiga Elankeeran is a Registered Psychotherapist that holds a B.A. (Hons.) in Psychology from York University (Toronto, ON 2009) and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from McGill University (Montreal, QC 2013). Tharshiga is a Women’s Substance Abuse Counselor at Addiction Services for York Region where she works with pregnant and or parenting women who have suffered extensive trauma and are striving to heal themselves. She has facilitated trauma groups with survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the York Region Abuse Program and currently facilitating a trauma group at Black Creek Community Health Center. With a strong commitment for eternal learning, she continues to seek out opportunities for mental and experiential growth. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself, she believes in holistic healing. The body remembers trauma and she passionately seeks alternative forms of healing that incorporate the whole. She obtained Reiki training and aspires to continue practicing and mastering this form of cleansing and balancing of energy within the body. She is also a certified Acudetox Specialist with NADA that can provide Auricular acupuncture to reduce stress, anxiety, cravings and increase relaxation and cleansing.

natalieNatalie Wood, MA, Co-founder of the Social Innovation Hub, George Brown College

Natalie is a full time Professor teaching in the SSW Program at George Brown College. Her areas of interest are Community Development, Community Economic Development/ Social Purpose Enterprise, Research and Proposal Writing, Communication and Interviewing, Values and Ethics, and the use of the Arts as a tool for research and empowerment of marginalized communities.

For over 20 years she has worked in a variety of positions both managerial and front line in the social services field with marginalized communities such as, adults with dual diagnoses, women with concurrent disorders, trauma and abuse survivors, and women with mental health issues who are living in long-term poverty. She is also a community researcher, working as an art consultant on projects related to homeless women and trans-women and new immigrants and their experience of work, with the Arts and Social Work Research Institute at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.

She has co-written a number of articles and presented nationally at conferences related to community-based and arts-based research in the social work field. Selected awards include a Community Based Research Award of Merit, from the Centre for Urban Health Initiatives & the Wellesley Institute 2007, the New Pioneers Award for contribution to Arts and Culture, 2006 and the City of York Civic Recognition Award for using the Arts to work with marginalized communities, 1997.

IMG_5271Ubah Idle

Ubah Idle is a 20-year-old Somali-Canadian who was born and raised in Toronto. She found her niche when she would post personal stories on social media as well as spoken word pieces and get a big response. She has been a very vocal person when it comes to social justice and has recently started a grassroots initiative called #SaveOurSomaliYouth.#SaveOurSomaliYouth sees its existence due to a pre-existing need to create a social platform for Somali youth. This grassroots collective uses social media to build support in the Somali community and spark social change and justice in young Somali community members.

Her initiative went viral almost instantly. Ubah has been interviewed for Integration TV (a Somali-English TV network) as well as radio interviewed twice on AM530 Multicultural Radio. Her initiative movement has a sister-branch out in Ottawa, Canada, as well while also garnishing attention from other cities nationally. Currently, she is involved in creating summer programs catered to Somali youth in the city. She is working with other organizations and collectives of people to help bridge resources to these youth and their families.

James Buffin.jpegJames Buffin

In my experience, recovery from child sex abuse is an inner/outer journey of re-relating to self and the world. My journey began in 2011 and was triggered by the arrest of my son’s teacher on child pornography charges.

The greatest thing I have learned since, is that the stress and anxiety I had lived with for over 30 years was a predictable symptom…of a crime committed against my most vulnerable child self. I still have challenges, but now I have this information, I am emancipated.

Voice and storytelling are at the heart of humanity. And that’s why I use my skills as a filmmaking instructor to empower marginalized, oppressed and racialized people in using technology to tell their own stories.

To keep things real, I’m also sharing my own story in a documentary film, Picking Trauma’s Pocket. To date I have filmed empowered survivors in Canada, the US, Guyana, Bolivia and Taiwan. My goal is to highlight the scale and impact of child sex abuse; the prevalence of it in local communities everywhere on the planet.

Jay PicJay Smith

Inner peace in the time we live in is hard to come by. I design landscapes and structures and create spaces for people to get away from the intensity of modern life but seldom do we achieve that.

The labyrinth project is a way to create a space for people to stop, slow down, reflect and breathe. A space to connect and feel grounded. A place to be with ourselves and take a break from the instant electronic world we live in. Finding inner peace is transformational change and walking the path of the labyrinth is another step on the journey to that peace.