The Panelists- November 5th & 6th, 2016 Symposium


BiofotoSue 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.


2015 updated Chair s picture_DSC_9778 [150627]Dr. Alok Mukherjee

Alok Mukherjee is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University, Toronto. He served as Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board from 2005 to 2015.  With his focus on promoting effective and affordable community-based policing under civilian oversight provincially and nationally, Dr. Mukherjee was actively involved in Ontario government’s Future of Policing Advisory Committee as well as in other police governance forums across Canada.

He is frequently called upon to speak and write on policing issues for a variety of audiences. He brings a unique perspective to law enforcement issues from his experiences in a highly multicultural and multiracial environment.

Dr. Mukherjee has worked as an educator and a consultant. He has written extensively in a variety of areas including diversity and inclusivity, employment equity for racially visible and aboriginal people, and anti-racist education.

Dr. Mukherjee has held several public appointments, including membership on the Toronto District School Board Safe and Compassionate School Task force and the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, and has served as Vice Chair and Acting Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Dr. Mukherjee has received several awards for his volunteer activities and for his outstanding work at a professional and social level. He is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Government of Ontario.

ardethArdath Whynacht

Ardath Whynacht is a Doctoral Candidate in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program at Concordia University and a Lecturer in Sociology at Mount Allison University. As an artist-scholar, her research creatively explores notions of trauma, violence and healing through collaborative, community-based projects. She works with inmates in Federal prisons in Atlantic Canada, using poetry and performance to understand the ways in which institutionalization impacts our ability to heal from trauma. She is a founding member of Phin Performing Arts and is a poet and community organizer with the Word Iz Bond Collective in Halifax. Her work has been featured in festivals, (New Music West, Canada Dance Festival, Zebra Berlin, Canadian Festival of Spoken Word) in print (Understorey Magazine, Quattro Press, Girlhood Studies) and on film (Afcoop Cinepoetry Project, HUFF, Visible Verse).

young-headshotYoung Park

Young was born in South Korea and her family moved to Boston Massachusetts when she was 7-years- old. She began studying music (viola) at the age of ten, attending New England Conservatory Prep School and Walnut Hill School of Performing Arts.

After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Music from Oberlin College, she pursued further studies at University of Michigan, receiving her Master’s degree, and co-founding SAFMOD (now based in Cleveland, OH), a multi-disciplinary performing arts group that focused on the creation of original pieces, integrating music and dance styles from different cultures. As Artistic Director of SAFMOD from 1993-2004, she created numerous original choreography, influenced by movement styles like Butoh, Contact Improv, capoeira and stilting.

Since joining Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers in 2007, Young has taken on a leadership role in the group. She was the project director of the Toronto Taiko Festival in 2012, and currently the managing director of RAW and lead coordinator for the group’s educational outreach programs.  She has led RAW in producing 2 full length concerts (2013 & 2016) as the production director.

Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers (RAW) is a community arts collective of East and Southeast Asian Women in Toronto. We are a Taiko drumming group that exists as a critical response and challenge to both systemic and internalized oppressions. Through performance, education, and community outreach, we seek to challenge, redefine and represent ourselves, and to inspire ourselves and others. Through collective membership, artistic creation, and active development, we carve space for self-expression, authentic engagement, community, and healing.

dsc_0642Dr. Peter Dawson

Dr. Peter E. Dawson has taught at York University since acquiring his PhD in 2002. Dr Dawson is well known for his commitment to Experiential Education. Dr. Dawson has been involved in Human Rights activities since he was a child growing up in South Africa. Encouraged by late mother at the age of four to be an ally to people of color his life has revolved around human rights activism and advocacy. A strong proponent of non violent dispute resolution, anti-racist programs and activities Dr Dawson has been active with the American Indian Movement and the African National Congress. Dr. Dawson worked by the side of one of the founders of AIM, the late Russell Means on the protracted Yellow Thunder land dispute in the Black Hills of South Dakota . Dr. Dawson has been involved in fund raising for the Leonard Peltier defense fund. Dr Dawson assisted Reverend Alf Dlamini, a comrade of the late Nelson Mandela, in land disputes in Peddie and Mgwali and with Mr. Rommell Roberts in Brown’s Farm and Cross Roads South Africa. Dr. Dawson has been directly involved in land disputes with Indigenous peoples and NGOs in Honduras, Canada, the United States and South Africa. Dr. Dawson is an outspoken activist and advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and is involved in combating violence against women and children in numerous countries. In the Residential Schools Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Montreal 2013 event, Dr. Dawson was officially recognized by the Commission for his efforts to educate the public about the tragic consequences of the Canadian Residential School’s role in the genocide of Indigenous population groups in Canada. Prior to working on his PhD Dr. Dawson held senior management positions in numerous well known companies in the Canadian food industry. He has considerable experience and knowledge of the socio/economic politics of food. He is active and involved in poverty-reduction work.

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.

March 3, 2016Melanie Panitch

Melanie Panitch holds the John C. Eaton Chair in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University.

She first came to Ryerson in 1999 to develop the proposal and then to build the Disability Studies Program as its founding Director (1999 – 2011). During that time she was instrumental in attracting a $1.2 million corporate gift from RBC. The exhibit which she co-curated, “Out From Under: Disability History and Things to Remember” started as a class project and is now permanently in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. She received (with a faculty team) the J W McConnell Curricular Innovation Award (2007).

Throughout her career she has been an activist, advocate, researcher and educator, with strong roots in the disability rights movement and broad international experience.Much of her work before coming to Ryerson was rooted in community development and progressive social change. She initiated a unique program at Humber College for intellectually disabled students, which spread to other Ontario community colleges and for which she was awarded College Innovator of the Year (1989). Years of engagement in the Community Living Movement led her to recognize the devastating effects of exclusion and the impact of social policy on people’s everyday lives, a radicalizing exposure that informs her work and sense of urgency.

Melanie holds a B.A. from the University of Manitoba, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of London, and a Masters in Social Work from Carleton University. She completed her graduate work at the Hunter College School of Social Work, receiving her Doctorate in Social Welfare from the City University of New York Graduate Centre.. Melanie’s book/Disability, Mothers and Organization: Accidental Activists, /is a gendered history of activist mothering in the Canadian Association for Community Living (Routledge, 2008).

russ-fordRuss Ford

Russ Ford has been the Executive Director of LAMP Community Health Centre for the last 15 years. Under his direction LAMP has dramatically expanded its programs and services in Toronto and Mississauga and has won a number of awards for its work with youth. Russ founded the Brendan Ford memorial scholarship which annually provides money to youth who are in financial need and have exhibited a commitment to social justice.

Prior to working at LAMP, Russ founded the Stonegate Community Health Centre. He has also been involved in the founding of many other social agencies or advocacy
organizations in the city. Russ has spoken at a number of provincial and national conferences on issues relating to poverty, social exclusion and health, and is a regular speaker for the United Way and has acted as a national policy advisory on community health. Internationally, Russ helped establish a health centre in Maroontown, Jamaica.

In 2014 Russ ran for Toronto City Council. Though he was not elected, his social justice based campaign dramatically increased voter participation in low-income areas of the ward. Russ is a member of Humber’s advisory committee on its proposed Community Development degree program. He holds a Masters degree in social policy and Bachelor’s degrees in social work and journalism. Russ is a resident of Etobicoke where he lives with his wife Sheila and daughter Charlotte.

image1Ahmeda Mansaray-Richardson, Youth Advocates of Ghana

Ahmeda Mansaray-Richardson is a hope-filled voice that seeks the realization of human rights for every child.  A fervent advocate of the sanctity of childhood and the“voice” of a child, she  finds her purpose in serving initiatives that nurture disadvantaged children and youth.

Something of a renaissance woman, Ahmeda is an accomplished academic, a volunteer Advanced Medical First Response team member with St. John’s Ambulance, an amateur obstacle race competitor, a pilot in training, and a proud wife and mother of four sons. Ahmeda funnels her various skills and experiences into her service as founder and leader of   The VOICES (Voices Of Inspired Children Engaging Society) Global Collective, a rights-based youth empowerment organization. The VOICES Global Collective is a vehicle striving for a world where collaborative synergetic relationships exist between children and adults to create thriving inclusive communities. VOICES actively fosters conversations, research and workshops that lead to active social change.  To date, the organization has housed initiatives that has changed the lives of over 500 participants on three continents.

With a BSc. from McGill University and a Masters in Public Health from Lakehead University, alongside a postgraduate certificate from the Coady Institute, Ahmeda is consumed by her vision of a world where young people are valued participants in knowledge creation and not merely seen as consumers of research.   Describing herself as a “bricoleur-researcher”, Ahmeda listens and records young people’s stories and weaves them into tapestries that form the basis of actionable development programs. Her research based approach fuel the programs that are used by VOICES in Ghana, France and Canada, to ignite community-wide change. She is humbled to note that her work has created opportunities for her own voice to be heard. Most recently, she held the position of advisor, volunteer researcher and co-moderator in the creation of the 2013 United Nations Youth World Report.

Ahmeda believes the challenges and triumphs of her personal life to be the catalyst for her professional goals. Raised in West Africa at a time when political unrest was the order of the day, her own experience of trauma and healing and the journey in-between, is the chief cornerstone in her social innovation pursuits.In her present reality as mother of four young sons, she is pushed to explore what it truly means to value the inclusion of the child’s voice in everyday living, protecting its sanctity and strengthening its resilience. She credits her deep connection to the Divine, her supportive community, a strong marriage and her many but extremely valuable failures for the successes in her professional journey.

Ahmeda Mansaray-Richardson is also co-founder and research analyst for the African-based global think tank, The Songai Institute, on the board of Directors for the advocacy organization, C4C Kaleidoscope and a volunteer facilitator at The Toronto-based organization The Gatehouse.   An avid reader, dedicated writer, and lover of the many ways a sky shows up in each day, Ahmeda references her favorite quote from her favorite book as her personal and professional compass, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”.

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, the RAWHIDE project

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”.

tharshiga-newTharshiga 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.

jenny-newJenny 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.

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.

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.

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.

James BuffinJames 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 film making 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.

fullsizerenderJessica Horak

Jessica Horak, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, addiction and eating disorders, who has gone through the experience of navigating the social service system first hand. She knows the challenges and frustrations that can come with wanting to get help and having no idea where to find it. She is passionate about creating a better opportunity for others who come after her and support them in their journey of creating change in their lives and healing from their own adversities!

IMG_5271Ubah Idle, #SaveOurSomaliYouth

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.

10974232_1057331640960503_634319859052472626_oMarcia Brown

Marcia Brown founded Trust 15 Youth Community Support Organization in 2011.
She started her career with the Toronto District School Board as an Educational Assistant in 2005. She has been working diligently to educate, mentor and inspire the young men and women in her community ever since. Marcia recognized that there was a significant need in her community for a place where youth could come and feel safe and accepted, and receive much needed support. So she decided to walk from door-to-door in the neighborhood asking parents if they would allow their children to participate in this enriching after-school program.

“I live in this community and I realize there are a lot of issues and not enough positive programs to help young people.”

Earning the trust from the community and the 15 girls that showed up on the first day the program started, led to the name, Trust 15.

Marcia has started 4 amazing programs in Etobicoke, that has reach the potential of our youth. They are Ladies on the Rise, Men of Distinction, Girls on the Rise and Boys of Excellence.

Marcia was awarded the Premier’s Award of Ontario for Teaching Excellence Support Staff (2011), Urban Hero Award for Education (2011), Aroni Award for Education (2011) The Women of Honour Award (BBPA) (2012), Rotary Club of Toronto-Youth Impact Award (Individual Category) (2015). Brilliant Minded Women Award- (2015), International Women Achievement Award (2016), Humber School of Social & Community Services for Trust 15 – Agency of Distinction (2016)