Maytree Policy School
Managing Director, Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative, McMaster University
Cynthia Belaskie is the Managing Director of the Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative (CHEC).
CHEC is a nationwide partnership of academics, government, industry, and non-profit organizations who are committed to creating high-quality research that can support housing policy development and inform future housing programming. CHEC is part of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation-funded Collaborative Housing Research Network that enables research on housing conditions, needs, and outcomes in the National Housing Strategy’s priority areas.
Cynthia is a partnership builder and evidence translator. She helps accelerate the evidence-to-impact cycle for CHEC and its partners. She is an active member of Research Impact Canada and received a Lifetime Service Award from the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, an international academic organization.
Cynthia received an MA and has done doctoral work in History at York University with a focus on gender, cities, and health.
National Organizer, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH)
Michelle Bilek is the National Field Organizer for the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH), providing policy, advocacy, and support to Canadian networks, organizations, and communities to elevate the needs and voices of our most vulnerable community members.
Her work to end homelessness started locally, by bringing activists, advocates, and stakeholders together to form the Peel Alliance to End Homelessness.
She serves as a director on several boards, including the Regional Diversity Roundtable of Peel; Homelessness Strategy Partnership, Community Advisory Board; and MOYO Health.
Michelle is also a host on Sauga News Talk 960AM radio show “Peel Matters,” which discusses issues and champions in Peel Region. She volunteers at Eden Food For Change, providing service and fresh food to those who are suffering from food insecurity.
Senior Policy Advisor, Ontario Association of Social Workers
Kaelen Boyd, M.S.W, R.S.W., is a Senior Policy Advisor for the Ontario Association of Social Workers, where she guides the Association’s policy work towards equitable mental wellness across Ontario’s social systems.
She specializes in mental health, health education, and corrections policy in Ontario. Her experience as a frontline social worker in educational, health, and community settings grounds her policy work in the real experiences of people.
Kaelen previously worked as the Policy and Government Relations Lead for the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health, with a focus on health system transformation.
She holds a master’s degree of Social Work from the University of Toronto.
CEO, Blue Door
Michael Braithwaite is the CEO for Blue Door Support services, a charity in York Region working to rapidly rehouse men, families, and youth, as well as to provide them access to health and employment services.
Michael has over 29 years’ experience in the non-profit sector. For the last 11 years, he’s worked with organizations dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness.
Michael’s past roles include a long-term stint at the YMCA, serving as CEO for 360kids, and, most recently, as CEO for Raising the Roof.
He’s a Brock University and Georgian College graduate and is very proud of his board work both with Family Day GTA and A Way Home Canada.
Mamta Chail is CEO for Youthdale Treatment Services, which supports child and youth mental wellness.
Social Advocate/Disrupter and Mother of Two. These are just a few things that describe and drive Mamta’s passion for wellness and sharpen her focus on improving the mental health and quality of life of children, youth, and families.
Prior to her role at Youthdale, Mamta’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector in counselling, addictions, mental health, justice, and residential support.
When she is not working, advocating, or disrupting, Mamta spends her time with her family enjoying copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.
Senior Manager of Partnerships and Learning Development, Ryerson Leadership Lab
Camara Chambers is the Senior Manager of Partnerships and Leadership Development at the Ryerson Leadership Lab. She has been chosen as one of 100 Black Women in Canada to Watch, she is a CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow, and was recognized as a national leader in The Philanthropist.
Raised in England, Camara graduated with a law degree from the University of Liverpool before pivoting to build her career in the nonprofit sector. She was drawn to organizations that had a strong focus on equity and civic engagement, which led her to lead a national policy program for Europe’s largest LGBTQ charity and eventually become the Executive Director of Volunteer Toronto.
Her superpower is building relationships and her role at the Ryerson Leadership Lab involves creating community partnerships and designing leadership programs for the next generation of Canada’s leaders.
When not in the office, Camara spends her time leading Let’s Hike T.O, the city’s first and only hiking community focused on inclusivity.
Diana Chan McNally
Training & Engagement Coordinator, Toronto Drop-in Network (TDIN)
Diana Chan McNally (she/they) (Dipl. Of Community Work, BFA, MA, MEd), a former frontline worker, is the Training and Engagement Coordinator for the Toronto Drop-in Network. She oversees advocacy initiatives and learning opportunities for 56 organizations supporting unhoused people across the City of Toronto.
As someone with lived-experience of social services and of being unhoused, Diana’s work focuses on human rights and equity issues for people who are experiencing homelessness. She is particularly involved in rights’ protections for residents of encampments.
Diana is also an instructor in George Brown College’s Social Service Worker and Community Worker programs, and has served on the steering committees and boards of Justice for Children and Youth and Health Providers Against Poverty.
National Manager, Public Affairs, March of Dimes Canada
Sasha Elford is a nonprofit professional with experience spanning advocacy, communications, volunteer management, and fundraising. She brings an intersectional lens to her work as Public Affairs Manager for March of Dimes Canada, where she advocates for an equitable society for people with disabilities.
She has built her career working on issues of gender equity and gender-based violence at Interval House, Girl Guides of Canada, and as co-founder of femifesto.
Sasha holds a Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies and a Master of Arts in Women and Gender Studies from the University of Toronto.
Policy & Research Manager, Family Councils Ontario
Tiffany Fearon is the Policy and Research Manager for Family Councils Ontario (FCO), a provincial nonprofit organization dedicated to leading and supporting families in improving the quality of life for residents in long-term care. She also leads the organization’s Diversity and Inclusion and Conflict Resolution portfolios.
She joined the FCO team in 2018 to head Client Services and transitioned into the Policy & Research Manager position in fall, 2021.
Tiffany is passionate about transforming the long-term care sector through policy dialogue and community engagement, and she hopes to leverage her experience and connections with family caregivers to drive change through her current role.
Tiffany holds an Honours BA from the University of Toronto in Gender Studies, Sociology and Criminology, and a Post Graduate Certificate with Honours in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Humber College. Her most recent academic feat was the completion of a Public Policy and Administration certificate from the University of Guelph.
Executive Director, LGBT Youthline
Berkha Gupta is Executive Director for LGBT YouthLine, a youth-led organization that provides peer support and leadership opportunities to 2SLGBTQ+ youth across Ontario.
As a transmasculine nonbinary queer south Asian, most of their work has been focused on bettering the day-to-day experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ youth and people of colour. This has included creating community groups like A Colour Deep (for queer, trans south Asian people in the GTA), and QTBIPOCsauga (a monthly QTBIPOC meetup in Missisauga).
Berkha is also an experienced facilitator primarily focused on supporting organizational and individual change to create more anti-oppressive, anti-racist, queer, and trans-positive spaces.
In the last few years, Berkha’s interest has continued to move away from only building and organizing (i.e. doing things) to finding ways to prioritize healing, joy, and community (i.e. being present) in all of their spaces.
Senior Policy Advisor, Children's Mental Health Ontario
Sandani Hapuhennedige is a Senior Policy Advisor for Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO). This organization represents publicly-funded child and youth mental health centres across the province and advances policy solutions that are rooted in promoting a coordinated and high-quality system of care for children, youth, and families.
Since joining CMHO, Sandani has continued to deepen the organization’s engagement with members, stakeholders, and those with lived experience on issues of access and continuous care. Through her role, she has also advanced capacity-building efforts within and across child- and youth-serving sectors.
She is passionate about finding meaningful solutions to complex policy issues and applies the lenses of systems thinking and social determinants of health to her work.
Sandani holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of Toronto and has extensive experience working with diverse, multi-sector stakeholders, both locally and globally.
Her strategic planning and advocacy skills have benefited the advancement of several notable policy agendas and programs.
Director, Strategic Initiatives, MakeWay (formerly Tides Canada)
As Director, Strategic Initiatives for MakeWay, Todd Jaques collaborates with colleagues to develop, refine, and launch organization-wide initiatives related to a broad range of subject areas such as policy, impact investing, new programs, research and evaluation, and overall organizational strategy.
Previously at MakeWay, Todd provided day-to-day operational and strategic supports to a diverse portfolio of community-led initiatives. Before joining MakeWay, Todd was the Director, Operations and Agriculture Partnerships at the Ontario Association of Food Banks, where he led the development of provincial food programs.
Todd has a BA in Cultural Studies from Trent University and he lives in Hamilton with his wife and two children.
Research and Policy Manager, Women's Shelters Canada
Krys Maki is an activist-scholar specializing in mixed-methods community-based research in the areas of gender-based violence, poverty, and surveillance. They recently published their first book: Ineligible: Single Mothers Under Welfare Surveillance.
They currently work as the Research and Policy Manager for Women’s Shelters Canada, a national network of violence-against-women shelters based in Ottawa.
CEO, Strides Toronto
Janet McCrimmon is a strategic and transformative leader with over 20 years of senior leadership experience in not-for-profits in health, social services, and international development.
Janet led the merger of two child and youth mental health (CYMH) agencies, forming Strides Toronto in 2020. As CEO of Strides Toronto, Janet supports the organization’s Lead Agency team, which plans for the effective delivery of Toronto’s CYMH services in collaboration with 23 organizations.
Janet has a master’s degree in social work.
Director of Strategic Solutions, FindHelp211
Carrie Moody is the Director of Strategic Solutions for FindHelp211, which helps Ontarians connect to the complete range of government and community-based health and social services available in their communities.
Carrie is passionate about developing systems solutions for community change. Early in her career, Carrie found that structural barriers limited nonprofits’ capacity to advance their missions and to support service users.
In 2011, Carrie completed a Master’s in Public Policy and Administration at X University as a path to broader impact in her work.
Since that time, she has leveraged positions in government, policy, and not-for-profit administration to help build nonprofit capacity for faster and more impactful solutions to the challenges that affect our communities.
Program Director, Contract Monitoring & Intake Program, Habitat Services
Chris Persaud is a Human Services Counsellor who has worked in the mental health sector for the past 21 years. He is currently the Program Director, Contract Monitoring and Intake Program for Habitat Services, a non-profit agency which contributes to the quality of life of consumer/survivors of the mental health system by improving housing standards and by providing supports.
He has worked on community-based research projects exploring employment barriers for low-income tenants and developing peer support models.
Chris is a member of the LGBTQ2+ community and embraces a harm reduction and recovery-based approach.
Senior Manager, RPPE, United Way Greater Toronto
Trisha Scantlebury is Senior Manager, Research, Public Policy, and Evaluation (RPPE) at United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT). She has over 10 years’ experience leading research and policy studies while working collaboratively with the not-for-profit, public, and private sectors. Trisha currently oversees research committed to housing policy; specifically, how it strengthens the social infrastructure within low-income tower communities.
She has held various roles at UWGT since 2015. She started as Research and Policy Specialist with the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group before becoming a Manager on the RPPE team. In those positions Trisha focused on immigration policy while identifying ways to better coordinate formal and informal services to strengthen immigrant and newcomer communities.
Trisha volunteers with the multi-service community agency Sistering, supporting socially isolated women and trans people who are unhoused or precariously housed in Toronto.
Trisha holds a Master of Arts in Sociology and International Development from the University of Guelph.
Director of Programs, Choices for Youth
Tim Smuck began his career in the public service in management and social housing for the City of London. He also worked with the largest public housing provider in the city, where he supported systems and policy change.
He is now the Director of Programs for Choices for Youth in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he oversees a diverse staff team who deliver innovative programs in housing, family supports, and prevention.
Tim completed an Honours BA in Political Science, with a minor in Social Justice and Peace Studies, from King’s College at Western University and then a Master of Public Administration at the School of Local Government at Western University, with a focus on Public Housing Policy. He is the first in his family to enter and graduate from university.
Board Director & Chair of the Advocacy Committee, The Neighbourhood Group
Rebecca Stulberg is the Chair of The Neighbourhood Group’s (TNG) Advocacy Committee. TNG develops and delivers a range of highly effective and innovative programs that aim to alleviate social and economic problems and to provide a better quality of life for all.
As chair of the Advocacy Committee, Rebecca works with staff and stakeholders to identify policy and law reform issues that stand to impact the communities that TNG serves, and she is responsible for shaping the advocacy agenda for TNG.
Rebecca is a lawyer by training, and she currently works as a Senior Human Rights Consultant with the City of Toronto’s Equity and Human Rights Unit. Prior to joining the City, Rebecca worked on access to justice projects as a lawyer and outreach manager for Community Legal Education Ontario and as the Director of Centennial College’s Legal Information Centre.
Manager, Research and Public Policy, BGC Canada
Jen Turner is Manager, Research and Public Policy for BGC Canada (formerly Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada). BGC Canada provides safe, supportive places where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and develop confidence and skills for life.
She leads BGC Canada’s mental health and child poverty policy engagement strategies, which aim to make positive federal and provincial/territorial policy changes and investment in these two critical areas.
Jen has six years of non-profit experience in public policy, research, government relations, evaluation, and community engagement. Jen is about creating system level change in support of marginalized communities.
She has an MA in Public Policy and Administration and a Bachelors of Applied Science in Family and Community Social Services.
Director of Policy, ONN
Pamela Uppal is the Director of Policy for the Ontario Nonprofit Network, which focuses on policy, advocacy, and services to strengthen Ontario’s nonprofit sector as a key pillar of our society and economy.
She cares deeply about community, allyship, and equity. Over the past ten years, she has focused on bridging frontline work, research initiatives, and policy advocacy to help build equitable systems.
She has led a nonprofit organization as a student volunteer; she started her career in the nonprofit sector as an intake worker at a multi-service agency; she has designed diversity trainings, and she has collaborated on multiple gender equity research projects.
She holds a master’s degree in Women Studies and Feminist Research.
Director of Programs and Community Development, Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre
Born in Chile and raised in North West Toronto, Pablo Vivanco is Director of Programs and Community Development for the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre.
Pablo has spent over 20 years working as a communicator and activist for numerous causes, as well as community and social organizations. Before joining the Jane/Finch Centre, he headed a 24-hour media organization based in Ecuador and he also worked at Toronto City Hall as Executive Assistant to a City Councillor. He held the role of Director of Programs at the Centre for Spanish Speaking People and he has served on the committees and boards of various community groups and institutions.
Pablo holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Latin America and Caribbean Studies, as well as a master’s degree in Environmental Studies with a Planning Diploma, both from York University.
Senior Analyst - Planning , Quality & Risk, Black Creek Community Health Centre
Michelle Westin is the Senior Analyst, Planning, Quality, and Risk for Black Creek Community Health Centre.
With over 20 years’ experience in the not-for-profit health sector, she provides leadership and expertise in areas of strategic and operational planning, data analysis, quality improvement, research, and integration initiatives.
Michelle’s volunteer experience includes serving on the boards of the Self-Help Resource Centre and Health Interpretation Network. She also is an Accreditation Reviewer with the Canadian Centre for Accreditation.
Director, Impact and Innovation, Prosper Canada
Elodie Young is the Director of Impact and Innovation for Prosper Canada, a national nonprofit focused on expanding the economic opportunity for those living on a low income through program and policy innovation. She supervises three critical teams: research and evaluation, learning and training, and policy.
She started her career as a Deloitte consultant providing strategy development and business process analysis to large public and private entities. She found her true passion when she joined a leading financial empowerment player in New York City.
She has a bachelor’s degree from the Richard Ivey School of Business and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University.
“[Maytree Policy School] is professional development par excellence! Changing the world does take “relentless incrementalism” and this program should be mandatory for every leader.”
Bruce Pitkin, Executive Director, ArtStarts (MPS ’20)
“Maytree Policy School is a comprehensive package on all the nuts and bolts of policy advocacy for your organization. The faculty and speakers bring timely issues and real-world experience to illustrate how the complex world of policy advocacy works.”
Jonathan Lai, Executive Director, Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (MPS ’21)
"[Maytree] Policy School represents a rare opportunity to learn how to successfully advocate for policy change directly from folks who've done it before. The program is worth it for the content alone. But what really has me energized is the community that Maytree is building through this work. The insights of those in my cohort not only rounded out the learning experience, but will also offer a wealth of experience, advice, inspiration, and friendship for years to come."
Terence Hamilton, Policy Specialist, UNICEF Canada (MPS ’20)
“The non-profit sector has an important role to play in advocating for progressive public policy. Maytree Policy School is helping to build the sector’s capacity to effectively do that work. A must-do program for anyone wanting to engage in advocacy and policy in our sector.”
Christina Palassio, Director of Communications, Right to Play (MPS ’21)
"Maytree Policy School is the perfect program to learn and enhance one’s skills and understanding of strategies to effectively influence government actions and decisions. Thank you to the fantastic faculty, superb speakers, and remarkable non profit colleagues for creating a vibrant community for growth and development."
Carol Zoulalian, Executive Director, St. Jude Community Homes (MPS ’20)
“Maytree Policy School provides participants with access to some of the foremost thought leaders and public policy professionals. The content, staff, faculty, and peers provide unparalleled access to nurture your ideas into action.”
Doug Pawson, Executive Director, End Homelessness St. Johns (MPS ’21)
"Maytree Policy School provided very practical tips and advice to effectively influence policy. Perhaps most importantly, the program connected me with a cohort of incredible peers that I can count on for mutual support as we continue our policy careers."
Talia Bronstein, VP, Research and Advocacy, Daily Bread Food Bank (MPS ’20)
“Maytree Policy School is an exceptional training program that is engaging and informative. Understanding policy work, and being able to do it well, is a key tool for people working in the community and non-profit sectors, and [the program] ensures that graduates of the program are well-equipped to do this work.”
Bronwyn Underhill, Director of Health Promotion and Community Engagement, Parkdale Queen West CHC (MPS ’21)
"A thoughtfully-designed program that provides access to an incredible group of faculty and subject-matter experts. A powerful experience that has improved my ability to influence."
Sibel Cicek, Senior Manager, Government Relations, YMCA Ontario, YMCA of Greater Toronto (MPS ’20)
“The generosity and insight of the Maytree Policy School faculty and instructors combined with dedicated and thoughtful non-profit peers, brought the policy materials to life. I left the course feeling supported and capable of wading into the important policy debates impacting low-income Ontarians.”
Vanessa Emery, Staff Lawyer/Social Assistance Team Lead, West Scarborough Community Legal Services (MPS ’21)
"For grassroots and small non-profit organizations trying to enhance the scope and impact of their work through policy, Maytree Policy School is a powerful place to enhance the capacity of senior leaders to deliver results for the communities we serve. From the faculty to the Maytree Policy school peers, everything is designed to increase your impact."
Paul Bailey, President, Black Health Alliance (MPS ’20)
“Maytree Policy School was an incredible opportunity that elevated our policy work. The engaging presenters and faculty, practical learning and tools, thought-provoking curriculum, and peer connections created a dynamic learning environment that will have lasting impacts for the effectiveness of our work.”
Dominica MacPherson, Coordinator, Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination (MPS ’21)
“Maytree Policy School completely surpassed my expectations. It's a course anyone should take who strives to be a strategic influencer at any level of government and regardless of who's in power.”
Brian Davis, Executive Director, Houselink Community Homes (MPS ’19)
“Maytree Policy School has been a crash course in government, systems, data, communications, and everything in between that is relevant to influencing policy. The faculty as well as the participants are extremely knowledgeable, generous with their expertise, and not afraid to ask the tough questions. The strategic learnings from this program have transformed our organizational advocacy initiatives to be much more thoughtful and productive.”
Dina Al-khooly, Director, Research and Evaluation, Vision of Science Network for Learning (MPS ’21)
"Maytree Policy School brought together a highly skilled and generous group of instructors. My organization has gained new tools and resources, and connections to fabulous peers and organizations."
Shelagh Pizey-Allen, Executive Director, TTCRiders (MPS ’19)
“Maytree Policy School was an outstanding opportunity to fine tune my policy strategy skill sets and connect with other like-minded individuals and organizations. I highly recommend this program!”
Nigel Barriffe, President, Board of Directors, Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) (MPS ’21)
“Maytree Policy School was invaluable. It helped me systematize and move forward our policy work. The faculty were knowledgeable and engaging, and the other participants have now become a close network I can call on.”
Sasha McNicoll, Policy Manager, Community Food Centres Canada (MPS ’19)
“Maytree Policy School gave me the opportunity to carve time from my busy schedule to focus on policy strategy and engage in interesting policy discussions among peers. I am looking forward to incorporating these learnings and to continuing to engage with the network moving forward.”
Miriam Kramer, Executive Director, Government & Corporate Relations, OCAD University (MPS ’21)
“Having the focused time along with the incredible depth of knowledge from the presenters and other participants made this program worth every minute. The shifts in our approach and development of a policy strategy will have long-term impact for our organization and our mission at Pillar.”
Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director, Pillar Nonprofit Network (MPS ’19)
“Maytree Policy School brought together an expert faculty team who generously shared their wealth of knowledge and experiences. I really appreciated how each session was meticulously planned and specifically tailored for us in the non-profit sector.”
Tesfai Mengesha, Executive Director, Success Beyond Limits (MPS ’18)