At CivicAction, we believe that there is nothing more important to the future of our cities than preparing those who will lead them and our DiverseCity Fellows program does just that. This year’s cohort brings to the table a variety of experience in healthcare, transportation, government, legal, education, innovation, and community-organizing across the GTHA. To learn more about the program, click here.
President of the Board, Ontario Movement for Francophone Immigrant Women (MOFIF) and Consultant, Next Level Impact Consulting
As an Algerian born in Switzerland, who lived in France for 15 years before immigrating to Canada, my Francophone identity is a strong part of who I am. An active member of the diverse Francophone community in Ontario, I am committed to contributing to its economic growth and civic engagement in a minority context. I am a huge advocate for the empowerment of women, especially immigrant women since I know that settling into a new country can be an overwhelming process that requires resilience, persistence, and solidarity.
As a consultant and as a volunteer, I spend most of my day working with partners and organizations to build services and projects that support the economic and social development of women and immigrants through entrepreneurship, financial literacy, awareness campaigns against violence and activism.
My greatest city-building accomplishment to date is launching and managing Ontario’s only microfinance and entrepreneurship program for Francophone women, which is based at the Oasis Centre des Femmes. I dedicate my spare time to practice Latin and African dances and animatedly read children’s books to my 8-year old son.
Project Manager, WSP Canada Inc.
Born in Damascus, Syria, I now make my home in Toronto – a city whose diversity has taught me the most important lessons of my life. One of which is that leadership is about inspiring and empowering a community to believe in what we can achieve together rather than individually. The success of our region hinges critically on our collective ability to embrace disadvantaged groups, support them, and ensure they have opportunities to maintain power over their lives and choices.
Professionally, I work as a civil engineer and spend most of my days hanging off the side of high-rise towers, and working with clients and colleagues to find creative, cost-effective, and sustainable ways to restore older buildings. As a volunteer, I am most proud of my work providing career and employment services to government-sponsored Syrian refugees in Toronto. My community involvement includes various roles with Engineers Without Borders, Refugee Career Jumpstart Program, Hamilton Immigrant Settlement Organization, Kids Help Phone, The Red Cross, and North York General Hospital.
In quieter moments at home, I like play Nina Simone music, and bring to life the most exquisite plate of hummus this side of the Atlantic.
Team Leader- Student Parent Support Workers, Pathways to Education – Lawrence Heights, Unison Health and Community Services
With over a decade of experience in the public and non-profit sectors, including Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Toronto, Eritrean Canadian Community Centre, Toronto Community Housing Corporation and Unison HSC, I draw on my diverse background to address social challenges and drive community impact.
In my recent role as Interim Director of the Pathways program, I led the team through a collaborative program reimagining process. Today, I lead a multidisciplinary team of teachers, social and community workers to address the complex challenges faced by youth and families living in the Lawrence Heights and Neptune community.
I am passionate about supporting communities and have spent much of my career applying my skills in project management, program development and establishing strategic partnerships to increase opportunities available for youth and families living in communities of concentrated poverty.
In 2015, I co-founded and led the first Pathways Student Parent Support Worker Regional Knowledge Exchange, which brought together partners across sectors and staff working in low-resourced communities to share best practices, successful interventions and innovative strategies to work with their communities.
To me, leadership is recognizing the talents of those around you and fostering an inclusive environment to work towards a shared vision.
Communications Manager, Inspirit Foundation
I was born and raised in Ottawa and moved to Toronto three years ago. Ottawa will always be close to my heart, but Toronto is where I am incessantly inspired by brave organizers, unapologetic artists, and brilliant people masterfully occupying radically different spaces.
At work, I spend my days working to advance equity and inclusion across Canada. To build more equitable and resilient communities, we need diverse leaders who understand local issues and have both lived experience and expertise to design the right solutions.
Outside of Inspirit, my city-building work includes advising on Supports for Success, a project by the Wellesley Institute seeking to bridge the gap across systems, services, and programs to enable children and youth to succeed. In the past year, my city building work has also included engaging with Leadnow to organize inclusive town halls around electoral reform; being Program Lead at Women in Toronto Politics; and working as a community mobilizer for the Natural Step Canada, where I focused on supporting young sustainability leaders across Canada. In 2015, I was also one of 25 young global leaders selected to develop a youth agenda for climate change at the Friedrich Ebert Institute in Berlin to be presented at the United Nations Climate Change conference.
Public Policy Associate, Uber
I was born and raised in Toronto and love everything about the city – the energy, the people, and the culture. As someone heavily involved in transportation, I’m also concerned about the migration of priority neighbourhoods to more suburban areas and the lack of affordable transit to connect them with the rest of the city.
I spend most of my days collaborating with governments and community partners to develop smart regulations for ridesharing. My greatest city-building accomplishment is launching LineSix, a crowdfunded transit service that was endorsed by all major papers and shifted the conversation around transit innovation in Toronto. For my work on this project, I was named one of the Globe and Mail’s Ten Torontonians who got things done in 2014. One little-known fact about me is that I ran a successful campaign to get Drake the Key to the City.
In my free time, you can find me grabbing dim sum with friends, keeping up-to-date on global politics, doing some sort of new fad exercise, or upping my game as a ‘semi-amateur’ ping pong player.
PhD, Scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Assistant Professor at University of Toronto
I was born in India and am proud to call Toronto my home. My reputation is one of a triple threat. I design innovative studies to answer important and novel research questions, analyze and interpret complex data using my mastery of coding, statistics and epidemiology, and am an engaging communicator who makes science more accessible by telling stories through data. I am passionate about the sustainability of our healthcare system and recognize that the future health of our city and province hinges on our ability to provide the right care at the right time with limited resources.
I am driven by research that has a real-world impact on health outcomes and policies. My work, which focuses on shining a spotlight on ethnicity and other social determinants of health, has been published in highly reputable medical journals, received significant media coverage and been recognized with a number of prestigious awards, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Rising Star Award and American Heart Association Investigator Award.
I am a proud wife and mom—my family and friends inspire me to be my best and to make each day count. I love to travel and have instilled the same love in my kids.
Policy Advisor, Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship
A born and raised Torontonian, I live in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood but work and play quite a lot in downtown Toronto. I’m passionate about looking at how people from different parts of the city are talking to each other, which is why you can find me telling the stories of people who make up the complexity of our city on my website. (6ixspots.com) Where I interview immigrant restaurant owners around Toronto about why they decided to start their restaurant business.
I spend most of my work day researching, reading and writing (I was going for technical alliteration!). I conduct policy research for innovation and entrepreneurship policy. I am also very involved in the civic technology and innovation community. In addition to helping co-organize events for Civic Tech Toronto, I was the research lead in helping Better Budget Toronto put together their report in 2016. To date, I’m really proud of my involvement with the Policy Leadership Lab where I had the privilege of helping high school students engage with serious policy issues that impact city-building.
When I’m not dabbling in different city-building pursuits, I’m reading a lot of long-form journalism and cooking with groups of friends.
Consultant, Deloitte Canada LLP.
I was born in India and briefly lived in Tanzania before relocating to Toronto, where I call home. I have built a global career in public health, pursuing academic and research experiences in Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego and Epidemiology at Columbia University. Today, as a healthcare consultant with Deloitte, I work with various organizations to create efficiencies in our provincial healthcare system.
My passion for creating lasting community impact stems from my internship with the World Health Organization, where I supported the development of the first global Mental Health Action Plan. Since this experience, I have contributed to an ongoing research study on building resilience and reducing stress among Toronto Police and am active volunteer in the Toronto Autism community. I am a strong advocate for eliminating barriers to accessing mental health services and creating employment opportunities for people with mental illnesses.
I am an avid supporter of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and outside of work; I enjoy engaging in physical activity and spending time with friends and family. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow community leaders and hope to bring an evidence-based approach to tackling the complex challenges facing the GTHA.
Community Engagement Coordinator, Working Women Community Centre
I was born in Chile – close to the ocean in the city of Vina del Mar – and currently call Toronto my home. While Toronto is a diverse city, not all the voices are included when building a space for social and community interactions. I am passionate about inclusiveness and accessibility for newcomers, such as safety and inclusion of women fleeing gender-based violence, and the effective eradication of isolation, poverty and exclusion.
I spend my days creating accessible spaces to facilitate community engagement for newcomer women at the Working Women Community Centre and take care of governance, leadership and board-related matters for The Redwood Shelter. I am a past participant of Building Blocks in the Latin American Community, and I have also co-organized mayoral debates with agencies serving immigrants.
When I’m not working or volunteering, you can find me making amazing jams and preserves every summer, as well as spending time with my family and friends who keep me grounded.
Co-Executive Director, Canadian Roots Exchange
Moving from a prairie place (Saskatoon) to Canada’s biggest city has required some adjustment, but the more time I spend in Toronto, the more I see the tight-knit communities that exist. It’s clear to me that Toronto faces some challenges, but also has a tremendous amount of opportunity to engage diverse communities. My goal is to contribute to being an inclusive society where we care about the wellbeing of our neighbours and can share great ideas with one another.
During the day, I can be found running around the city, building coalitions of supporters from the private sector, public sector, non-profit world, and various communities to engage in the meaningful work of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. I’m a CBC Saskatchewan Top 40 Under 40 recipient, sit as an advisor for the Ontario Indigenous Youth Partnership Project, and past work has involved increasing accessibility of post-secondary education for traditionally underrepresented communities.
The city-building accomplishment I’m most proud of is organizing a leadership training camp for First Nations and Metis youth in Saskatchewan. During my free time, you can find me catching local indie music shows in my neighbourhood.
Deputy Fire Chief, Oakville Fire Department
I was born in small town Ontario and currently live in Oakville – a city that calls itself a town but has the heart of a village.
With over 29 years spent in municipal and provincial government, I have extensive experience in fire services and have a passion for building safer and more inclusive communities. With over 220 staff, I spend my day mentoring and leading while focusing on providing exceptional customer service.
A recent city-building accomplishment I am proud of is my role as Chair of the Ontario Fire Service Advisory Committee for the Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games. It required aligning and organizing 17 municipal fire departments in preparation for the games. I was recognized for this with the Ontario Association of Fire Chief’s Mark Diotte Leadership Award, as well as being nominated for the Provincial Amethyst Leadership Award.
What keeps me up at night is the ever-evolving world in which we live and how it will impact my children in the future. Whether caused by the division of social values, the impact of terrorism, or climate change, there is lots to think about. Although these challenges are global, they impact each of us locally and as individuals.
Manager, Youth Challenge Fund and Youth Initiatives, United Way Toronto and York Region
Born and raised in Toronto, I live and volunteer in a community that continues to give me so much, the Jane-Finch community.
I spend most of my days thinking about and actualizing how to improve the economic development of young people living in the City of Toronto. I also volunteer as Board Chair at Promoting Education, and Community Health where I seek to create alternative forms of education and learning opportunities with the wraparound supports for youth who are marginalized from traditional educational systems.
One of my greatest city-building accomplishments to date is building a crisis response plan for Jane-Finch in 2009 as an attempt to support residents and victims dealing with the aftermath of violence in the community. Wicked social problems like poverty, inequality and youth unemployment and violence are just some issues that keep me up at night.
In my free time, I enjoy spinning classes, Pinterest, reading about current events and writing about my lived experiences. From time to time, I facilitate wisdom circles for women of colour to build upon our collective knowledge and honouring our lived experiences.
Manager, Strategic Initiatives, Social Impact, RBC
I was born in Windsor, Ontario and currently live in Dovercourt Village in Toronto. Advocating for systems change, I spend most of my work day demonstrating that private business can play a significant and positive role in the advancement of social policy and that strong financial returns and social impact are not mutually exclusive.
One of my proudest accomplishments is sitting on the Steering Committee of the Ottawa Coalition to End Human Trafficking and working with a committed, inspiring and cross-sectoral group of individuals to prevent trafficking, provide community services to survivors and raise awareness in the National Capital Region. I am on the board of the StopGAP Foundation, volunteered as a CultureLink Mentor with Luminato in 2016, and have also worked on a number of political campaigns across the GTHA – knocking on doors is still the best way to find out what your neighbours are most worried about!
Passionate about exploring the world, I travel whenever I can and have been to over 35 countries in the last decade! I am interested in holistic community development that includes food security and ensuring equitable access to fresh, healthy food, better transit and updated infrastructure, and accessibility and inclusion.
Manager, Strategic Planning and Operations, Infrastructure Ontario
I’m a “Big City Southern Belle” – I love my east-end Toronto neighbourhood with its amazing diversity, preservation of history, and weekend mornings buzzing with brunchers. At the same time, I have a soft spot for the bluegrass state of Kentucky with its culture and sense of community after spending 15 years living there (Go Wildcats!).
I’ve been fortunate to work with all three orders of government where I have led policy development, stakeholder engagement, and advised senior executives. Today, I get the benefit of working alongside seasoned leaders while actively addressing a policy issue I am passionate about – building Ontario’s complex infrastructure.
I am also committed to ensuring youth in our region grow up “civic-minded” through my work as a mentor and member of the Executive Committee of the Girls E-Mentorship Program. I am also a member and past Director of Perspective Series for Women at Infrastructure Ontario and volunteered in multiple capacities with CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network.
I balance work and my volunteering efforts by advancing my “PhD in pop culture”, binge-watching the latest and greatest on Netflix, or trying (and often failing) at a new cooking experiments.
Associate Lawyer, Goodmans LLP
I was born in Seoul, South Korea and now call Toronto home. As a trilingual 1.5-generation Korean Canadian who grew up in a suburb of Vancouver, and lived in Montreal and Toronto as an adult, I bring a multilayered perspective on what it means to “belong” in a city. As a former English Literature graduate student-turned-lawyer, I also bring a uniquely developed analytical lens to my work.
My work consists of assisting companies in their operations, as well as coming up with creative ways to help solve any issues that may arise. I am also passionate about addressing the increasing barriers of access to justice for the Korean-Canadian community.
In my spare time, I am heavily involved in diversity initiatives and am part of the Korean Canadian Lawyers’ Association where I advocate for a Korean-language legal aid clinic in Ontario. I am also deeply proud of the community discussions I helped organize within the Korean Canadian community focused on anti-racism. In my spare time, you can find me watching bad reality TV shows, occasionally writing, and reminiscing about the time I was in a short-lived Steely Dan cover band.
Communications and Stakeholder Relations Professional
I am a communications professional with a breadth of experience in the corporate, not-for-profit, government, political and culture sectors. You can usually find me building relationships with stakeholders and developing strategies and communications plans to solve problems and create positive narratives.
In my spare time, I volunteer as the Regional Vice-President of GTA Centre Region for the Ontario Liberal Party. In 2016, I ran as a candidate for public school trustee for the TDSB and sit as a member of the Metropolitan United Church Refugee Committee.
Through my professional and volunteer experience, I have helped create opportunities for diverse representation in leadership roles across our region and have helped move the needle on important issues facing our region such as poverty, access to housing, and accessible transportation. My greatest city-building accomplishment to date has been turning an empty Buddhist temple at 918 Bathurst into a centre for culture, arts, media, and education, and a valuable contributor to the city’s arts and culture scene. I have a background in photography and graphic design and enjoy Kyudo (Japanese longbow archery) as a form of meditation.
Digital Marketing Coordinator, Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation
I was born in Malaysia, but now call Hamilton my second home. I’m fond of this city for its vibrant arts and culture, booming culinary scene, hundreds of waterfalls, soothing Waterfront, tight-knit community… and I could go on and on. It’s truly a city made of steel, both in its history and human spirit.
In my day job, I spend my time researching and executing communications campaigns to raise funds for Hamilton Health Sciences hospitals. I’m an advocate for an inclusive Hamilton, particularly in addressing issues about transit development and youth employment. My greatest city-building accomplishment to date is my work with Hamilton HIVE. As a team of talented young professionals, we’ve built a strong network to attract and advance rising leaders in Hamilton. Some of my city-building affiliations and awards include the 2014 YWCA Hamilton Woman of Distinction Award (Public Affairs), 2015 McMaster University Alumni Hamilton Community Impact Award, and being a 2016 Connect the Sector Fellow.
I speak Cantonese and Malay language – which, when combined in a sentence with English (it happens!) results in Manglish (Malaysian English) – a quadrilingual badge I wear with pride! In my spare time, I enjoy playing video games, specifically role-playing games.
Senior Communications Officer, CBC and Founder, How She Hustles
What I love most about my home, Toronto, is the easy access to transit, green space in my neighbourhood, and the rich diversity of our city.
During the day, I juggle a variety of communications tasks from sponsorship negotiations to event planning, while working behind the scenes in the most diverse and competitive market in the country. I am also the founder of How She Hustles – a network of 5,000 diverse women that continues to grow by word of mouth, social media and sold-out events.
As a mother of two little boys, the issue of childcare is top of mind. My husband and I care about quality education and diversity in the classroom. I’m also passionate about leadership diversity, supporting entrepreneurs including women and youth, and how media can better reflect diverse communities.
In 2015, I received the Women’s Empowerment Award at the Black Canadian Awards, and I was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Black Women to Watch. My mentors and supporters also nominated me for a YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award – a deep honour, although I didn’t win. When I need a break from the hustle, I sip tea and listen to Canadian hip hop and R&B classics.
Legal Counsel, Professor at Centennial College
I was born and raised in Toronto, and currently live in North York – a community that offers the best of both worlds (uptown and downtown). I am a Toronto-based lawyer with a deep passion for tackling economic uncertainty, affordability in our city, and their related impacts on marginalized communities.
In addition to my professional work, I spend my time teaching, volunteering, community building, traveling, exploring arts, cultures and cuisines, and always looking for opportunities to grow. I work with a number of local non-profit organizations including as President of Family Day Care Services and Chair of Lumacare Services.
The city-building accomplishments I am most proud of are turning a fledgling senior’s care non-profit organization into a leader in its sector while infusing it with diversity policies to better position the agency for Toronto’s dynamic demographics and raising $100,000 for Syrian refugees with my community.
I enjoy helping people in whatever way I can. Sometimes that’s through providing pro-bono legal work and strategic consulting, or just listening and sharing a laugh with new friends.
Research Specialist, Healthy Public Policy, Toronto Public Health and Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
I love living in Toronto, where I have been inspired to help build a healthier and more resilient city and region through policy development, research and social action.
Using tools for healthy public policy and systems thinking for equitable, ecological public health, I have contributed to initiatives around safer streets for active transportation, anti-racist urban agriculture, climate change resilience, and regulations on marketing to children and youth. My work has been recognized by the CSI Agents of Change climate solutions accelerator, SSHRC Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, H.L. Hooker Senior Fellowship, IDRC Doctoral Award, and Toronto Public Service Awards for Leadership and Commitment.
These days I am leading a number of initiatives related to food systems, climate change, health, and urban governance – more specifically, sustainable diets, food waste reduction, and food systems resilience. I also teach Ecological Public Health and Public Health Policy at the University of Toronto, and enjoy mentoring and spending time with students. I’m also into active transportation: I walk my three kids to and from school and spend a lot of time outdoors with them. This year I’m attempting to be a four-season cyclist- so wish me luck (and safety) this winter!
Associate, Interaction and Service Design, Bridgeable
Born and raised in the GTA, I love Mississauga and Brampton for the food and Toronto for the endless events all year-round.
I’m passionate about exploring cultural and institutional approaches to mental and physical health, and am also interested in exploring how we might harness the transformative power of culture and media to shape people’s behaviours in a positive way. I’ve spent four years working as a designer in healthcare in various capacities, beginning as a Research Analyst and Designer at the CICC at University Health Network, then moved on to become CXO at Shift Health Paradigms. I’m currently an Interaction and Service Designer at Bridgeable, where my role often includes planning and facilitating workshops with multi-disciplinary groups in collaborative problem-solving. I look forward to using my background as a designer and researcher to bring a lens of human-centered design to the DiverseCity Fellows Program.
Having recently spent 1.5 years recovering from a brain injury, I’m working on a graphic novel about the experience in hope of helping others through this challenging time. During the warm months, my favourite thing to do is ride my bike along the waterfront, or cycle through a new neighbourhood.
Director, Adult Learning, Toronto International Film Festival
Originally from Toronto and raised in the St. Clair West area, I currently live in Parkdale/Roncesvalles Village and am surrounded by vibrancy and people of all ages and backgrounds.
At TIFF, I spend my time overseeing the strategic and artistic vision of the organization’s year-round adult education initiatives. My city-building work is all about expanding my understanding of intersectional issues, doing work that connects the education and industry sectors, and that brings together local community groups with global arts organizations. I am passionate about being more involved in mobilizing youth employment, solving the lack of affordable housing, and tackling homelessness.
I regularly coach and advise youth, students, and recent graduates. Through my volunteer work, I have piloted and launched strong strategic alliances across 40+ post-secondary colleges and universities, many of which are in the GTHA. These initiatives have grown into pan-institutional educational partnerships impacting tens of thousands of students and faculty in fostering their research and development of scholarship, networks and projects across education, heritage and industry sectors.
One little-known fact about me is that I have a PhD in Cinema and Media Studies! A self-described nerd, I’m also a bit of a goofball who likes using humour to crack people up and help them feel at ease.
Senior Manager, Academic Sustainability Programs, McMaster University
Born in Barrie, I moved to Hamilton for university in 2004 with no plans of staying past graduation…. But I fell in love with the vibrancy and diversity of the city, and I’ve been a proud resident ever since!
I spend most of my time providing undergraduate students with opportunities for interdisciplinary, student-led, community-based, and experiential learning, with my ultimate goal to inspire in them a desire for continued learning and inquiry. My work deeply connects with my passion for helping build a true sense of community and shared responsibility – one where the issues in our region are seen as our issues.
I am most proud of my work on McMaster’s Sustainable Future Program – a suite of undergraduate-level courses helping students learn about sustainability. I also serve in the community as an Executive Board Member of the Hamilton Sustainability Professionals Network, holding the role of Education Coordinator where I direct the Leadership in Sustainability initiative.
You may be surprised to know that I’m learning to ballroom dance and have I spent nearly a full year taking private lessons twice each week. I’m now confident in Swing, Tango, Waltz, Cha-cha, Foxtrot, and Rumba.
Capacity Building Specialist, Youth Opportunities Fund, Ontario Trillium Foundation
I am Métis and was born in the Métis Homeland and Treaty 6 Territory in Saskatoon, lived on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil Waututh Territory in Vancouver. Now, I am a newcomer to the territory covered by the Dish with One Spoon Treaty in Toronto – a city where the unique and incredible diversity is something I immediately fell in love with.
I am interested in resolving the inequality that continues to plague our region, in particular, the unnecessary barriers that continue to face Indigenous folks, People of Colour, and Newcomers. I think there’s much more work to be done to strengthen relationships across differences and build a more equitable and inclusive region.
Currently, I work with and for young people across Ontario who have founded and are leading grassroots organizations in their communities. My role focuses on strengthening the capacity of young people and the youth sector as a whole. While in Vancouver I was part of a team that developed an Urban Aboriginal Housing and Wellness Strategy, which resulted in the City of Vancouver committing to developing two new Indigenous-specific housing developments.
In my spare time, I enjoy reading (I always have a book on the go!), and getting lost in the region.
Manager of Programs and Research, Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance
Although we may come from different starting points and perspectives, for the most part, I believe Toronto’s residents share a collective vision for the city. We want good transit networks, parks and libraries, and strong social housing and employment supports. We want to be leaders in reducing local poverty, addressing climate change, and making our city a hub for innovation. In my professional life, I focus on whether local governments have the financing and governance arrangements to meet their responsibilities. My free time is spent poring over long-form journalism, ogling contemporary art and film, and worrying about how our time will be summarized by history textbooks in fifty years.
My community involvement has included providing support to Ontario’s migrant farmworkers as Community Coordinator for Frontier College’s Labourer-Teacher Program, working for the Cape Town local government on the impact of their urban agriculture policy on low-income families, and running an international charity called Queen’s Health Outreach.
In 2010, I exhibited a solo art show of 17,989 portraits representing Ontario’s migrant farmworkers – drawing attention to the permanently temporary hands behind our local produce. While no longer a part of my professional life, the intersection between migration and labour remains one of my biggest passions.