Ardith Walpetko We’dalx Walkem | Lawyer, Cedar and Sage Law Corporation
Ardith (Walpetko We’dalx) Walkem is a member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation whose legal practice has focused on working with Indigenous communities, with a focus on implementation of Indigenous laws and protection of Indigenous Peoples rights through advocacy and litigation.
A focus of much of her work has been on finding ways to make space within the Canadian legal system for the recognition of Indigenous laws, and this has included in the areas of child and family wellness (finding ways to reassert and reclaim Indigenous laws in this area). She has been involved with the Testify: Indigenous Laws + the Arts project and in various roles on working collaboratively with others through the Law Society’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, and with the TRC Committee of the Continuing Legal Education Society to create understanding and respect across cultures.
Marni Panas | Canadian Certified Inclusion Professional
Marni is a diversity and inclusion professional dedicated to creating safe, welcoming, and inclusive environments especially for the LGBTQ population. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Administration and a Canadian Certified Inclusion Professional (CCIP) designation. Marni has contributed to legislation and policy protecting human rights for individuals at the provincial and federal levels in Canada.
Most recently she was a member of the LGBTQ2 Apology Advisory Council which helped draft the apology delivered in the House of Commons on Nov 28, 2017 to LGBTQ people in Canada. Marni was nominated as a YWCA Woman of Distinction, received the Human Rights Award from the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights and was named a Global Edmonton Woman of Vision in 2018.
Marni is also a transgender woman, who has been very transparent throughout her journey in the hopes of fostering acceptance through education and respectful dialogue.
Jonny Morris | CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
Jonny Morris is the CEO for CMHA BC, part of one of the longest-standing charitable organizations in Canada. Jonny has worked across a number of key roles in the community-based mental health and addictions sector consistently striving toward mental health for all.
Prior to re-joining CMHA BC, Jonny played a key role in helping build the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions from the ground up, eventually leading the Policy and Legislation Branch as Senior Director. In this role, Jonathan was responsible for providing advice on a range of complex policy and legislative initiatives, while leading several transformational mental health and addictions programs.
In his past role at CMHA BC, Jonathan provided leadership for provincial mental health and substance use operations. His work focused on addressing systemic disparities between physical and mental health, campus mental health, the criminal justice system, systems transformation, policy and government relations.
Kathryn Gretsinger | Journalist
Kathryn Gretsinger is a long time public broadcaster at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with a record of creating award-winning work at the local and national level in Canada. Kathryn is also a Killam Teaching Prize winner and she was named as one of North America’s top innovative journalism educators in 2018. She is a key member of the Global Reporting Centre, where she works as an instructor and producer for the annual Global Reporting Program projects and helps to shape conversations about local and global journalism. She is also an instructor for University of British Columbia’s unique Reporting in Indigenous Communities course.
There is a strong social justice undercurrent to Kathryn’s work. Her commitment to teaching, reporting and fostering dialogue about issues of social justice, Indigenous relations and mental health appear in the courses she teaches and key collaborations, including the National Student Investigative Reporting Network and her work with UBC’s mental health and wellness community of practice.
Natasha Tony | CEO, Elevate Inclusion Strategies
Natasha Tony is a trained mediator and experienced labour relations specialist who has advanced the discussion on how to build inclusive organizations. Bringing a keen sense of fairness and sensitivity to intersectionality, she goes beyond diversity programming and sets up organizations for true inclusion of and respect for all members.
A graduate of the Labour Relations certificate program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Natasha has rounded out her education through mediation, negotiation and coaching programs offered by the Justice Institute of British Columbia.
Natasha is Principal and CEO of Elevate Inclusion Strategies, a consulting company which focuses on issues management and systemic conflict resolution. To this end, Elevate develops and implements diversity initiatives and respectful workplace programs for client organizations.
Natasha is a much sought-after speaker and author in the post-“Me Too” public sphere. A thought leader on themes of activism, equity and inclusion, she is often invited to provide interpretative commentary on current events.
Laird Cronk | President, BCFED
Laird Cronk was elected as President of the B.C. Federation of Labour in November 2018.
Laird is a Red Seal Electrician and a proud long-standing member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 230. Laird serves as a board member of the provincial Industry Training Authority and is proud to be a facilitator for the Be More Than a Bystander program, which builds skills for men to speak up to prevent violence against women in the workplace. Laird is as passionate about worker rights as he is about his beloved Chicago Bears, and under his leadership with Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore, he has led the labour movement’s advocacy on employment standards and labour code reforms and other issues important to working people.
Stacey Ferguson | Qayqayt First Nation
Stacey Ferguson is an active member of Qayqayt First Nation and is the daughter of Chief Rhonda Larrabee. The Band is endeavouring to secure a land base and their focus is on promoting education and cultural awareness in New Westminster. Qayqayt First Nation is recognized by all levels of Government and many organizations have requested that the Band be represented at their events, which includes events hosted by Mayor & Council, School District #40, Douglas College and many businesses. The history of the Band has been featured in a documentary produced by the National Film Board of Canada called “A Tribe of One”. Stacey is also involved with the Restorative Justice Committee in New Westminster, ensuring that First Nations individuals who have committed a crime are urged to accept responsibility for their offences through meeting victims; making amends to victims or the community. Stacey is married and is very proud of her two children.
Amelia Hamfelt | Policy Analyst, CMHA BC
Amelia Hamfelt is a Policy Analyst at CMHA BC. Her work focuses on researching and advocating for policy interventions that promote positive social change for people living with mental illness and substance use. Previously she held the position of Knowledge Exchange Coordinator for Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses and completed a MPhil at the University of Cambridge.
Christie Bruce | Firefighter, Westminster Fire Rescue Services
Christie Bruce is a career firefighter with the New Westminster Fire Rescue Services. After several years on fire trucks she now works as a fire inspector/education leader. She is the mother of three wonderful daughters and committed to giving back to her community.
Curtis Neil | Writer
Curtis Neil comes to creative writing from a journalism background in London and the Middle East, with stories in publications including The Independent, the London Evening Standard and the Gulf News. Prior to his writing career, he explored a variety of employment options, including agricultural labouring in New South Wales, English teaching in Catalunya, and dishwashing in Tel-Aviv, memories of which occasionally seep into his work. As well as writing on mental health issues for Visions, the journal of the Canadian Mental Health Association, he is a member of the Shambhala Buddhist community and a yoga teacher for the YMCA. As an artist he exhibits photo-based works describing intense internal states correlated to landscapes of the West, and performs his own sassy brand of rock-and-roll with the Vancouver-based ‘Kings of Kavorka’.
James Witwicki | Poet, Speakers Bureau facilitator
James Witwicki is a poet, Speakers Bureau facilitator and Megaphone vendor. Through personal experience, he understands how mental illness and substance abuse are multilayered issues. When he moved from Winnipeg to New Westminster in the 1970s James engaged in high-risk behaviours including injecting cocaine. He contracted Hepatitis C, which he later sought treatment for and was cured. He became sober and shortly after was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder and psychosis. It was the combined treatment of lithium, therapy, participating in Megaphone’s writing groups and community activities that brought James to a place of wellness. James wants to work with audiences who want to better understand drug users and the reasons why people turn to drugs.
Steve Farina | Captain, BC Professional Fire Fighters Association
Capt. Steve Farina, BC Professional Fire Fighters Association. Steve began his career as an on-call firefighter with the Township of Langley Fire Department in 1992 and five years later, joined the Coquitlam Fire Rescue full-time. He was elected to the executive board of IAFF Local 1782 (Coquitlam) in 2005 and was promoted to Captain in 2015. In addition, Steve is a VP on the BC Professional Fire Fighter Association (BCPFFA) which represents over 4,000 professional firefighters across BC. He chairs both the BCPFFA’s Health and Safety Committee and their Mental Health Task Force.
Steve is a member of Coquitlam Fire Rescue’s Critical Incident Stress Team and has taken the lead in defusing a multitude of critical incidents. He also serves as a Peer Supporter for his co-workers and has organized and hosted several mental health awareness nights for firefighter spouses and partners. Steve represents the BCPFFA on the BC’s First Responder Mental Health Steering Committee, chaired by WorkSafeBC.
Amber Sawkins | MSW RSW, WorkSafeBC, Manager, Incident Response Programs
Amber trained as a social worker and started her career in health care, focusing on end of life care needs. She then worked in community mental health with older adults living with complex medical needs and cognitive impairment. Since coming to WorkSafeBC, Amber’s work has focused on trauma, grief, and loss in the context of workplace health and safety. She has been involved with the peer support program for thirteen years and is regularly inspired by how the program brings people together to support each other in the difficult work they do.
Lindsay Kellosalmi | Ambulance Paramedics of BC
Lindsay Kellosalmi is a paramedic for BC Emergency Health Services who developed a passion for Peer Support 7 years ago when she helped to grow mental health supports for her paramedic and dispatch colleagues. No day is the same while she organizes and supports a team of over 130 volunteer peers, performs crisis intervention and ensures her colleagues have the adequate supports to stay healthy and do the job they love.
Lindsay has always enjoyed helping people but is grateful for the unique role she plays while helping her colleagues. She believes we can all do a better job at being kinder and taking the time to truly listen.
Ali Gailus | Vancouver Police Department
Ali Gailus is a nineteen-year Vancouver Police Department member who has worked as part of patrol, drug squad, community policing, and in the Professional Standards Section. She is currently assigned full time to the VPD Member Wellness Unit (Peer Support, CISM, Athletic Therapy). Passionate about wellness, she works to support members who are experiencing hardship in their personal and professional lives through lived/shared experiences on and off the job.
Trudi Rondeau | Senior Manager, WorkSafeBC
Trudi Rondou is a senior manager in industry and labour services at WorkSafeBC. She’s spent the last decade working with numerous industry and labour groups to reduce workplace injuries and improve return to work outcomes. Trudi speaks at conferences and gatherings around the province on new and young worker safety, health and safety management systems, and promoting positive mental health in the workplace. She currently serves as Chair of the BC First Responders Mental Health Committee. She was the MC for the very successful BC First Responder Mental Health Conference in 2019 and the lead facilitator of the BC First Responders “Building Resilient Workplaces” workshops in 2019. She will once again be MCing the upcoming BC First Responder Mental Health Conference in January 2021.
Shiela Moir | Health and Safety Director, BC Federation of Labour
Sheila Moir started the BCFed OHS Centre in 2001 and rejoined the Centre after 5 years as the OHS Officer with the British Columbia Government and Services Employees Union (BCGEU). Currently Sheila is the Health and Safety Director for the BC Federation of Labour.A committed OHS activist Sheila has worked to improve the health and safety for workers in BC by lobbying government and the WCB for improved compensation benefits for injured workers and improved OHS legislation and enforcement. Sheila has a special interest in the OHS concerns for women and other equity seeking groups. Through many years of providing education and advice to joint OHS committees Sheila has an excellent understanding of the OHS issues in both the industrial and public sectors. Sheila has seen first- hand, how the OHS education provided by the BC Fed OHS Centre assists committees to be more effective and strategic thus improving health and safety for themselves and for their co-workers.
Jordan Friesen | National Director, Workplace Mental Health, CMHA National
Jordan is an enthusiastic, committed, and forward-thinking leader at the helm of CMHA’s workplace programs and services across the country. He draws experience from a wide variety of roles including clinical service delivery, case management, education, and organizational development to ensure that CMHA remains at the forefront of workplace wellness trends and in tune with the needs of Canadian workplaces. Jordan brings a strengths-based approach and focuses on long-term, sustainable change in order to improve the health of today’s evolving workplaces.
Steven Hobkirk | WorkSafeBC
Steven came to WorkSafeBC in 2016, where a large portion of his work has centered on supporting workers and their families in the aftermath of a fatality, serious injury, or otherwise traumatic event. For the last three years he has been involved with the peer support program, helping facilitate training and providing ongoing support and guidance to the WorkSafeBC employees who participate. Prior to this, Steven spent several years working in community mental health and addictions, and he currently maintains a small private practice as a registered clinical counsellor.
Carson McPherson | Senior Advisor, British Columbia Centre on Substance Use
Carson McPherson currently serves as a Senior Advisor to the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and is the Executive Director of Cedars at Cobble Hill, a residential addiction treatment facility on Vancouver Island. Additionally, Carson is a recovery advisor to the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), a member of the executive team for the BC Addiction Recovery Association, and sits on the National Policy Committee for the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine.Carson holds a Doctorate degree in Social Science as well as a Master of Science and Master of Business Administration. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Vancouver Island University. Carson has published in numerous peer reviewed journals and presented across Canada on a wide variety of topics including addiction recovery management in the workplace, family systems, recovery capital, and a host of other topics related to addiction and recovery.
Zaa Joseph | Co-Creator, Diversity Circles, BCIT
Zaa Joseph (Co-Creator of Diversity Circles): Zaa has been a faculty member and advisor in the BCIT Indigenous Services department since 2008. Zaa sits on the BCIT Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is a national committee member of the Equity Committee and subcommittee member of the Indigenous Working Group for CAUT (Canadian Association of University Teachers). Zaa helps coordinate various initiatives for BCIT’s Indigenous Services as well as advising Indigenous students.
Shannon Kelly | Co-Creator, Diversity Circles, BCIT
Shannon Kelly (Co-Creator of Diversity Circles): Shannon joined BCIT in 2002 as faculty in the Communication department, where she has been looking at diversity through numerous research projects. Shannon co-founded Diversity Circles with Zaa Joseph in 2015 and they achieved SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) funding to help faculty and staff address the increasing diversity on campus using a grassroots, strengths-based approach which draws on an Indigenous framework.
Christine Matte | Senior Consultant, Public Sector Advisory, MNP
Christine Matte (she/her) is a senior consultant with MNP’s Public Sector Advisory practice. Christine has over 10 years of experience in communications, public engagement, strategy and planning with public sector organizations and community-based organizations. Most of Christine’s work focuses on engagement-intensive planning where folks have diverse interests and perspectives on the way forward. Christine designs and leads public and community participation projects through intersectional and inclusive engagement techniques and aligns her practice with her training in the International Association for Public Participation methodology, values and professional standards. In the past two years, Christine has focused on learning how to centre and elevate the knowledge of people with lived experience in her projects, while also helping powerful organizations within our complex social systems to explore and embrace change. Christine is working on unlearning the aspects of her own identity, engrained socio-cultural assumptions and automatic responses that can be barriers to continuing on this path and she is grateful to continue to grow personally and professionally from the individuals she meets through this work.
Hon. Judy Darcy | Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, BC
Judy Darcy was appointed British Columbia’s first and Canada’s only Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in July 2017. Minister Darcy has committed her career to building strong and vibrant communities, and has earned a reputation as an effective and compassionate leader.
As a tireless advocate, she has spent much of her life working to improve health care, seniors’ care, education and child care for British Columbians. She is committed to bringing people together to find innovative solutions to the issues that affect families to improve their lives.
As Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, she has taken urgent action to combat the devastating overdose crisis that is affecting families and communities across the province, including increasing the number of overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites and access to naloxone, and expanding treatment and recovery options. She is also forging ahead with her work to create a seamless and coordinated mental health and addictions system in British Columbia, so people can get the help they need, when they need it.
Minister Darcy has served in the B.C. Legislature since she was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for New Westminster in May 2013. She served as the official opposition spokesperson for Health until her re-election in May 2017. During that time she championed many issues, including the initiative to establish a clinic for adult survivors of childhood cancer.
Minister Darcy also served as national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canada’s largest union. She was the only woman to lead a national union for many years. Later, as secretary business manager for the Hospital Employees Union in B.C., Minister Darcy led negotiations that led to a historic settlement that established collective bargaining as charter protected rights for the first time for B.C. healthcare workers in 2008.
Born in Denmark, Minister Darcy’s family immigrated to Canada and shared many of the challenges that new Canadians face. She is married to human rights and labour lawyer Gary Caroline and has an adult son. She enjoys the Royal City Farmers’ Market, devouring good novels, hiking, kayaking, and watching the ever-changing activity and light on the Fraser River from her windows.