Who We Are

With representation from across Canada, meet the individuals behind the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence.

Leadership Team

Headshot of Liv Mendelsohn

Executive Director

[email protected]

Liv Mendelsohn, MA, MEd, is the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence. Over the course of her career, Liv has founded and helmed several organizations in the disability and caregiving space, including the Wagner Green Centre for Accessibility and Inclusion at the Miles Nadal JCC, which she led for seven years, and the ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival, where she served as founding artistic director.

Liv serves as the vice-chair of the City of Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. In 2019 she was recognized as a recipient of the City of Toronto Equity Award and is a senior fellow at Massey College. Liv was a young carer, has been a lifelong caregiver and has lived experience of disability.

Liv is a mother of two and loves to bake.

Headshot of James Janeiro

Director of Policy and Government Relations

James Janeiro is a public policy and advocacy professional with over a decade of experience in politics, policy and government relations. He began his career in the Ontario public service working on disability legislation. He then transitioned to the political policy space and served two successive Ontario ministers of community and social services as senior policy advisor on social assistance, poverty and veterans’ issues. In 2014, James assumed a new role serving Premier Kathleen Wynne as her social policy advisor. In this position, he was responsible for a diverse array of policy areas, including poverty reduction, housing, the Basic Income Pilot, disability issues, autism services and municipal affairs. In 2018, James left the public sector for a role in the not-for-profit sector. He was director of community engagement and policy at Community Living Toronto from 2018 to 2022. In this role, James led an ambitious advocacy agenda focused on housing, income security, and service improvement.

He holds an honours BA in political science, history, and languages and a masters in public policy from the University of Toronto. James lives in Toronto with his wife, dog and two cats.

Headshot of Olivia Olesinski

Communications Manager

[email protected]

Olivia Olesinski is a professional communicator with over 10 years of experience working for various healthcare organizations including Health Canada, the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Through her experience, she has gained a keen understanding of the Canadian healthcare landscape, its strengths and shortfalls, and is passionate about using the power of storytelling to bring meaningful change to recipients of care and their caregivers.

Advisory Committee

Headshot of Naomi Azrieli

Chair and CEO, Azrieli Foundation

Toronto

Naomi Azrieli is Chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation. In this capacity since 2002, she has been the strategic driver behind numerous initiatives, programs and partnerships across the Foundation’s priority areas, including in the fields of education, research and healthcare. She holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford, a masters from Columbia University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2018, she received an honourary LLD from McGill University. She serves on the boards of several national and international scientific, academic and cultural institutions. Naomi and her sisters, Sharon and Danna, are all family caregivers.

Headshot of Ann-Marie Binetti

Community Living Toronto and Provincial Network on Developmental Services

Toronto

Ann-Marie has over 25 years of experience in the developmental services sector at both a local and provincial level. Currently, she is the manager of community engagement and advocacy at Community Living Toronto, where she leads a team working with stakeholders including individuals, families and community members on important advocacy issues. At the provincial level, Ann-Marie works closely with government and community partners to expand and support new innovative initiatives with the goal of strengthening the workforce in developmental services across Ontario.

Ann-Marie is also a part-time professor at Fanshawe College where she enjoys teaching for the developmental services apprenticeship program.

GrantBruno (2)

PhD candidate, University of Alberta

Edmonton

Grant Bruno is a registered member of Samson Cree Nation, one of the reserves that make up Maskwacis, Alberta, and a first-generation residential school survivor. He is currently pursuing a PhD in medical sciences in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on redefining autism through a Nehiyaw (Plains Cree) lens, by engaging with prominent individuals from the autism community and gathering qualitative data on autism in First Nations communities, specifically Maskwacis.

As a father to two autistic children, Grant’s caregiving philosophy is that autism is not something to be viewed negatively, but rather an adventure to be embraced. He chairs the Indigenous Relations Circle for the Autism Society of Alberta.

Headshot of Amy Coupal

Chief Executive Officer, Ontario Caregiver Organization

Toronto

Amy Coupal is the CEO of the Ontario Caregiver Organization, a non-profit funded by the Ministry of Health that supports Ontario’s four million caregivers. A visionary leader with 20 years of experience in the not-for-profit sector, Amy has extensive experience building and leading innovative organizations in education and health care.

Amy has a master’s of education from the University of Calgary and is an Adler-trained coach. Her insights have been shared through speaking and media engagements in Canada and internationally.

Amy has a deep understanding of the benefits and challenges associated with caregiving. As a caregiver for most of her life, Amy helped to support her brother who had cerebral palsy. She was also a caregiver to her mother throughout her cancer journey and now supports her elderly father.

Headshot of Magalie Dumas

Deputy Director General, L’Appui pour les proches aidants d’aînés

Montreal

Magalie has been active in social development and policy development for over 15 years. Since 2007, she has devoted her practice to seniors and caregivers. With l’Appui pour les proches aidants since 2011, she has been focused on maintaining and improving the quality of life of caregivers.

Magalie has a strong interest in the development of remote psychosocial projects, knowledge sharing and transfer, and transformation of health and community systems.

Headshot of Zelda Frietas

Clinical Senior Advisor, CIUSSS West-Central Montreal and Adjunct Professor, McGill University

Montreal

Zelda Freitas holds a graduate degree from McGill University School of Social Work and has extensive experience in the delivery of psychosocial care. As a clinical senior advisor, she oversees the professional practice of allied professionals with a focus on psychosocial practice within a large Montreal health and social service network.

Until recently, Zelda was a research-practitioner and coordinator of the area of expertise in caregiving at the Centre for Research and Expertise in Social Gerontology (CREGÉS), where she engaged in the research, development, knowledge transfer and implementation of evidence-based practices related to psychosocial and interdisciplinary intervention in caregiving, palliative care and bereavement.

Headshot of Sherron Grant

Co-founder, Sawubona Africentric Circle of Support

Toronto

Sherron Grant, MEd, is an educator, an advocate for persons with special needs, a caregiver and the co-founder of Sawubona Africentric Circle of Support (formerly The Black Parents of Children and Adults with a Disability Support Group) and she is an elementary school principal with the Toronto District School Board. Sherron supports families, volunteers and advocates for persons living with various disabilities, to be recognized for their valuable contributions to society, emphasizing the importance of eliminating barriers for others.

Sherron is the 2020 recipient of the Community Living Toronto Jim Turner Award for Outstanding Voluntarism. When not “on the clock,” Sherron is an avid foodie, enjoys a good workout and loves spending time with her grandchildren.

Headshot of Michelle Lewis

Executive Director, Young Caregivers Association

St. Catherine’s

As a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of leadership experience, Michelle is known for driving quality improvement, maximizing operational excellence, and delivering high performance. Michelle has successfully established relationships with family caregiver organizations across Canada as part of the Young Caregivers Association’s mission to expand awareness and supports for young caregivers. Michelle holds a B.A. in sociology from McMaster University and is a recent graduate of the advanced health leadership program at the University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management.

Headshot of Dr. Yona Lunsky

Director, Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Toronto

Yona Lunsky is the director of the Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and leads the health care access research and developmental disabilities program. She is also a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto.

A caregiver herself, she is very involved in research dedicated to understanding caregiver needs and designing mental health interventions for family caregivers of people with developmental disabilities, as well as service providers.

Headshot of Barb MacLean

Executive Director, Family Caregivers of British Columbia

Vancouver

As the executive director at the Family Caregiver of British Columbia (FCBC), Barb has championed large scale change in support of families and people living with a range of challenges – the basis of the person-and-family-centered philosophy. With FCBC, she has been instrumental in implementing caregiver-friendly approaches in health care, seeing firsthand the positive shift when becoming visible partners in care. She brings personal experience to her caregiving-focused work after joining her family in her mother’s cancer journey and end-of-life care.

Barb has a BA from the University of British Columbia and a master’s of arts in leadership and training from Royal Roads University. She sits on many national, provincial and regional committees including, Doctors of B.C. Shared Care, Coordinating Complex Care for Older Adults, CBSS Leadership Council, B.C. Council to Reduce Elder Abuse, BC Ministry of Health Patients as Partners and a number of Canadian research committees (i.e. Age Well and the Canadian Frailty Network, Citizen Engagement).

Barb enjoys ongoing learning and spending time with her family unplugged, outside and traveling whenever possible.

Headshot of Wendy Porch

Executive Director, Centre for Independent Living in Toronto

Toronto

Wendy Porch is the executive director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) and has been working in the field of accessibility, disability, human rights and education for more than 25 years. She is a life-long disability rights advocate.

Before joining CILT in 2018, Wendy was the manager of episodic disability initiatives at Realize, a national organization supporting people living with HIV and/or other episodic disabilities.

Wendy has a master’s of education in counselling psychology from the University of Toronto and worked with the Body Image Project at Women’s College Hospital. She is a member of the City of Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and is the Chair of the City of Toronto’s Accessibility Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines.

Wendy is a proud mom to her son Jasper and works to raise awareness of the needs of parents with disabilities.

Headshot of Dr. Hsien Seow

Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and Health System Innovation, McMaster University

Hamilton

Dr. Hsien Seow, PhD, is the Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and Health System Innovation, an associate professor in the Department of Oncology at McMaster University. Hsien is also the director of the McMaster-ICES satellite site. His research expertise is in innovating the palliative care health system and improving quality of care, particularly in the home and community.

The goal of his work is to improve the experience of patients and family caregivers facing serious illness along the entire illness journey. He has worked with RAND Health, Health Canada, provincial ministries of health, and policy makers nationally and internationally to improve palliative care. He is the co-host of the podcast, The Waiting Room Revolution, and author of The Tao of Innovation: Nine Questions Every Innovator Must Answer.

Headshot of Sandy Sereda

Executive Director, Caregivers Alberta

Edmonton

Sandy Sereda is an experienced not-for-profit leader currently serving as the executive director of Caregivers Alberta, championing the province’s one million caregivers. Sandy has had a rich and varied career in the not-for-profit sector with a focus on organizational management. She has a passion for mission-driven organizations having served previously with The Mustard Seed and The Lung Association, Alberta and the Northwest Territories among others.

As a caregiver for most of her life, Sandy has a deep understanding of the joys and challenges associated with caregiving. She has been involved in scores of research projects, provincial health initiatives and national forums, bringing a broad understanding of the scope of issues impacting caregivers and a collaborative spirit to advance “caregiver-friendly” health and social care.

Sandy has a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Victoria and studied arts administration at MacEwan University.

Headshot of Jenny Theriault

Executive Director, Caregivers Nova Scotia

Halifax

Jenny Theriault is the executive director of Caregivers Nova Scotia (CNS). She has a bachelor of arts in gerontology from Mount Saint Vincent University. She has 14 years of experience working in the non-profit community-based sector. She spent many years working in community programming specifically with seniors and their caregivers. She has been with CNS for two years and brings her own personal caregiving experience and a commitment to supporting, recognizing, and advocating for caregivers as essential partners in care.

EllaTan (2)

Employment and family support worker, North York Community House

North York

Ella Tan is a registered social worker who has been working with care providers for more than a decade. She focuses on challenges and trauma related to migration, particularly in the Canadian Caregiver Program.

As the employment and family support worker at North York Community House, she supports the emotional well-being of care providers, particularly newcomer women and their children, and has built a network of support agencies that serve them. Ella also hosts a podcast for Filipino youth and their mothers titled Mom, Let’s Talk, which explores family reunification and building positive family relationships. She was a recipient of the Quincentennial Award from the Philippine Consular General.

Headshot of Donna Thomson

Author

Ottawa

Donna Thomson is a caregiver, author and activist. Her caregiving experience was shaped by caring for her son, who has severe disabilities, and for her mother, who lived with dementia until she passed away in the summer of 2018 at the age of 96.

Donna is the co-author of The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation of Loved One to Caregiver and author of The Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I’ve Learned From a Life of Caregiving. Donna is a co-designer and co-instructor of the family engagement in research course and the facilitator of the caregiving essentials course at McMaster University.

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