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National Advisory Cabinet

The National Advisory Cabinet’s mandate is to support Studio Y’s strategy and ensure that our program is sustainable. The cabinet meets on a quarterly basis to provide feedback on the key performance metrics and strategic activities of the department. Senior leaders from the worlds of business, academia, government, labour unions and funding bodies — who have diverse geographic and social perspectives — come together to form the cabinet.

Krystal Abotossaway

Diversity Inclusion Talent Sourcing Specialist, Royal Bank of Canada

Krystal Abotossaway is a proud member of Aundeck Omni-Kaning First Nation. In her current role, at the Royal Bank of Canada, Krystal manages specific Aboriginal programs designed to recruit and retain top talent for the financial industry. As a diversity and inclusion sourcing specialist, Krystal is responsible for building pipelines for hard-to-fill and business critical roles. 

Krystal continuously looks for ways to create social impact. As an urban Aboriginal woman, her primary focus is Aboriginal women in leadership as well as Aboriginal youth.

Krystal is an avid community advocate sitting on many boards, such as Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Native Women’s Resource Centre Toronto. Krystal also took on a leadership role in 2015 as the co-president of the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada. 

Her specialties include: Aboriginal sourcing and recruitment, mentoring programs, social media marketing and program management. Krystal has a degree in human resource management from York University. 

Jehad Aliweiwi

Executive Director, Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office

Jehad Aliweiwi is a strategic leader with more than 15 years of experience in senior management positions. Sectors that he has worked within span social, settlement and community service organizations.

Since 2004, Jehad has held the position of executive director with Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office – a multi-service non-profit organization serving the Thorncliffe community. Prior to that, he was regional director at Metro Region of Catholic Crosscultural Services.

Jehad also gained experience across eight years with the Canadian Arab Federation, as a race relations officer and latterly as executive director. He is a Trustee of the Ontario Science Centre and serves on the boards of the Fred Victor Centre and Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).

Jehad has been the recipient of several civic awards, including the Local Hero Award, from the Canadian Urban Institute, and the William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations.

Nouman Ashraf

Senior Research Fellow, Rotman School of Management

Nouman Ashraf is a senior research fellow at the Rotman School of Management. He possesses a broad range of professional, academic and research interests, with a specialized focus on enabling ‘Integrative Thinking’ practice within the life of organizations.

For the last 15 years, he has held progressively senior roles at the University of Toronto. He is also an expert in governance and has taught thousands of directors in the national Rotman program on NFP Governance, since its inception in 2007.

Nouman teaches ‘emancipatory leadership’ within the global executive MBA and EMBA programs, ‘leading social innovation’ within the two and three year program and ‘leading across differences’ within the Rotman Commerce program.

At lunchtime he can be found at Massey College, where he is senior fellow. His previous consultancy clients include the Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto Police Service, Bank of Montreal (BMO), Telus, Cliffs Natural Resources, Bayer, United Way Toronto, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Jean Augustine

Senior Research Fellow, Rotman School of Management

Jean Augustine was the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to the House of Commons and she sat in Parliament from 1993 to 2006. During this time, she served as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, minister of state for multiculturalism and the status of women, and she was a deputy speaker. She is also known for her work on the motion proposing Black History Month in Canada.

In March 2007, Jean was appointed as fairness commissioner. This was the first public office of its kind in Canada designed to oversee fairness and transparency among various professional regulatory bodies. Throughout all this work Jean has been a strong advocate for education, girl’s leadership, youth empowerment and entrepreneurship, both in her communities and across the country.

Cindy Brooks

Retired Vice-President, Finance, Sun Life Financial

Cindy Brooks has just retired from Sun Life Financial (SLF) and her most recent position there was vice-president, finance, with accountability for all financial aspects of group retirement services.

Cindy has an extensive background in financial management. She began her career at Ernst and Young in 1983 as a member of the audit staff and progressed to the level of senior audit manager, before joining Mutual Life in 1991.

During her 19 years with Mutual/Clarica/Sun Life, she held a variety of senior financial positions including vice-president investment finance, vice-president controller at SLF Canada and vice-president of corporate planning. Cindy moved into her role as vice-president of finance in July 2010.

Cindy is a chartered accountant and holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics and accounting from the University of Waterloo. 

John Cartwright

President, Toronto & York Region Labour Council

John Cartwright is the president of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, representing 205,000 union members in Canada’s largest urban centre.  A carpenter by trade, he was formerly the business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council and co-chair of the Metro Jobstart Coalition. John has served on the boards of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, the United Way Toronto, the Toronto 2008 Olympic Bid and the Labour Education Centre.

Over the years he has helped develop the Campaign for Public Education, Public Transit for the Public Good and the Toronto Waterwatch campaign – defending vital public services in Toronto.

John has been deeply involved in the challenges surrounding apprenticeships and training, as well as crafting the Green Jobs strategy for the Canadian Labour Congress. In 2007, he led the successful $10 Minimum Wage campaign in Ontario and went on to initiate the Good Jobs for All Coalition, plus the subsequent conference on Good Green Jobs for All.

Since becoming Labour Council president, John has worked with affiliated unions to craft an aggressive equity agenda for Toronto’s labour movement. The council initiated a ground-breaking Aboriginal Workers & Workers of Colour (AWOC) Conference and it has the most diverse leadership of any central labour body in the country.

John is co-chair of the Toronto Community Benefits Network, which works to provide career opportunities for racialized communities on major infrastructure projects.  He also sits on the National Board of the Council of Canadians.

John Elvidge

Director, Secretariat, City Clerk’s Office, City of Toronto

John Elvidge is the director, secretariat in the city clerk’s office of the City of Toronto. He is responsible for the city’s governance and legislative processes, by-laws and public appointments.

John’s professional interests include democratic renewal and citizen engagement. His municipal career includes posts in culture, intergovernmental relations, strategic planning and corporate policy.

Before joining the public service John Elvidge worked as an arts administrator. He contributes his time as an official and technical committee member for swimming in Ontario.

John was a member of the 2008 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference and served as chair of the Toronto committee for the 2012 conference.

Zubair Patel

Senior Special Assistant, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Zubair Patel is a senior special assistant with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Previously, he has worked for the Liberal Party of Canada, CivicAction and a number of Ontario ministries.

Dr. Bonnie Schmidt

Founder and President, Let’s Talk Science

Dr. Bonnie Schmidt is the founder and president of Let’s Talk Science, a national charitable organization. She started the charity while completing a PhD in physiology at Western University.

Striving to inspire future generations, more than 4 million youth and educators have been reached with Let’s Talk Science programs to date. Annually, more than 3,000 postsecondary and industry volunteers are also mobilized.

Bonnie currently serves on the Board of Directors of Ontario Genomics, the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the governor general’s panel for Meritorious Service awards.

Bonnie was the founding co-chair of the Science & Technology Awareness Network (STAN) and has participated in numerous initiatives to support education and science policy. For her efforts in education, Bonnie has received several awards and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015.

Shahab Shahnazari

Manager of Health Data Initiatives at MaRS Data Catalyst

Shahab Shahnazari is the manager of health data initiatives at MaRS Data Catalyst. Managing the MyHealth initiative, Shahab is working with a multi-disciplinary team to create an innovation platform that will give consumers control over their health data. Users will be able to share this data with product and service providers that can support them in meeting their health and wellness goals.

He holds a bachelor of science in biochemistry from McMaster University and a PhD in molecular genetics from the University of Toronto.

Matthew Thomas

Co-Founder and CEO of Paddle Inc.

Matthew Thomas is the co-founder and CEO of Paddle Inc., a career development platform for non-linear careers. Matthew was previously managing director of Prospect Madison, a cross-sector leadership advisory firm. This company aimed to enhance collaboration across the business, government and non-profit sectors to address society’s most pressing issues.

Matthew chairs the boards of Young Canadians in Finance, Young Diplomats of Canada and CanLeads. He also serves as a David Rockefeller Fellow of the Trilateral Commission and is a member of the World Economic Forum and Banff Forum communities.

He has work published in the Harvard Business Review, Triple Strength Leadership, and has previously worked at The Intersector Project, McKinsey & Company, Department of Finance Canada, and Morgan Stanley.

Noah Aiken-Klar

Director of Youth Donations at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)

Noah is the director of youth donations at RBC. Prior to this he was regional director at the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), where he oversaw the delivery of community grants across Eastern Ontario and helped lead the OTF in achieving its strategic goals.

He is a bilingual lawyer, with governance expertise, and an active volunteer. He was the director of a national pro bono law association called Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC).

Noah has degrees from McGill, bachelor of science 1999, and University of Toronto, bachelor of laws 2003. He is also a writer and musician. Noah lives in Downtown Toronto with his wife and two children.