Visit this page regularly to learn more about speakers and sessions, or get in touch with us to provide a suggestion of what you’d like to see.
CEO, CLASS – Community Living And Support Services
For the past 45 years, Al has been associated with CLASS, a full-service non-profit organization supporting people with disabilities. Al serves as a consultant, collaborator and, lectures extensively around the country. He has been particularly active in looking at best practice aspects in disability services and the shift from micro-services to macro approaches.
Broadcaster, Advocate & Pop Culture Philosopher
Jesse has appeared on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning as film and pop culture critic for 20 years. He previously served as Director of Film Programmes, at TIFF Bell Lightbox, where he oversaw theatrical, Cinematheque and Film Circuit programming. A self-described ‘Ojibwe dude’ with a national and international lens, he encourages audiences to consider diversity and inclusion into the future view of their organization, industry and country.
DJ, Co-Founder of A Tribe Called Red & Indigenous Advocate
Ian, also known as DJ NDN, is the co-founder & former member of the music group A Tribe Called Red (ATCR). Through a powerful combination of art and activism, he uses his notoriety to draw attention to issues of racism, gender based violence, stigmas of mental health, and other forms of oppression. He is Ojibwe, Anishinaabe from the Nipissing First Nation.
For Keith, mindfulness and music are the universal languages that bring people together in harmony as one planet. As a certified life coach and longtime yoga instructor, he has a strong dream of accessible health and wellness for the global community.
Comedian & Speaker
See the world through Michael’s eyes as he takes you on a comical journey through the lighter side of Asperger’s Syndrome. Diagnosed at the age of five, he’s combined his love of comedy and his obsession with Hollywood movies into a career as a comedian.
Ben Adaman, Senior Manager, St.Amant
Ben Adaman is the Senior Manager of Clinical Services at St.Amant and the lead for St.Amant’s Jordan’s Principle services. Ben supports clinicians from nine disciplines who work with both children and adults in a wide range of residential and community-based settings. Originally trained as a speech-language pathologist, Ben’s recent initiatives include developing recommendations for the renewal of Spiritual Health services and leading the development of St.Amant’s first Accessibility Plan and accessibility policies. Ben also co-chairs the St.Amant Ethics Committee.
Charlie Appelstein: Instructor, @charlieap
Charlie is a youth care specialist and author whose focus is on teaching positive, strength-based theories and techniques to professionals who guide at-risk children and youth. He trains and consults primarily with treatment facilities, foster care associations, parent groups, schools, and juvenile justice programs. Charlie’s strength-based approach delivers a message of hope and possibility to our most vulnerable youth and those who shape and influence their lives.
Chris Beesley, CEO & Board Secretary, Community Living Ontario
Chris began his role as Chief Executive Officer and Board Secretary of Community Living Ontario in June 2013. His commitment to the Community Living movement began in 1994 with the birth of his son, Mitchell, who was born with an intellectual disability. Chris served on various committees with Community Living Toronto, his local association, and served on their Board for nine years. Before coming to Community Living Ontario, he was the Executive Director of an adult literacy network organization serving Toronto and York Regions, and he is currently on the board of Community Literacy of Ontario.
Scott Blakely, Panelist
Scott has earned his double striped red belt in Taekwondo. He works on computers is interested in building networks and wants to design computer programs that help people with disabilities. He carries a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and has been part of the process in filing a human rights case that was ultimately resolved with his employer prior to a public adjudication.
Mitch Bourbonniere, Social Worker and Community Activist
Mitch is a founding member of the Bear Clan Patrol and is currently volunteering with the Mama Bear Clan, Got Bannock, Drag the Red, Teddy Bears Picnic and many more endeavours. He runs two programs for at-risk youth and adults called Action Therapy and Ogijiita Pimatisiwin Kinamatwin (OPK). Mitch teaches at the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and the University of St. Boniface and is a school social worker in the Louis Riel School Division.
Caitlin Buchel, Speech-Language Pathologist
Caitlin Buchel is the owner of Buchel Speech & Language Group, a private speech-language pathology (SLP) practice offering services throughout Manitoba. Her practice treats people of all ages facing various speech and language disorders, with her personally focusing on stroke and acquired brain injury rehabilitation, the management of communication difficulties related to neurodegenerative disease, as well as the treatment of voice and voice disorders. Her treatment of voice disorders includes comprehensive assessment, the development of individualized treatment plans, vocal hygiene training, and use of various vocal behavioural techniques as well as amplification to address voice difficulties and disorders.
Andy Chavez, CEO and co-founder, BehaviorMe
Andy is CEO and co-founder at BehaviorMe, a startup merging virtual reality and behavioural sciences for the greater good of mental health care. Prior to co-founding BehaviorMe, Andy ran an experiential marketing startup and was project manager for two award-winning design and build creative agencies based out of New York City. Andy instils creative thinking and business processes in an attempt to recognize scalable and sustainable opportunities across all fields of thought, industry, and populations.
Patti Chiappetta, Executive Director, Innovative Life Options
Prior to becoming Executive Director at Innovative Life Options, she worked with the Province of Manitoba for over 25 years in a number of management positions. Patti’s passion, enthusiasm and work in supporting choices, independence, community living, rights and equality, brought her to In The Company of Friends and Innovative Life Options.
Jino Distasio, Vice President of Research and Innovation, University of Winnipeg
For nearly two decades, Dr. Distasio has worked in the areas of mental health, homelessness and housing. He has served on the boards of many agencies including Habitat for Humanity and Westminster Housing Society. He was also the Winnipeg lead for the At Home Chez Soi study of Housing First in Canada, a $110 million dollar project that ended homelessness for more than 1000 Canadians. He teaches in the area of community planning and understands the importance of creating neighbourhoods that are more inclusive.
Jason Dyck, CEO, Prairie Partners
He currently works as the CEO of Prairie Partners, which provides support services for people living with developmental disabilities in the southwest corner of Manitoba. Growing up in both urban and rural areas has given Jason an appreciation of the different strengths and needs that exist in various environments and communities.
Annie Escalante, Behavior Analyst and co-founder, BehaviorMe
Annie is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and a co-founder of BehaviorMe, a virtual reality company producing simulations to teach safety skills. She has experience working with children and adults with autism and developmental disabilities in a variety of environments including clinics, schools, and group home settings. Her passion lies in the intersection of technology and innovative approaches to clinical applications.
Alysha is passionate about working with others to tell stories through drama that challenge social marginalization and open spaces for self-advocacy. She’s taught in the public school system in Manitoba and worked as an educational consultant for the Manitoba School Improvement Program to support youth-driven social justice projects. Currently, Alysha works with students to critically examine the stories we inherit about others and the stories we tell about ourselves.
Cathy Deagle Gammon, Executive Director, Dartmouth Adult Services Centre
Cathy is a dedicated and passionate voice for adults with intellectual disabilities and for the transformative power of social enterprise. She has committed her life to improving the lives of others. Growing up in Cape Breton, time spent volunteering at a local institution would have a lasting impact. From managing a rural group home to running the largest urban, vocational day and employment program social enterprise in Nova Scotia, Cathy’s strengths lie in guiding her staff and volunteers towards a shared vision, while reshaping administrative structures and expectations. As Executive Director of the Dartmouth Adult Services Centre (DASC) for more than two decades, Cathy has led both the expansion of Centre services and increases in the number of participants served. In more recent years, Cathy has served as founding President of the Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia (SENNS). Under her guidance, SENNS developed a Social Enterprise Strategy that was adopted as the paradigm through which this and future governments will engage with the sector.
Andrew Gurza: Disability Awareness Consultant, @andrewgurza
Andrew is a writer, podcast host and an accomplished voice on the intersectionality of queerness and disability. His written work has been featured in Los Angeles Times, Men’s Health, Daily Xtra, Gay Times UK, Huffington Post, The Advocate, Everyday Feminism, Mashable, Out.com, and several anthologies. He has guested on a number of podcasts including Dan Savage’s Savage Love and Cameron Esposito’s Queery. He is the host of DisabilityAfterDark: The Podcast Shining a Bright Light on Sex and Disability.
Joe Gacheru, Jordan’s Principle Regional Coordinator
Joe has worked for Indigenous Services Canada for the past 13 years as a Public Health Nurse, Nurse Manager, and Regional Homecare Coordinator and most recently as the First Nations Inuit Health Branch Manitoba Jordan’s Principle Regional Coordinator. He has formerly worked as a Health Director for a First Nation community in Alberta. Joe worked for seven years as a live-in assistant with L’Arche Winnipeg and L’Arche Calgary, supporting persons with disabilities in a home setting. Joe has extensive experiences and knowledge providing leadership, guidance, oversight and delivery of a wide range of services and programs aimed at improving quality, access and safety of health services both in Canada and Kenya.
Deborah Hatton, Researcher, University of Manitoba
Deborah is currently pursuing her PhD in an Individual Interdisciplinary Studies program based in Psychology (Applied Behaviour Analysis), and Disability Studies at the University of Manitoba. Her present research is teaching preference assessments to untrained people to be used with people diagnosed with developmental disabilities. She periodically teaches undergraduate psychology. Deborah is the mother of eight children, all diagnosed with ADHD, three also diagnosed with autism.
Nancy Hansen, Associate Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Disability Studies, University of Manitoba
Nancy’s research interests in disability studies include employment, healthcare access and experiences of disabled and LGBTQ communities in post-conflict areas. She is a former member of the Member CAUT Working Group Academics with Disabilities and Equity Committee and a former President of the Canadian Disability Studies Association. Nancy received an Einstein research fellowship examining Disability Studies and the Legacy of Nazi Eugenics. Nancy received the ICUF Sprott Asset Management Scholarship examining disability history.
Misheyla started working in Prairie Partner’s Residential Care Program after leaving her job at the local veterinary clinic. She then hesitantly applied for a position to manage the Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co., and was taken aback when she got the job. She was young, but she was starting to climb the ladder, and promptly landed herself a seat within the Prairie Partner’s Administrative Team as the Program Manager. There is not a day where her job is easy, but she enjoys the challenge and looks forward to experiencing something different every day.
Dr. Jennifer Katz: Author & Assistant Professor
Dr. Katz received her PhD in 2008 from the University of British Columbia in inclusive education. She is the author of three books on universal design and has taught in diverse classrooms from K-12 in Winnipeg and Vancouver for 16 years, including both special education classrooms and inclusive classrooms, in addition to working as a resource teacher, guidance counsellor, and consultant. Her work as an advocate of inclusive education has become known internationally. Dr. Katz is currently an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at UBC.
Dale Kendel, Former Executive Director of Community Living Manitoba
Dale has enjoyed a diverse, 40-year career in the field of developmental disabilities, community development and liaison with Government and NGO planning. Dale retired as Executive Director of Community Living Manitoba in 2009, a position he held for 34 years. In 2012, Dale was the recipient of the Honorary Life Member Award from the Canadian Association for Community Living. In retirement, Dale continues to be selectively involved in issues such as Barrier-Free Manitoba, Manitoba Marathon, consulting with disability-related groups in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Isha Khan, Executive Director for The Manitoba Human Rights Commission
In her role, Isha oversees the Commission’s complaint process and human rights education mandate, regularly presenting to organizations on current and emerging human rights issues. She also acts as senior counsel for the Commission advising on the investigation of complaints and other activities of the Commission, and represents the public’s interest at adjudication hearings, working closely with complainants to prove their complaints of discrimination. She obtained her law degree from the University of Victoria and is called to the British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba bars. She has chaired the Review Tribunal for CPP disability benefits and practised as a labour and employment lawyer in Calgary.
Anne Kresta is a longtime advocate for people with Asperger Syndrome, now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, at local, national and international levels. As the mother of two young men with ASD, and longtime board member of Asperger Manitoba Inc., she has learned of many challenging areas where further support and innovative thinking are needed as they have moved through various systems, ages and stages. With the development and launching of Level IT Up, Anne has acquired many new skills and further developed her appreciation for the amazing skills and abilities found within the autism community. Launching a social enterprise can be a daunting task, but with an amazing board of directors, key allies within the information and communication technology sector and an extensive international network of colleagues, anything is possible.
Stu Law, Learning Systems Development Specialist, High Sierra Industries
Stu has dedicated his life to developing inductive learning systems and assembling learner profiles to inform growth in valued directions. He has worked as a Precision Teacher, serving the needs of learners in academic areas, and has worked with both children and adults across a wide range of skills and abilities for roughly 10 years. He is a senior student at the University of Nevada, in the Behavior Analysis program, where he studies and researches relational operants in the hopes of guiding the field of Applied Behavior Analysis towards person-centred, functional ways of thinking about complex human events.
Peter Leidy: Consultant, @peterleidy
Peter has been learning from elders and people with disabilities since 1983. He is a speaker, facilitator, songwriter, and improviser who focuses on personalized supports and community membership. Peter is also an associate with A Centre for Conscious Care, based in Ontario, and works part-time with the Council on Quality and Leadership.
Marla Lulashnyk, Occupational Therapist
Marla is an Occupational Therapist with over 20 years of experience. She is employed by St.Amant as a consultant for the St.Amant School, the Seating Mobility Clinic and for Adults with intellectual disabilities living in the community. Marla’s past experience working in Vocational Rehabilitation and Mental Health have influenced her Occupational Therapy style.
Yona Lunsky: Scientist & Psychologist
Yona is a Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, and director of the Health Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD) Program and the Azrieli Centre for Adult Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Mental Health. She is a clinical psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. In addition to authoring nearly 200 research papers focused on developmental disabilities, she is involved in many educational efforts aimed at professionals, people with disabilities, and families.
Stacy MacDonald has lived in both Nova Scotia and Manitoba and is passionate about human rights work and cooking. She has been the manager of the Sawmill Tea & Coffee Co. and its training program since 2013, and provides direct supervision to job coaches, café staff, and café trainees, as well as the day-to-day operations of the café and catering services. Having 25 years of restaurant experience paired with many years as a front-line support worker, Stacy has the ideal experience and skills to help run this unique program. Before coming to Prairie Partners Inc., Stacy spent seven years working with families through The Family Centre of Winnipeg, and 5 years with S.P.I.K.E. Inc, providing support services for families in crisis and adults with developmental disabilities.
Mark has spent the last 10 years working with learners with various abilities from 2 to 90 years old. Mark specializes in instructional control, functional living skills, direct implementation of evidence-based approaches to learning, and theoretical approaches to working with learners with diverse abilities. Under his role as Director of Programs at HSI/WARC for the last three years, he has assisted in the development of multiple curricula including those regarding career readiness, para-professional instruction, and pre-transition employment. He has also created models for case management for Host Home providers, as well as models for day habilitation programs. Mark envisions a service of support options for learners with unique abilities that expand the potential of individual humans to allow them to have meaningful experience through formalized supports using the science of behaviour analysis to its fullest potential.
Barrier-Free Manitoba is a non-partisan, non-profit, cross-disability initiative that was formed in 2008. We believed that the time had come for the Province of Manitoba to enact strong and effective legislation that requires the removal of existing barriers and prevents the creation of new ones. Barrier-Free Manitoba has been and continues to be led by a Steering Committee with members spanning Manitoba’s disability communities.
Red Cross Manitoba
The Canadian Red Cross is a national and international leader in helping organizations manage the risk and protect young people. For over 30 years, the Canadian Red Cross has provided education to children, youth and adults to promote healthy relationships and safe environments.
Laurie Miller, Senior Resource Coordinator, Innovative Life Options
Laurie has been with Innovative Life Options for 18 years and has been very active in the disability community. She loves her role because of the people she meets and watching people live the lives of their choosing. She believes a very strong skill she has is her ability to advocate for employers of In The Company of Friends; this is where her true passion lies.
Cara Milne: Instructor
Cara is the award-winning author and owner of M-Powered Planning Ltd, a Calgary based business that promotes positive and valuable roles for people with disabilities. The variety of workshops and seminars encourage staff and families to see the strengths of their existing services, and simple strategies that create positive changes in the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities. Cara’s positive and energetic approach supports both common sense and sustainable change.
Grant Mitchell: Retired Lawyer and Instructor
Grant recently retired after practising law for almost 40 years at Taylor McCaffrey where he focused on labour, employment and human rights law. He acted as an external counsel to the Human Rights Commission before they had internal counsel. Grant represented disability organization, People in Equal Participation Inc., as an intervenor in the Robert Latimer Murder Trial. The trial hit close to home to him as his eldest daughter has cerebral palsy. He also taught at University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law for 22 years in labour relations and trial advocacy. He has represented many of the largest and most prestigious employers in Manitoba, including the largest universities, municipalities, manufacturers, construction companies, retail companies and service organization.
Lisa Morrisseau & Nikki Swirsky: Speakers
Lisa and Nikki are speakers from Visions and Voices, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Speaker’s Bureau.
Lisa has learned a lot about herself and FASD through raising her three children. She enjoys telling stories of the challenges she has faced within health and education systems in a humorous and engaging way. Lisa says, “we all struggle, but we all struggle a little more or a little differently.”
As a single mom, Nikki relies on her relationships with her mom and siblings as she raises her daughter. Diagnosed with FASD as an infant, she has suffered from numerous health problems throughout her life. Nikki says, “I know I’m different, but I’ve also been taught that I can do anything if I just set my mind to it.”
Janice Nesbitt, Clinical Nurse Specialist
Janice is a Clinical Nurse Specialist with the WRHA Palliative Care Program. In this role, she is part of the interdisciplinary consult team in palliative care, providing support to healthcare teams in acute care, long term care and the home setting. Janice has been involved in developing care plans for individuals living in the group home setting who are nearing end-of-life. She has her Master of Nursing degree from the University of Manitoba and is certified in Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing.
Hien Nguyen, Charisse Dimacali & Tracy Laluk, Volunteer Services, St.Amant
Hien, Charisse & Tracy have been engaging volunteers at St.Amant collectively for the last 12 years and volunteering themselves for many more. They specialize in volunteerism and thrive on building community and connecting individuals for the benefit for personal growth, social impact and community inclusiveness. All three share a passion for making positive impacts, lifelong learning and creating meaningful relationships through the PALS program. A quote that resonates with them from David Pitonyak is “Loneliness is a central reason why so many people are unhappy and distraught. Our work is to help people find meaningful and enduring relationships. Nothing is more important.”… This quote is an essential reminder as to why the PALS initiative was created.
Growing up as a child with disabilities, she is now a caregiver of children with diverse needs and continues to research and fill service gaps within our community. Angela has a BA, Post Bacc in Education (inclusion), and graduates with her Masters of Disability Studies in fall 2018. She has been providing support to families for nearly 20 years in Winnipeg, within both mental health and social services.
Helen Trudeau, Coordinator
Helen is the Jordan’s Principle CFI Service Coordinator for the 11 communities of Keewatin Tribal Council located in the northern region of Manitoba.
Session: Jordan’s Principal, Child First Initiative: Strengthening the Community Circle of Care for First Nations Children
The purpose of Jordan’s Principle community-based initiatives are to develop community programs that will provide quality services, supports and resources at the community level to achieve the desired holistic outcomes for children and their families living with disabilities. In order to do this, First Nations must lead the work with all stakeholders to provide support, address gaps in service, avoid jurisdictional disputes and improve needed care, while keeping children home in their respective communities.
Daphne Penrose, Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth
Daphne became the Manitoba Advocate after being sworn in officially on April 12, 2017. Daphne has extensive experience that spans nearly three decades working inside the child welfare system. She got her start in 1989, as a juvenile counsellor in the youth justice system, holding positions at Agassiz Youth Centre as well as the Manitoba Youth Centre. In 1994, she added positions in child welfare. Daphne has held nearly every job within the child welfare system: front-line worker, abuse worker, unit supervisor, then head of quality assurance for the Child Protection Branch, and other senior executive positions, including most recently as acting Chief Executive Officer at Winnipeg Child and Family Services. Beyond titles, degrees, and designations, Daphne has had a lifelong commitment to working collaboratively with families and communities. She is committed to listening to the voices of families and extended families to design and deliver services to children and youth, which reflect the wisdom and expertise of the natural supports that surround each child. Daphne also believes that system accountability in child welfare is of vital importance and brings her wealth of experience in quality assurance and accountability to her role as Children’s Advocate.
Dennis Reid, Director, Carolina Behavior Analysis and Support Center
Dr. Reid has over 40 years of experience as a clinician and supervisor in educational, residential, and community support settings for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and has consulted with human service agencies in the majority of states of the United States as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. He has published over 140 refereed journal articles and book chapters focusing on applied behavior analysis and positive behavior support, and authored or co-authored 12 books. In 2007, he was awarded Fellowship status in the Association for Behavior Analysis International and in 2006 received the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities International Research Award. Dennis is the founder and current director of the Carolina Behavior Analysis and Support Center in Morganton, North Carolina, USA. His company has employed people with autism and other severe disabilities in a supported work capacity for more than 20 years.
Nirbhay Singh, CEO, MacTavish Behavioral Health
Nirbhay is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University and CEO of MacTavish Behavioral Health in Raleigh, NC. He is a Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. He is the Editor-in-Chief of three journals—Mindfulness, Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and the Journal of Child and Family Studies, and three book series. He has broad research interests that include mindfulness-based interventions, and assistive technology for people with intellectual and multiple disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, post-coma in minimally conscious state, and others with neurodegenerative diseases. He is the developer of several mindfulness-based interventions, including Mindfulness-Based Positive Behavior Support (MBPBS) and multiple informal mindfulness procedures for the self-management of aggression.
Lori Schafer, Advocate
Communicator, trainer, passionate advocator and tenacious activist. Lori is familiar with human rights affecting discrimination in the workplace for those with autism. She has done extensive work in advocating both in the school and work setting for youth with autism. She’s fought for systemic change in the workplace by advocating through a Human Rights Complaint.
Dalip Shekhawat, Teacher
Dalip is an educator with over 15 years of experience. He works at St.Amant School teaching students who display complex behaviours who experience: low attentiveness, aggressive behaviours, have a high sensory intake for deep pressure and movement.
Brenlee Carrington Trepel, Lawyer
Manitoba Human Rights Commission Chairperson Brenlee Carrington Trepel is a lawyer, mediator and educator. The Commission enforces the Human Rights Code through its complaint procedures, conducting public education programs and carrying out activities that promote human rights. As the Law Society of Manitoba’s first equity ombudsperson, Brenlee educated on and resolved workplace human rights issues for the legal profession for 16 years. She graduated from the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law where she was a sessional instructor for nine years. Brenlee received the Manitoba Bar Association’s Equality and Community Involvement Awards. She has authored many legal articles and is a frequent guest speaker. She has also been recognized by LEAF National as one of 25 lawyers in Canada who advanced women’s equality.
Additional speakers to be announced soon.