Speakers

Vasiliki Bednar

Vasiliki (Vass) Bednar is an Action Canada Fellow and the Associate Director of the Cities research program at the University of Toronto's Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management, where she works at the intersection of business and public policy. The self-described “millennial wonk star” recently completed the Civic Action DiverseCity Fellowship and is the co-host and co-producer of a weekly radio show called “DETANGLED” on CIUT 89.5FM, where she makes the complex colloquial for a young urban audience. Vass' spirited playfulness is her edge in the policy world, where she uses humour to make complicated ideas more accessible.

Stephanie Ben-Ishai

Professor Stephanie Ben-Ishai, a Full Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, is an internationally recognized expert on insolvency, corporate governance and commercial law. A frequent guest speaker, Professor Ben-Ishai has presented her work around the world. She has received the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal of Excellence, SSHRC and Fulbright fellowships. Titles Professor Ben-Ishai has held include Law Commission of Ontario Scholar in Residence, INSOL International Scholar, Osgoode Hall Law School Research Fellowship Recipient, co-author/co-editor of six books on insolvency and contract law, Academic Director of the LLM in Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law, Co-Academic Director of the LLM in Banking Law and Academic Director of the Osgoode Small Business Clinic.Research Interests: Corporate/Commercial Law.

Chris Blackwood

Chris Blackwood is a Children and Youth Program Coordinator at the St. Alban's Boys and Girls Club and the founder of Gentleman H.A.T.S. Chris is a graduate of Concordia University and is an active mentor and athletics coach in the Jane and Finch and Weston Mt. Dennis communities.

John Bromley

Mr. Bromley is the Founder & CEO of CHIMP Foundation. He provides strategic advice about financing and organizational structure to local, national and international charities, foundations, non-profits, private and public companies. He also develops web-based, software platforms that encourage mass awareness of and participation in the benevolent sector, namely Chimp and Peer Giving. After working in corporate finance at RBC Capital Markets and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mr. Bromley started Benefic Group to fill the void in specialized expertise in charity law, strategy and policy in Canada. Benefic has worked with hundreds of local and international donors, charities, foundations, governments, non-profits and for-profits to provide strategic and legal advice, and arrange several billion dollars in giving.

Brett Chang

Brett Chang is a Public Policy Associate at Uber Canada. Prior to joining Uber, Brett started Adrenaline Digital – Canada’s first digital agency focused exclusively on online advocacy. After successfully exiting from Adrenaline, Brett went on to found LineSix, an innovative Toronto-based transportation startup. His work on LineSix earned him a spot on The Globe and Mail’s “Ten Torontonians who got things done in 2014”. Brett graduated from the University of Toronto in 2013 with a joint HBA in History and Political Science.

Bindu Cudjoe

 Bindu Cudjoe joined BMO as senior counsel in 2012 and was named associate general counsel and managing director in 2013. She oversees a global team responsible for corporate banking, trade finance and banking businesses of BMO Capital Markets and manages global sanctions risk at BMO. Bindu negotiates complex cash-management-relationship agreements with substantial financial institutions. At McMillan LLP, she led large teams on complex international financing facilities. Bindu distinguishes herself by keeping pace with foreign law firms and foreign clients in cross-border deals and by her commitment to client service. She’s co-chair of the legal talent development committee and an energetic advocate for diversity. Bindu is director for the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall and a mentor to young lawyers. She has served as council chair at Emily Carr Public School.  

Matias de Dovitiis

Matias de Dovitiis is Executive Director for the DUKE Heights BIA. He is a community organizer that has volunteered and worked for over a decade in the north west of the City of Toronto. Matias has helped establish two full entry scholarships to York University, bursaries through Teach2 Learn, and dozens of local bursaries over the last year for Grade 5, 8 and 12 students in schools in York West. Matias is also dedicated to creating positive learning experiences for students. He is active in local schools and community centres where he regularly meets with youth and helps run important learning activities such as youth workshops, programming and free tutoring classes.

Brock Dickinson

Brock is one of Canada’s leading economic development thinkers, combining twenty years of hands-on experience in the field with the latest ideas, innovations and research to drive 21st century economic development. Before entering the private sector, Brock served as Director of ICT & Advanced Manufacturing for the Toronto Region Research Alliance, as Director of Economic Development & Tourism Services for the City of St. Catharines, and as Executive Director of the Western Valley Development Authority in rural Nova Scotia. This economic development work won more than 40 national and international awards, including a UN designation as one of the “best practices in the world for improving living conditions.” His work helped to leverage more than a billion dollars in new investment, and the creation of 5,000 new jobs.

Andrew Frank

Andrew Frank joined The Johns Hopkins University in June 2010 as the first special adviser to the president on economic development. His priorities are the Homewood Community Partners Initiative, which encompasses ten neighborhoods around the Homewood campus, and the East Baltimore Development Initiative, a $1.8 billion neighborhood transformation involving new housing, lab space, community school, retail, central park, and hotel. Frank set up the governance structure, negotiated key agreements with the school district and operator, and serves as owner’s representative for the construction of the Henderson-Hopkins school, the first new East Baltimore school in 25 years. Before joining Johns Hopkins, Frank worked with the City of Baltimore for 15 years, with three years as First Deputy Mayor for neighborhood and economic development.

Caroline Gayle

Holder of an MBA in Computer Information Systems, Caroline is Managing Director, Technology - Financial Services at Accenture, where she utilises her extensive experience to plan, manage, implement and support small- and large-scale technology solutions for her clients. Ms. Gayle is actively involved with a number of non-profit and charitable organizations, including the Foundation for an Entrepreneurial Canada.

Harpreet Gill

Harpreet Gill is a graduate of Ryerson University with extensive experience working with youth in Toronto. Harpreet is currently a Team Lead, Facilitator and Job Developer at The Career Foundation.

Rafael Gomez

Rafael Gomez received his B.A. from York University, and M.A., M.I.R. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He Director of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, University of Toronto. His current research areas focus on: the wage and pay structure impacts of unions on CEO and executive pay; union and non-union voice at work; demographic issues related to the workplace and cross country growth; local employment and economic development. Professor Gomez' accomplishments include being the recipient of the John T. Dunlop Outstanding Scholar Award (2005), the McGraw-Hill Best Paper Award (2005), the Emerging Scholars Award (1998), and the Connaught Scholarship at the University of Toronto (1997).

Andrea Boctor

Andrea Boctor is a partner practising in the Toronto office of Stikeman Elliott. She is head of the firm's National Pensions and Benefits Group and Co-Chair of the Toronto office's Community Involvement and Pro Bono Committee. Ms. Boctor advises clients in all areas of the firm's pensions and benefits practice. Areas of particular emphasis include pension issues in the context of mergers and acquisitions and bankruptcy and insolvency. Ms. Boctor also advises clients with respect to a full range of pension investment and administration issues, and the pension issues that arise in the context of lending arrangements.

Sonya Gulati

Sonya Gulati is a passionate and visionary leader skilled in applying evidenced-based analytics, economic methodologies and strategic frameworks to complex, multi-faceted business problems. She is currently a Manager with KPMG's Public Sector Advisory Practice. Sonya has also held successively senior roles in economics and strategy within TD -- in Canada and the U.S. – and in the public sector at the provincial and federal levels. As a Senior Economist within TD Economics, she had a mandate to analyze public policy, authored in-depth research publications and served as a TD spokesperson, both in Canada and the U.S. She also has experience and a strong background in strategic planning, strategy development and risk management.

Richard Haggins

Richard Haggins is a Senior Education Facilitator with Credit Canada Debt Solutions, a not-for-profit credit counselling service serving individuals and families experiencing personal financial difficulties since 1966. Richard has worked in the credit counselling industry since 2006, and has been working in the area of credit and debt education since 2007.  As a workshop facilitator, he has presented hundreds of workshops to a wide variety of organizations, including businesses, governmental organizations, labour unions, and not-for-profit organizations serving the general public.  He is also a co-author of some of the educational materials used in workshops, and has been involved in the production of Credit Education Week Canada, a cross-Canada series of events in the month of November, which serve to assist Canadian consumers in developing their own financial literacy. Prior to entering the field of credit counselling, Richard held positions in the fields of accountancy and education.  He is a graduate of York University.

Darryl Hobbs

Darryl Hobbs is the Vice-Principal at Westview Centennial Secondary School. Westview offers a varied academic program with a strong focus on numeracy, literacy, science, the arts, and co-op. Students at Westview have extensive opportunities to expand their learning through programs such as the STEPS to University of Toronto partnership, the SHSM programs which focus on Healthcare and Arts and Culture, and the LAWS program which empowers students to see the world through a legal lens. At Westview expect our students to continuously and effortlessly impact the world around us.

Harvey Lam

Harvey Lam is a management consultant at Accenture and is building The Rumie Initiative. The Rumie Initiative is a non-profit organization bringing free educational content to the world’s underprivileged youth through low-cost technology. He previously worked as a corporate lawyer at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and the Ontario Securities Commission. Harvey attended University of Toronto Law School and University of Waterloo. He is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.

Timothy Lang

Timothy Lang is an accomplished leader in the private and not for profit sector with a record of inspiring organizations to achieve results and growth. Tim is President & CEO of YES, Canada’s leading youth employment service provider. Tim previously held senior management and executive positions with Xerox Corp., Bell Canada, Energy Savings Income Fund, and St. Francis Xavier University. As Global Vice President at ES Income Fund he led unprecedented corporate growth, expanding into several new Provinces and States and helping create thousands of jobs. As Vice President at StFX University, Tim led his division to achieve record growth in national reputation, Alumni affinity, communications and fundraising, which included working closely with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to raise $50 Million for the Mulroney Institute of Government.

Tamara Nachmani

Tamara's practice covers a wide range of corporate and commercial matters, including mergers and acquisitions, fund and real estate investments, divestitures, reorganizations, and other complex corporate restructurings and transactions. She advises purchasers, vendors and targets on domestic and international transactions as well as on various forms of investments. She also provides legal services to a broad range of clients, from large financial institutions and institutional investors to retailers, energy and manufacturing companies.

Susan Nickerson

Susan Nickerson is a partner in the firm’s Pensions and Employment Practice. Recognized as a leading pension and benefits lawyer, Susan’s practice focuses on all areas of pension and benefits law and governance. She advises clients on issues ranging from risk management and defined benefit to defined contribution pension plan conversions, to implementation of new plan designs and benefit reduction initiatives. She also provides advice on the pension and benefit plan implications of corporate restructurings and insolvencies. With particular expertise in pension plan governance, Susan develops and implements pension plan governance structures and systems.

Claudine Pilon

Ms. Pilon is the Senior Advisor of Sponsorships and Public Relations at the Business Development Bank of Canada. Her previous roles include Regional Marketing Manager at BDO Canada, Manager of Communications and Marketing at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Regional Manager of Communications at Bell Aliant, and Associate Director of Marketing-Communications at Bell Mobility.

Rosemary Powell

Experienced management executive and award winning environmental justice advocate. Co-Founder of BIG on Green Worker Co-op Inc.

Nandini Ramanujam

Associate Professor Nandini Ramanujam is the Executive Director and Director of Programs of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill University's Faculty of Law. She also directs the International Human Rights Internship Program as well as Independent Human Rights Internships Program.  She is the McGill representative for the Scholars at Risk Network and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Scholars at Risk Network, Canada section..Nandini Ramanujam’s research and teaching interests include Law and Development, Institutions and Governance, Economic Justice,  Food Security and Food  Safety, the role of civil society and the Fourth Estate (Media) in promotion of the rule of law, as well as the exploration of interconnections between field based human rights work and theoretical discourses.

Sabbir Saiyed

Sabbir Saiyed received his Master of Engineering at Carleton University, and his phD in Civil Engineering at the Royal Military College of Canada. He is Currently the Manager of Transportation System Planning in the Region of Peel. He also volunteers his time as Chair of the Goods Movement Session at the Transportation Association of Canada.

Gillian Smith

 Gillian is recognized across the not-for-profit, private and public sectors for her notable leadership skills. Her broad and diverse experience, limitless energy and deep community involvement have helped her forge connections with and among many organizations. Gillian currently serves as Chief Marketing Officer at the Toronto Region Board of Trade. In this role, she is responsible for developing, leading and delivering the strategy, services and activities necessary to retain, engage and grow the Board's membership and, in doing so, she has primary accountability for delivering 75% of the Boards’s annual revenue line. Prior to the Board, she served as Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), a national charity that promotes inclusion and citizenship. 

Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson is Chair of Toronto's Economic Development and Culture Committee, Chair of Invest Toronto, a member of the Executive Committee and the Employee and Labour Relations Committee,  a board member of Build Toronto and the City Councillor representing Ward 37, Scarborough Centre. Now in his fourth term as City Councillor, Michael has earned a reputation as one of Toronto's hardest working political leaders. Michael's commitment to economic development is longstanding. In his first term in office, he spearheaded the creation of the Wexford Heights Business Improvement Area and established a Job Fair that annually brings thousands of job seekers together with dozens of employers. He maintains a widespread network of business relationships that has helped to enhance business retention, promote growth and increase private sector employment.

John Walsh

John Walsh is Managing Director, General Counsel at OPTrust. Mr. Walsh joined OPTrust in 2006 as an investment professional in OPTrust’s Private Markets Group, responsible for transaction structuring and execution, corporate governance, and operations. As Managing Director, General Counsel Mr. Walsh provides legal counsel to all of OPTrust, and assists in the oversight of transaction structuring and execution, and regulatory matters. Before joining OPTrust, Mr. Walsh practiced corporate and securities law for a decade at two leading Canadian law firms. Mr. Walsh has also worked at the senior levels of politics and government in Canada and the United States.

JD Vance

 J.D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and The New York Times and has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC. Currently, J.D. works as a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two dogs, Casper and Pippin.