Community Conference Presenters Biography - Easter Seals Canada


Session Speakers & Panel Presenters

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

MaRS Discovery District, 101 College Street, Toronto

Bill Adair: Executive Director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada

Bill is a member of the Board of Directors for Accessibility Standards Canada (formerly the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization), and is the Executive Director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, a charity that helps people with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities to be able to do more on their own and be fully part of their community.

Bill has a lot of experience in the areas of healthcare and disability. He was one of the members who started the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance, the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, and Candlelighters Canada. He has also helped the Government of Canada through the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, the Working Group on Alternate Format Materials and the Parliamentary Precinct Advisory Panel.

Bill has a Bachelor of Science (University of Minnesota). He did the Executive Leadership Course on the Management of Non-Profit Organizations (Harvard University). He received Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal in 2016, which is an award for great Canadians who have done wonderful things that bring honour to our country.

Session Topic: My Canada Includes Me… And You! Working Together to Create an Accessible & Inclusive Society.

The new Accessible Canada Act promises a barrier-free Canada by 2040. A new organization called Accessibility Standards Canada is creating best practices for access and inclusion to guide the activities of organizations in a way that is consistent across sectors. If adopted into regulation under the Accessible Canada Act, these best practices would become requirements that all federally regulated entities must obey. In this session, you will learn about the top 5 things you need to know about Accessibility Standards Canada as well as how you can give input on standards in development, and understand where you can turn to for support for change.

Emily Chan: Chair of the Holland Bloorview Youth Advisory Council

Emily is a 23-year-old graduate student born with a rare neuromuscular condition that lowers her overall muscle tone. She recently graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree and is currently pursuing her Masters of Social Work at the University of Toronto. Further, Emily always finds opportunity to be an active community leader, advocating for accessibility and disability rights. As Chair of the Holland Bloorview Youth Advisory Council and Youth Mentor, Emily continuously seeks new opportunities to use her lived experience to guide others and make an impactful difference. In the future, Emily hopes to become a social worker and a trailblazer for reforming Ontario’s healthcare system to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.

Session Topic: Women & Disabilities, Exploring the Lived and Learned Experience of a Complex and Exciting Reality

The experiences of navigating the intersections of being both a woman and a person with a disability is an identity that is not often discussed yet comes with a set of unique points of challenge and celebration. This session aims to start a discussion around the nuances of the day-to-day realities of living as a disabled woman. By taking a life course and intersectional perspective, Emily hopes to shed light on this topic and to start the thinking process on what concrete steps you can take to continue empowering this population.

Michael Lifshitz: Co-Founder & CFO of Breakaway Experiences, and Founder of Illumabilities

Michael was born with a condition called Multiple Congenital Musculoskeletal Abnormalities. In addition to wearing an artificial leg, he walks with a cane and uses a wheelchair for longer distances. Contrary to what many would believe possible, he became a chartered accountant and also obtained an MBA from Edinburgh Business School.

He has built and sold successful accounting and financial planning practices. Today, in addition to continuing a successful career in finance and accounting as CFO and co-founder of Breakaway Experiences, a gift experience company, he uses speaking, comedy and writing to not only educate people as to what people with disabilities can do, but to also inspire them to overcome their own challenges and live their life to the fullest of their abilities.

Session Topic: Challenging Perceptions of What is Possible

Multiple Congenital Musculoskeletal Abnormalities. Try saying that 10 times fast. Or better yet…try living with it. Michael will share his 44 years of experience living with a disability, using comedy to shed light on the highs and lows of living with a disability, his journey as an entrepreneur, the benefits of entrepreneurship as a career path  and what he believes can be done to create a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities.

Ronald Peters: Diversity & Inclusion Recruitment Specialist at RBC

Ronald has been with RBC for 7 years and started as a Banking Advisor providing everyday banking, investment and credit advice to retail clients. Ronald moved to his current role as an Inclusive Recruitment Specialist 3 years ago and works on attracting diverse talent to the bank.

Ronald focuses on sourcing candidates with disabilities and newcomers to Canada but in the past has managed the Indigenous student scholarship program and was the coordinator on the team that launched the Indigenous Rotation Program. Ronald migrated to Canada 10 years ago from Trinidad and Tobago and has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Vivian Li: Senior Manager, Inclusive Recruitment at RBC

Vivian currently leads RBC’s Inclusive Recruitment team. In this role, Vivian designs and delivers enterprise wide inclusive recruitment strategy to help RBC build its competitive edge through attracting and attaining an inclusive workforce. Persons with disabilities is one of the key focused area of Vivian’s team.  In 2019 RBC switched their disability inclusion recruitment strategy from the traditional sponsorship model to hosting their own diversity works here event series and has invited over 250 persons with disabilities (70% invisible disabilities)  to come to RBC and discuss potential job opportunities with recruiters and hiring managers.

Joint Session Topic: Best Practices in the Recruitment of Persons With Disabilities

In this session, participants will have the opportunity to learn about RBC’s approach to Diversity and Inclusion as a corporate employer with thousands of employees spread across the country, with an emphasis on various best practices related to the recruitment of Persons With Disabilities.

Tina Doyle: Director of AccessAbility Services at the University of Toronto

Tina is a dedicated and well-respected champion for accessibility. She is the Director of AccessAbility Services at the University of Toronto Scarborough and previously served as Chair of the Inter-University Disability Issues Association. With her 10 years’ experience participating on Ministry Working groups, the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility appointed Tina to lead the province’s legislated AODA Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee. The committee is developing recommendations provided by colleges and universities to address barriers in education. Tina is also currently a member of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities Financial Aid Working Group.

Tina has been involved with accommodation, access and inclusive practices in higher education for over 25 years. Tina holds a Master of Science in Disability Services in Higher Education and is a Certified Accessibility Assessor.

Session Topic: Disability and Inclusion in Canadian Education

This session examines key issues related to disability and inclusion in Canadian education. The session will cover legislation and policies aimed at ensuring students have equitable access to education, emerging trends in higher education, and the critical role transition planning can play in students with disabilities fully participating in all aspects of college and university life.

Tobi McEvenue: Adult Services Coordinator at Autism Ontario

Tobi is a registered social worker and has been involved in both research and clinical work in the fields of disability, homelessness, mental health, addictions, acquired brain injury and autism for about 20 years. Her current role at Autism Ontario involves program and partnership development, as well as advocacy alongside adults on the autism spectrum and their families for services and supports which reflect the social determinants of health, service provision, resource and referral for the province of Ontario.

Michael Cnudde: Manager, Communications and Resource Development with Autism Ontario

Michael is Manager, Communications and Resource Development with Autism Ontario. He is a communications professional with over 25 years’ experience as a storyteller and advocate.  A former educator who has taught in Northern Manitoba and Ontario, he knows the positive impact that early intervention can have with children with developmental disabilities. He is also an adult recently diagnosed with high-functioning autism and stands ready to contribute his own personal experience and unique story.

Joint Session Topic: Invisible Disabilities and Employment – Barriers and Solutions

Individuals with “invisible” disabilities – autism and other developmental disorders, learning disabilities, mental health challenges – often face unique barriers to accessing and maintaining employment. Tobi and Michael will discuss some of these challenges, programs that currently exist in Ontario to support adults with invisible disabilities, shortcomings of current government incentives for employers to hire people with disabilities, and what is needed to better support both employers and job seekers in creating a workplace culture and environment that ensure successful and sustained employment.

Plenary Panel Discussion Moderator

Maureen Haan: President & CEO of The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW)

Maureen has been the President & CEO of CCRW since 2012. CCRW is the only national organization with the sole vision of equitable and meaningful employment for people with disabilities, in operation for over 40 years. Under Maureen’s leadership, CCRW has seen an increase in direct program service throughout Canada, as well as a more transparent, stream-lining of understanding the business case of hiring a person with a disability. Maureen provides insight to employer engagement through CCRW best practices and proven results.

Maureen has been very active in the cross-disability sector, currently focusing on employment issues. She has been involved with numerous committees and groups that increase awareness of and access for the disability sector and the Deaf community, including involvement with Civil Society on the UN Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as the lead for employment for persons with disabilities – specifically Article 27; leadership with the Conference on Work and Disability in Canada; co-development and leadership of the pan-Canadian Strategy on Disability and Work; and as a Board member on the Canadian Accessibility Standard Development Organization (CASDO).

Dave Starrett

Dave Starrett: President & CEO of Easter Seals Canada

Dave has been at the helm of Easter Seals Canada as President and CEO since 2014. During this time, Dave has been focused on building on Easter Seals’ track record of service to community over the past 90+ years, and in collaboration with its national partners, the organization is positioned to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of Canadians living with disabilities as Easter Seals approaches its 100th anniversary in 2022.

In joining Easter Seals, Dave brings with him over 25 years of multidisciplinary leadership in the retail sector with Moore’s Clothing for Men. As Chief Executive at Moore’s for 19 years, Dave accumulated a formidable blend of creative strategy and business management acuity. Intuitive, innovative and detail-oriented, Dave succeeded in continuously reinventing one of Canada’s most recognizable retail brands while promoting a healthy business infrastructure that attracted and retained top-tier sales talent.

Dave has also been involved with many other charitable organizations and initiatives over the last 20+ years, and understands the need and value for both public and private support of charities to enable them to achieve their vision and to be sustainable over the long haul. Dave’s family has personally been touched by health issues affecting many Canadians, and upon retirement from Moore’s, Dave entered the charitable sector to make a positive difference in the lives of those children and adults living with a disability.