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Board of Directors

Inspirit Foundation has charitable status and is governed by a Board of Directors.

Meet our Board

Deborah Irvine, Co-Chair

Deborah’s career spans the private, public, and non-profit sectors. With 20 years in executive and senior management roles, she has led philanthropic grant-making, community relations, and major public policy initiatives. She has also worked as a journalist, speechwriter, marketer, strategic communicator, and fundraiser.

Her roles have included Vice-President, Grants & Community Initiatives, Vancouver Foundation; Chief Operating Officer, United Way of the Lower Mainland; and Vice-President, University Relations, Royal Roads University. In addition to operating her own consultancy, Deborah has been a communications director with CIBC’s Global Human Resources Division and senior advisor to the Chairman and President of Ontario Hydro.

Deborah has an MA in Conflict Analysis & Management and an undergraduate degree in Journalism.

James Chan, Co-Chair

James Chan works with people, places, and partnerships to foster civic participation, promote equitable urbanism, and grow our social economy.

James leads the advisory team at SVX, a nonprofit financial services firm that provides knowledge and insights, designs strategies and products, manages funds, and operates a platform for raising and making investments that generate positive impact alongside financial returns.

In addition to Inspirit, James also serves on the Board of Directors of Tapestry Community Capital, and is a past member of London Community Foundation’s social finance committee. He was a co-founder of Ottawa Civic Tech and past Board member of Code for Canada, Park People, and The Centre for Active Transportation.

Alexandra McCann, Secretary/Treasurer

Alexandra “Alex” McCann is the Executive Director of ONSIDE, the Organization for Nova Scotia Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship, a not-for-profit backbone organization leveraging collective impact to foster a prosperous Nova Scotia through inclusive innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE). Born out of a two-year long engagement with the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), ONSIDE aims to convene, connect and catalyze the IDE ecosystem in Nova Scotia.

Previous to this role, Alexandra was the Chief Operating Officer for Dockside Investco, a Nova Scotia-based portfolio management company; as well as the CEO for Baie Run Pet Products, a natural products start-up, focused on pet wellness including, omega3s and supplements sold in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, Alexandra has been an Investment Attraction lead for Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) covering clean tech, ocean tech, life sciences, as well as bioresources, agri-foods and seafoods. She has also held positions with the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im Bank) in Asset Management, as well as the Office of Renewable Energy & Environmental Exports, focused on global infrastructure, structured and project finance.

Alexandra McCann holds an MA in Pacific Asian Studies from the University of London, School of Oriental African Studies (SOAS) and a double BA from the University of Virginia in Asian Studies and Anthropology. Alex is a Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) and a member of the Board of Governors at the University of Kings College.

Alex is obsessed with saving handwriting, enjoys travel, politics, and sampling all of Nova Scotia’s culinary delights.

Caro Loutfi

Caro is the Associate Director at Human Rights Watch, a leading global advocacy organization. By tackling multi-generational challenges, Caro works to create a world free of human rights abuses.

Caro was previously the Executive Director of Apathy is Boring, working in a non-partisan manner and on a national scale to engage Canadian youth in democracy. A first generation Canadian, she started as an intern at Apathy is Boring and took on the national leadership role a year and a half later. Previous, she was a co-producer for Montreal’s Art Matters Festival, holds a BFA with distinction from Concordia University, and is a former board member for the Darling Foundry, supporting the creation and exhibition of contemporary art.

Caro currently sits on the Inspirit Foundation’s board, working to inspire pluralism among young Canadians and is an advisor to Sid Lee’s C2 Conference, as part of the Sustainability Impact Unit. She regularly provides a youth perspective on topics of civic and political engagement and has been featured on CTV News, CBC and Global News among others. She was featured as one of nineteen prominent young Canadians to watch in the We Are Canada CBC series (2017).

Caro was awarded the Walker Humanitarian Award by Concordia University and was named a Canadian Arab to Watch in 2015 by the Canadian Arab Institute.

Cheryl McKenzie

Cheryl McKenzie is the Executive Director of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s (APTN) National News and Current Affairs. She is Anishinaabe and Cree, with roots in the Hollow Water and Peguis First Nations in Treaty 1 territory.

Cheryl’s journalism career with APTN began in June 2001. She was the first APTN journalist to receive a nomination at the Geminis (now the Canadian Screen Awards) and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, for an investigative series into families poisoned by asbestos due to on-reserve housing.

In 2005, Cheryl was promoted to Host/Producer for the launch of APTN National News: Daytime. She then moved to the APTN’s national call-in show, Contact in 2007.

APTN InFocus eventually replaced Contact in 2009, with Cheryl remaining at the forefront as Host/Producer. She was also the face of APTN Investigates during this time.

In 2012, Cheryl returned to the APTN National News desk and by 2016, had turned InFocus into an hour long show where she conducted the historic first-ever interview between Indigenous media and a sitting Prime Minister.

Later that year she left the news desk to become APTN’s Executive Show Producer and two years later, was promoted to her now current role.

Julien Valmary

Julien Valmary is the Director of Granting and Philanthropy at the Conseil des arts de Montréal and has over 20 years of experience in cultural organization management and arts public policy in France, Ontario, and Québec. He has contributed to institutions such as the Centre de développement chorégraphique national Toulouse Occitanie, the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, Tarragon Theatre, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.

Julien holds a degree in theatre studies from the Institut d’Études Théâtrales de l’Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris 3) and in performing arts administration from ENSATT. He has completed the Income Managers Program at the University of Waterloo and is an Action Canada Fellow (18-19). His interests include public policy advocacy for the arts, equity, social justice, climate change, and philanthropy.

Aside from Inspirit, Julien serves on various advisory boards and committees, including Culture Montréal’s Culture and Climate Transition Standing Committee and Digital Montreal Standing Committee. He also participates in the work of the Canadian Public Arts Funders National Research Group, and the Canada Research Chair on Cultural Citizenship of Deaf People and Cultural Equity Practices.

Layla Saad

Layla Saad is passionate about social justice, participatory governance and arts and culture. For the past twenty-five years she has worked on issues of poverty, inequality, civic engagement and advocacy with a range of institutions – including the multilateral system, governments and NGOs, both in the North and the South and at the national and international level.

Layla is the former Executive Director of the Pathy Family Foundation based in Montreal, where she provided strategic leadership to the Foundation and its grant-making programs at national and international levels.

Layla has held several positions in the United Nations including as Regional Adviser on Social and Behaviour Change at UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia, Deputy Director for the UNDP’s World Centre for Sustainable Development based in Brazil, and led the Advocacy and Partnerships work of the UN MDG Achievement Fund in New York—a global fund with 130 programmes in 50 countries, spearheading work on intersecting inequalities and striking partnerships with artists, academics, media, the private sector as well as civil society and governments.

Mohamed Huque

Mohamed has spent his entire career advancing social change, from grassroots organizations to global charities. He is presently the Director, Community Impact at Toronto Foundation where he mobilizes the organization’s vast philanthropic resources towards equity-driven priorities.

Previously, he was a strategy consultant advising some of the world’s leading NGOs on projects that ranged from supporting microenterprises in Afghanistan to establishing women-led co-operatives in Sudan. A former nonprofit executive, he’s also led an advocacy organization to develop Canada’s first national reading strategy, a research institute combating Islamophobia, and a frontline social service agency that supports low-income communities. At the heart of all his work has been a commitment to justice and equity to ensure those closest to any social problem are centred when designing solutions.

In 2015, he was selected to be an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow at the University of Cambridge, specializing in social entrepreneurship. Beyond Inspirit, he serves as Board Chair of Amnesty International Canada.

Pacinthe Mattar

Pacinthe Mattar is a journalist, writer, and producer. She is currently a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Pacinthe has since called Toronto, Saudi Arabia and Dubai home. She has spent over a decade in journalism and media, including ten years at the CBC, where she was a long-term producer at The Current on CBC Radio One. She also reported for Deutsche Welle in Germany as an Arthur F. Burns Fellow through the Washington-based International Center for Journalists.

Her journalism has focused on race and racism, police brutality, refugees and migration, violence against women, Middle East politics, pop culture and Indigenous issues. Her work has also appeared in Chatelaine, Toronto Life, Buzzfeed, Canadian Business and Reader’s Digest. In 2021, she received the National Magazine Award for her feature essay in the Walrus, “Objectivity Is a Privilege Afforded to White Journalists.”

Pacinthe earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto at Mississauga before completing her Master’s degree in journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University. She is a proud aunt to two magical nieces.

Sagal Dualeh

Sagal Dualeh is a Senior Director at the Canadian Women’s Foundation—a national leader in the movement for gender equality and gender justice. Sagal has over fifteen years of experience working with the public sector, non-profits and charities, small and medium sized ventures, social enterprises and entrepreneurs. She’s managed grant- making and funding initiatives in both the private and public sectors, from federal initiatives and philanthropic programs to supporting place- based investment funds.

Sagal has championed resilient regional and local food systems, connected food-preneurs to global trade markets, supported community economic development programs, and business incubators and accelerators. She also supports social impact organizations as they build their investment readiness to access capital in Canada’s emerging social finance marketplace.

In addition to Inspirit, Sagal is a committee member on Canada’s Standards Board on Responsible Business Conduct Abroad. She holds an M.A. in International Economics and Finance.

Sally Ng

Sally Ng is the Founder and CEO of The Triple Effect, an organization that focuses on developing best practices in corporate innovation, entrepreneurial community development, and technology coaching. Her passions include entrepreneurship, diversity, and youth leadership development. Sally has led multiple corporate innovation venture teams with Fortune 1000 companies on strategy and execution to growing beyond their core. Over the years, she has worked with organizations such as Brightspark Ventures, National Angel Capital Organization, and others who enable the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Sally has served on a number of boards including the Community Foundations of Canada and currently serves on the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia Board. She serves as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Forces working with the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program. Sally was chosen to represent Canada at the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit 2017 in Berlin.

She currently resides in K’jipuktuk (Halifax), Nova Scotia.

Shama Ahmed

Shama Ahmed is a Senior Manager with the North Marketing Operations team at TD Bank, where she oversees Business Management and Colleague Experience for the broader Marketing team. Prior to that, Shama was part of TD’s Corporate Citizenship team, where she first managed the team’s community investments and corporate philanthropy, with a focus on Social Finance initiatives, Financial Education, Children’s Literacy and Indigenous Peoples. She also acted as the Enterprise subject matter expert on impact investing and social finance as well as an external spokesperson at industry events.

Shama also has extensive experience with the Federal Government, having spent time with the Departments of Finance as well as Indian & Northern Affairs. She holds an M.A. in Economics from McGill University and an MBA from the Rotman School of Management. She lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and 5-year old son.

Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey

Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey (Nii Laryea Osabu I, Atrékor Wé Oblahii kè Oblayéé Mantsè) is William Dawson Chair, Assistant Professor, and specialist in post-Reconstruction U.S. and African Diaspora history at McGill University. He is the author of Cross-Border Cosmopolitans: The Making of a Pan-African North America.

Wendell’s intellectual interests complement his commitment to public service and social entrepreneurship. He considers struggles for group self-determination, anti-colonialism/anti-imperialism, and pluralism as existential forces that will shape the fate of humanity in this century. Before pursuing an academic career, Wendell worked in youth gang prevention and intervention in north Toronto.