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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.

Shama Ahmed, Treasurer

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.

Camille Georgeson-Usher

Dr. Camille Georgeson-Usher is a Coast Salish / Sahtu Dene / Scottish scholar, curator, artist and writer from Galiano Island, BC, and is assistant professor of modern and contemporary Indigenous art at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She studied art history at Concordia University (MA) and cultural studies at Queen’s University (PhD).

Through her research, Usher examines the ways in which people move together through space, how public art becomes a site for gathering, and how intimacies are formed with the everyday from an Indigenous perspective. She uses her practice as a long-distance runner as a methodology for embodied theory and an alternative form of sensing place. Usher is an award-winning writer whose work merges theory with poetry and, at times, science-fiction and has been published widely across academic books, magazines, art journals and exhibition texts.

In addition to her academic work, she serves on several boards and advisory committees across the arts sector and maintains an active independent curatorial and artistic practice.

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.

Lori Tagoona

Lori Tagoona is of Inuit descent from the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. Lori currently serves as the Manager of Inuit Initiatives at the MakeWay Foundation. In this role, she dedicates herself to supporting cultural, social, and environmental projects within Inuit Nunangat. She is known for grounding herself in Inuit worldviews and her understanding of the unique realties of northern communities, enabling her to engage effectively with communities and cultivate strong partnerships with funders.

Guided by the principle of Inuit Stewardship, Lori’s efforts at MakeWay embody a holistic approach that integrates environmental, social, and cultural facets of Inuit life. This framework, rooted in traditional knowledge and values, prioritizes sustainable practices and fosters harmonious relationships between Inuit individuals and their environment. An important aspect of this work is the acknowledgment of historical traumas and the pressing need for healing and rejuvenation within Inuit communities.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Lori is an artist with a keen interest in Inuit fashion. She draws inspiration from the clothing and beadwork of generations before her, particularly the women in her family.

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.