Board of Directors
Canada Without Poverty is governed by a Board of Directors who individually have experienced poverty first-hand. Their lived experience and that of many of our members and supporters informs our mission, vision, values, and work. Click here for the Terms of Reference for our directors.
Our current Board consists of:
Meris K Brookland (NB), Secretary. K has a BA with a concentration in Sociology. She has struggled with poverty throughout her adult life including working at two low-paying jobs simultaneously, living on unemployment insurance, and being on Income Assistance as a single parent. Poverty was the impetus for K to work with the Fredericton Anti-Poverty Organization, (FAPO) and to co-found the Women’s Alliance (WALL), a group which advocated for women who were on social assistance. Membership in WALL had only one criterion: personal experience with living in poverty. K is now retired and relies solely on government pensions (OAS, CPP and GIS). She volunteers with Fredericton’s Community Action Group on Homelessness.
Laura Cattari (ON), President. Laura Cattari has a keen interest in influencing policy change. Currently, she’s employed as Campaign Co-ordinator for Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, where she was formerly Chair of its Social Assistance Reform Work Group and a member of it’s Operational Steering Committee. She also sits on the board of the Hamilton Community Foundation. Cattari also writes on government policy decisions in the areas of income security, social benefits and affordable housing. She was a member of the province’s former income security working group co-authoring a progressive vision for Ontario, Income Security: A Roadmap for Change. In 2019, Laura was the recipient of a Maggie award for Political Writing and honoured as a (Hamilton) Woman Who Rocks. Her policy perspective is informed through significant lived experience of poverty, disability and social systems. She works diligently to effect change that empowers individuals and their respective communities. Click here to read Laura’s Spotlight on Poverty blog.
Derek Cook (AB). Derek grew up in a poor household in rural Ontario and experienced first-hand the impacts of exclusion that results from a lack of access to the resources of society. Learning of the value of social justice, Derek has dedicated the past 20 years to social change – including assisting in the creation of local living wage policies and organizing the group Poverty Talks which engaged over 500 low-income Calgarians in the development of a local poverty strategy. Derek previously served as the Executive Director of the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative, a community-based strategy to reduce poverty in in the municipality. Click here to read Derek’s Spotlight on Poverty blog.
Serisha Iyar (At-Large). Serisha is the founder and Executive Director of Leading in Colour, an organization dedicated to training young racialized activists across Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in World Religions from McGill University. Since being awarded a UofMosaic Fellowship with The Mosaic Institute, Serisha has continued to work in the non-profit sector with organizations like the Loran Scholars Foundation, Citizens for Public Justice and currently serves as the Youth Fellow for Amnesty International Canada. Serisha is passionate about eradicating poverty in Canada through an intersectional lens that highlights the experiences of racialized youth, newcomers and womxn.
George Lessard (NT), Vice-President. George is a communication and media specialist that has travelled the world helping others learn how to use both traditional mass media and the new digital media. George grew up in a working class family in Montreal, and since then has lived in some of the poorest & remote parts of Canada following his studies in journalism. He has also trained many of the founding members of the first wave of community radio in Quebec. Currently he distributes relevant information on social and environmental justice in the Circumpolar Regions via Northern Clips. Experiencing poverty first hand has taught him that there are many ways to survive and many wonderful successes to not only learn about, but to help others learn about. (Biographie en français).
Wayne MacNaughton (NS). Wayne has had personal experience trying to make ends meet on social assistance. A firm believer in the motto of the disability rights movement – “nothing about us without us” – Wayne recognizes that solutions to poverty require engagement of the low income population. He has shared his message over the past few years as a Volunteer Inspirational Speaker with the United Way of Halifax Regional Municipality. Wayne is a bilingual community activist. He is a member of the Community Advocates Network in Nova Scotia, a founding member of the Community Society to End Poverty in Nova Scotia, and has been involved with the human rights network ATD Fourth World. Click here to read Wayne’s Spotlight on Poverty blog.
Kate Mechan (YK). Kate has been working with the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition since 2012, most recently doing advocacy and outreach within the community of Whitehorse. She also works on the Outreach Van – a mobile, harm reduction outreach service for street-involved individuals. She lives with her partner and two children on their organic farm, off-grid in a yurt just outside of Whitehorse.
Bonnie Morton (SK). Bonnie grew up on a dairy farm in Ontario and lived in poverty while raising her son. At the age of 33 Bonnie went back to school. It took her seven and a half years to go from a grade 5 level to a Bachelor of Human Justice. Rev. Bonnie has worked as an Anti-Poverty Minister/Advocate for the past 25 years with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry. In the past, she served as the President of the National Anti-Poverty Organization. Bonnie is currently the Chairperson of the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, the Chair of the Equality Advisory Committee of the Court Challenges Program, and sits on the Board of the Court Challenges Program. She has received the Keith Couse award for social justice work, the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, the International Helen Prize Certificate for social justice work of “Bolder Women”, the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal, the Elizabeth Fry “Rebel With A Cause” award, an award from Canadian Dimension, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal. All of these awards have recognized Bonnie for her work in the area of social and economic justice. Bonnie has been active since 1989 in international work around poverty issues, including acting as a presenter to the Economic Social and Cultural Rights Committee of the United Nations in 2006. Most recently she was a member of the “People’s International Observers Mission” in the Philippines. Bonnie is currently working on her Masters Degree in Justice Studies at the University of Regina. None of this would have been possible without the support and love of her husband Kevin.
Shane Pelletier (At-Large) is a Program Coordinator for Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. Growing up in poverty in western Canada Shane, like many Canadian’s, ended up hopeless leading to his eventual homelessness. Living on the streets of Edmonton and Vancouver’s DTES for over 10 years Shane survived street life and many of the common trappings of that experience with the help of many people along the way. Through years of struggle and learning Shane went on to accomplish fulltime single fatherhood and a real homeless to home ownership story. Today Shane is a Member with Lived Experience on Canada’s National Advisory Council on Poverty, Co-Chair of the National Alliance to End Rural and Remote Homelessness, and a dedicated social servant in Canada’s Homeless serving system. Shane works to bring HOPE to all of those with stolen childhoods, homeless teens toying with suicide, underdeveloped adults living with shame and guilt, and all Canadian’s who are impacted by poverty and injustice.
Regina (Gina) Younker (PEI). Gina is an Islander by choice, she has lived in Prince Edward Island for over 30 years. Gina is a local anti-poverty advocate who has been working and volunteer in her community for many years. Gina has been involved with Adventure Group, Women’s Network PEI’s Paths to Prosperity project, PEI’s poverty reduction advisory council, housing council and was recently appointed to the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Gina is a passionate advocate especially for women, mothers and children experiencing poverty. Gina lives with her dog Morgan in Cornwall, PEI. She is the proud mother of three grown children and grandmother to Savannah and Spencer. She is grateful to be part of Canada Without Poverty and looks forward to contributing to the important work of the organization across the country.