Members of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security

Dr. Amarnath Amarasingam, Markham (Ontario) – CCRS Chair

Dr. Amarnath Amarasingam is an Assistant Professor in the School of Religion, and cross-appointed to the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University.

Community engagement experience

Dr. Amarasingam is an experienced field researcher, with interest in terrorism, radicalization and extremism, conspiracy theories, online communities, diaspora politics, post-war reconstruction, and the sociology of religion. He has conducted research in several countries, including Sri Lanka, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Somalia, Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine. He conducted hundreds of interviews for his PhD dissertation on social movement activism, organizational dynamics, and youth identity in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. Between 2013 and 2014, he conducted over 50 interviews with former fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) throughout the former war zones of Sri Lanka. As Co-Director of a University of Waterloo study on foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, he interviewed numerous current and former foreign fighters, as well as parents and close friends of individuals who travelled to fight abroad. He has also interviewed many former members of far-right and conspiratorial movements.

In addition to his experience in field research, Dr. Amarasingam is the author of Pain, Pride, and Politics: Sri Lankan Tamil Activism in Canada (2015), and co-editor of Stress Tested: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Canadian National Security (2021) and Sri Lanka: The Struggle for Peace in the Aftermath of War (2016). He has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Politico, The Atlantic, and Foreign Affairs. A seasoned speaker, Dr. Amarasingam has presented at over 100 national and international conferences, and appeared on numerous media outlets.

Personal influences

A native of Sri Lanka, Dr. Amarasingam chose Canada as his home in 1988.

Dr. Gira Bhatt, New Westminster (British Columbia) – CCRS Co-Chair

Dr. Bhatt is a professor of psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Community engagement experience

Dr. Bhatt is a community engaged researcher and an educator. In addition to teaching courses on cross-cultural psychology, psychology of prejudice, and research methods, she conducts research on prevention of youth violence, acculturation, and cultural identity. As the lead of a federally funded (SSHRC) Community-University Research Alliance project addressing the issue of youth violence and gang involvement, she built a network of multiple academic and community partnerships. This included researchers from four post-secondary institutions and 11 community groups, such as non-profit and government agencies, RCMP, school districts, police agencies, Surrey Mayor's office, and local businesses. As part of the applied component of the project, she is involved in delivering public presentations and writing for popular media outlets. Along with her team, she has coordinated a series of gang-prevention workshops and public forums involving youth, parents, teachers, policy makers, and the community at large.

Dr. Bhatt is a recipient of 2014 KPU's Distinguished Scholarship award, and the 2017 Canadian Psychological Association's Distinguished Contributions to Public or Community Service award for bridging academic research with community action.

Personal influences

Dr. Bhatt was born and raised in Mumbai where she completed her Master's degree in clinical psychology. She moved to Canada and received an additional Master's degree and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Simon Fraser University. Having experienced and integrated two diverse cultures in her personal life, Dr. Gira Bhatt values diversity both among people and among perspectives.

Mr. Farah Aw-Osman, Ottawa (Ontario)

Community engagement experience

Farah Aw-Osman has over 30 years of community work experience. As a founding member of the Somali Centre for Family Services, he has been instrumental in supporting refugees and immigrant communities and addressing youth justice, radicalization, mental health, employment, and more. Mr. Aw-Osman also raises awareness about the impacts of gun violence. He has worked together with various stakeholders, including community members, law enforcement agencies, educational institutions, and government officials, to develop proactive measures that address the root causes of gun violence. To that end, he has successfully implemented targeted programs that equip Somali youth with the necessary skills, resources, and support networks to navigate their unique circumstances.

Mr. Aw-Osman’s dedication to creating inclusive spaces and promoting civic engagement has made a lasting impact on marginalized communities in Canada and abroad. Under his leadership, Centre for Resilience and Social Development became the first organization in Canada to introduce the Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugees model. Focused on assisting traumatized refugee youth and their families, this initiative has significantly improved the lives of those affected by trauma.   

Personal influences

Farah Aw-Osman's lived experience informs his decision-making, nurtures his empathy, and drives his unwavering dedication to improving the lives of marginalized individuals and communities. His personal journey has shaped him into a compassionate leader and an advocate for social justice, inspiring others to embrace their own experiences and contribute to the betterment of society.

Ms. Rayene Bouzitoun, Saint-Hubert (Québec)

Community engagement experience

Rayene Bouzitoun has actively engaged in various community initiatives, including initiatives against radicalization and for inclusive societies.

Ms. Bouzitoun's community involvement began with the Forum Jeunesse Saint-Michel in Montreal, where she acted as Chair of the organization for years. Rayene also served as a member of the Prime Minister's Youth Council, where she provided valuable advice to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, and government officials on various policies. Her involvement allowed her to advocate for better inclusion and opportunities for youth in Canada. In 2017, Ms. Bouzitoun had the honor of delivering a speech at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Her allocution emphasized the importance of addressing the root causes of radicalization and promoting a sense of belonging within communities. Her message underscored her commitment to fostering understanding and unity.

As a recipient of the McCall McBain Loran Scholarship in 2018, Ms. Bouzitoun pursued a law degree and a bachelor's in international development at the University of Ottawa. During this time, Ms. Bouzitoun worked as a research assistant and actively contributed to projects on Indigenous Law, Private International Law, and criminal justice. In recognition of her outstanding accomplishments, Ms. Bouzitoun was recently awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, providing her with the opportunity to pursue advanced studies at the University of Oxford. This esteemed scholarship will enable her to expand her knowledge and expertise, and help her make a more profound impact in her chosen field.

Personal influences

Ms. Bouzitoun, an Algerian Canadian, has cultivated a strong commitment to creating inclusive and equitable societies. Her experiences, education and dedication have shaped her journey in making a positive impact.

Ms. Lina Chaker, Windsor (Ontario)

Ms. Chaker is a lawyer at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General's Crown Law Office, Civil.

Community engagement experience

While completing her education, Ms. Chaker extensively volunteered and worked in the not-for-profit sector to develop neighborhood renewal projects and newcomer settlement programs. A spokesperson and board member of her local mosque, the Windsor Islamic Association, she represented the views of her faith community across media outlets and contributed to numerous roundtables, such as the Windsor-Essex Local Immigration Partnership. Ms. Chaker previously advised provincial bodies on the interests of at-risk youth through appointments to the Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities and the Provincial Islamophobia Sub-Committee of the Anti-Racism Directorate. In her spare time, she volunteers as a board member for the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association as well as a researcher for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter.

Personal influences

Ms. Chaker is of Syrian descent and immigrated to Canada with her family at the age of three. She has always valued Canada's democratic values and is committed to creating an environment where youth and families are empowered to positively contribute to our pluralistic society.

Mr. Abdo (Albert) El Tassi, Winnipeg (Manitoba)

Mr. El Tassi is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Peerless Garments LP., a manufacturer of leather and cold weather garments. For over 50 years, he has worked closely with Department of National Defence (DND) staff on the design and development of specialized garments for the military.

Community engagement experience

Mr. El Tassi is a well-known Manitoba businessman and philanthropist, and gives generously of his time and money to many charitable organizations. Mr. El Tassi is passionate about helping new immigrants adjust to life in Canada. He established training and development opportunities for newcomers to help them gain marketable skills and learn English. His door is always open to those in need, helping them find jobs and housing, as well as providing counselling and advice.

Mr. El Tassi is a pillar in the Muslim community, having been a major donor to the Islamic Social Services Association, a mosque in Thompson, Manitoba, and the Alhijra Islamic School, among others. His support for the school is especially important to him because he strongly believes that “education helps to eliminate ignorance and it fosters understanding of different cultures while promoting a better life”. His philanthropy extends far beyond his local community. Over the years he has supported UNICEF, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Canadian Diabetes Association, World Vision, the United Way, Variety, the Children's Charity of Manitoba, Winnipeg Harvest, the Winnipeg Foundation, and many more.

Recognized for his philanthropy and community service,  Mr. El Tassi is a recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal and a Member of the Order of Canada. He was also named to the Order of Manitoba and Humanitarian of the Year in 2012 by the Canadian Red Cross, among numerous other honours.

Personal influences

Abdo El Tassi was born in Lebanon and considers it a great pride and honour to have had the privilege of making Winnipeg his home since 1969, for himself, his wife his children, and his grandchildren. Giving back to the nation in which he lives, the community which he serves, and the world to which he belongs is a fundamental part of his beliefs.

Mr. Linton Garner, Gatineau (Quebec)

Mr. Linton is the Executive Director of the Heritage College Foundation.

Community engagement experience

Linton Garner is a bilingual community organizer who has worked on issues impacting youth, housing, police relations, race relations, education, seniors, health, and social services. He has worked extensively with the Black community and the English-speaking community of Québec on minority language rights.

Mr. Garner is a member of the Regional Committee on Access to Services in English in the health network and a member of the City of Gatineau's Vivre Ensemble Committee, dedicated to promoting a healthy, welcoming and inclusive living environment. Formerly an Attaché to the Quebec Minister of Education, Mr. Garner is the co-creator of the ABCs of Canadian Black History, the Quebec Regional Director of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists, and Host of CityLife Outaouais TV. Most recently, he was named a Commissioner of the Western Québec School Board.

Mr. Garner also volunteers with numerous organizations, including the Seniors Action Quebec, the Quebec Federation of Home and School Associations, the Gatineau Black Community Council, and the Aylmer Rod & Gun Club. He is the Head Coach of the Men's AA Basketball team at Heritage College and an assistant with the Ottawa Phoenix Development Basketball Program. He is a certified Suicide Prevention Intervention Specialist and a certified Canadian Firearms Safety Instructor.

Ms. Kathleen (Kathie) King, Brandon (Manitoba)

Ms. King is a retired Staff Sergeant and 35-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Community engagement experience

Currently, Ms. King sits on the Boards of Directors of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, and the Western Manitoba Branch of the National Association of Federal Retirees. She is a consultant for the Canadian Virtual Hospice on a project dealing with mental health and retirement transition within the Military and RCMP, and volunteers at her local hospital.

Sworn into the RCMP in 1975, Ms. King joined the second troop of female members in RCMP history. She spent the bulk of her career in Major Crime Services. Within that field, her experience came in the form of homicide, child exploitation, high risk sex offender, and other high-profile investigations as well as Major Case Management. Ms. King was an original member of the Manitoba Integrated Child Exploitation Unit (ICE), the first of its kind in Canada. She was also an original member of the Manitoba multi-discipline Community Notification Advisory Committee , whose task it was to make decisions related to high-risk sex offenders and the release of their names to the public. She was an original member of the Manitoba Government Children Online Protection Committee, which later became, Canada's reporting entity for online child exploitation. Ms. King also has experience providing protection and security for VIP and Internationally Protected Persons.

Ms. King is a Member of the Order of Merit for the Police Forces. She is a recipient of the RCMP Long Service Medal, Queen's Jubilee Medal, Canada 125 Medal, RCMP Commissioner's Commendation Award for a Homicide Investigation, RCMP Ensign Group Award (for the creation of the ICE Unit), and the Manitoba Excellence in Law Enforcement award.

Personal influences

Ms. King was born and raised on a farm in Manitoba.

Mr. Kyle Matthews, Montreal (Québec)

Mr. Kyle Matthews is the Executive Director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University.

Community engagement experience

Mr. Matthews is the founder of the annual AI and Human Rights Forum and the Digital Mass Atrocity Prevention Lab at Concordia University, which works to counter online extremism and study how social media platforms are being used as weapons of war. His work focuses on human rights, international security, emerging technologies and countering authoritarianism.

He previously worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where he was posted to the Southern Caucasus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Switzerland. Prior to that Mr. Matthews worked for CARE Canada in Albania and later at its headquarters in Ottawa. During this time, he managed various humanitarian response initiatives and peace-building projects in Afghanistan, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Mr. Matthews has also worked closely with various cultural and religious communities in Montreal and across Canada made up of survivors of atrocity crimes and who continue to face transnational repression for demanding justice and accountability.

He is a member of the Global Diplomacy Lab and the BMW Foundation's Global Responsible Leaders Network. He is currently a Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Global Affairs and serves on the board of the Canadian International Council's Montreal branch. He was an advisor and consultant to UNICEF and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Mr. Quentrel Provo East Preston (Nova Scotia)

Quentrel Provo currently works for Veteran Affairs Canada, where he's held various positions in the past 10 years, and is the Founder of Stop the Violence, a movement focused on spreading a message of love and standing against violence.

Community engagement experience

Having lost his cousin to violence, Mr. Provo became an anti-violence advocate and started the Stop the Violence (STV) initiative. Dedicated to bringing about positive change and making a difference in the community, Mr. Provo speaks and raises awareness about violence against all members of society, regardless of their age, race or sexual orientation at schools, conferences and other events. He organizes and hosts numerous community outreach initiatives and fundraisers. He also advocates and participates in activities that raise the self-confidence and self-worth of black youth. In 2016, the province of Nova Scotia officially declared June 10 “Stop the Violence Day”.

Mr. Provo served as a Justice Champion for the Michaëlle Jean Foundation and was a member of Diversity, Equity and Anti-Racism (DEAR) Task Force at Veteran Affairs Canada, which aimed to create change within the organization. Mr. Provo currently sits on the Board of Governors for the Nova Scotia Community College and the United Way's Board of Directors.

For his continuous work towards positive change and making a difference in the community, Mr. Provo has received numerous awards and notable distinctions. In 2019, he was named one of the world's Top 100 Most Influential People of African Descent Under 40 by MIPAD in support of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent. He was also named one of 20 Outstanding Black Men in Canada by Shifters Magazine in 2020. Mr. Provo received a Senate of Canada 150 Medal and was awarded the Indomitable Spirit Award at Nova Scotia's Courage to Give Back 2020 Awards and the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute's Ancestral Awards for Civic Engagement in 2018. 

Personal influences

Mr. Provo counts his parents as well as former U.S. President Barack Obama, whom he met in 2019, among his inspirational heroes.

Mr. Farid Rohani, North Vancouver (British Columbia)

Community engagement experience

Mr. Rohani has held several prominent leadership roles both locally and internationally. He was the Chair of the Laurier Institution and also served as the Vancouver Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship for three years. During this time, he led first Citizenship Ceremony hosted in a First Nations Community. He was also a member of the RCMP BC, Yukon Diversity Advisory Committee.

Mr. Rohani continues to make significant contributions to his local community by sitting on the Board of Directors of the Royal Columbian Hospital, the Global Reporting Center, and the Association for Canadian Studies. He is a trustee of the Jack Webster Foundation and a member of the British Columbia Provincial Committee On Diversity and Policing.

In recognition of his extensive contributions to Canada and his local community, Mr. Rohani has received several notable distinctions. He was appointed Honorary Colonel of The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own), awarded the Canadian Senate's 150th Anniversary medal, and recognized as a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. He also received the B.C. Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Award in 2012 for his work around diversity and inclusiveness.

Ms. Naomi Rosenfeld, North York (Ontario)

Ms. Rosenfeld is the Business Manager for Ridgeway Occupational Consultants Inc., an occupational medicine consulting firm offering disability and accommodation management services, medical surveillance programs for employers working with dangerous substances, and consulting services relating to occupational health and safety.

Community engagement experience

For the past 10 years, Ms. Rosenfeld has been an active leader in the Canadian Jewish community. Most recently, she served as the Executive Director of the Atlantic Jewish Council, representing a community of approximately 5,000 Jewish people across four provinces in all non-religious matters pertaining to Jewish communal life. Her responsibilities included engaging all aspects of the community, addressing the media during critical community crises, and strengthening stakeholder relationships in government, business, and the public sphere. Throughout her tenure, Ms. Rosenfeld garnered the respect and admiration of her peers and senior leadership both within and outside of her community. Members of local police forces, elected government officials, and leaders of several fellow community groups regularly sought her council on issues related to community safety, antisemitism, and leadership.

Ms. Rosenfeld is the current Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Naomi holds a B.Sc.H from Queen's University, where she graduated with the gold medal in Psychology and admission into the Tricolour Society—the highest non-academic, non-athletic honour that can be bestowed upon a student. She also holds a master's degree in Jewish Professional Leadership and an MBA from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Naomi is currently a student at Harvard Business School in their Program for Leadership Development - an accelerated alternative to an Executive MBA (EMBA) - with the support of a scholarship from Harvard Business School's Fund for Leadership and Innovation.

Personal influences

Ms. Rosenfeld credits her passion for community engagement, tolerance, and human rights to her relationship with her late paternal grandmother, Zelda Rosenfeld, z”l. Zelda was born in Lublin, Poland and was the sole member of her family to survive the Holocaust, where she experienced and endured unspeakable horrors and atrocities. Upon immigrating to Canada in 1951, Zelda frequently acknowledged how grateful she was to be Canadian and always tried to do her part to make Canada just a little bit better; a legacy that Ms. Rosenfeld aims to uphold.

Dr. Natalia Stakhanova, Saskatoon (Saskatchewan)

Dr. Natalia Stakhanova is the Canada Research Chair in Security and Privacy, and Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Community engagement experience

Dr. Stakhanova is a cybersecurity expert, whose work revolves around building secure systems. Dr. Stakhanova has over 60 publications in the areas of network security, software protection, and code attribution. She holds four patents in the field of computer security, and serves as an Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, and Guest Editor for IEEE Transactions on Network and Service Management.

In addition to her responsibilities as a researcher, Dr. Stakhanova is a strong advocate of Women in IT and co-founder of CyberLaunch Academy, an initiative that aims to promote science and technology among children. She developed a new cybersecurity curriculum that was offered in high schools across New Brunswick and a cyberimmunization program that was delivered to middle school children. She is the author of the comic book series, Adventures of Recode, about a computer security savvy girl who helps save world from cybercrime.

Dr. Stakhanova is the recipient of numerous recognitions and awards. In 2014, Dr. Stakhanova was selected as the New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Cybersecurity, and she received the Young Scholars Award from Harrison McCain Foundation in 2015. She was also named one of the top 20 Canadian Women in Cybersecurity in 2020. For her leadership in promoting computer science and security among kids, Dr. Stakhanova was named as one Six New Brunswick Innovators To Watch in 2016, and received the CyberNB Recognition in 2017.

Personal influences

Dr. Stakhanova received her education at Iowa State University, USA and moved to Canada with a dream of making the Internet a safer place for everyone.

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