Bharat Saini is the inaugural Director of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) with the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto. Bharat is responsible for developing and implementing strategic initiatives aimed at advancing EDI within the learning and working environments across the Faculty of Arts & Science. He provides strategic guidance and advice to the Dean’s Executive team on matters of policy interpretation and practice concerning a range of areas, including accessibility, diversity, equity, inclusion, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression.
Bharat has been working in the post-secondary sector for more than a decade. Prior to joining U of T, he served as the Manager, Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion with the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion at Humber College. In this role, he managed the Human Rights Program and provided strategic guidance on Human Rights and EDI-related matters. He led the College’s Employment Equity Program and Co-Chaired the Equity & Inclusion Committee as well as the EDI Taskforce Access & Equity: Employees working group. Bharat continues in the role of Instructor with Humber’s Faculty of Business. He has also held roles with Osgoode Professional Development at Osgoode Hall Law School, OCAD University, and York University.
Bharat strongly believes in the importance of community work and engagement. Since 2008, he has had the privilege to serve on the Board of the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education. In addition, since 2020, he has been serving as a Director on CASSA’s Board, chairing the Human Resources Committee, and during the Summer of 2022 became the Chair of the Board. Bharat completed his Bachelor of Science Honours, Bachelor of Education, and Masters of Education from York University. During his M.Ed., his key areas of focus included human rights, equity and inclusion, competing rights, disability, and academic accommodations, policy development, inclusive pedagogy, and universal instructional design. He is also an Ontario Certified Teacher. In addition, he has extensive training in Alternative Dispute Resolution as well as workplace investigations focused on human rights and workplace harassment. Bharat is committed to transformational systemic change to advance anti-racism, equity, and inclusion and foster belonging for all.
Tanzina Islam is a public health planner specializing in health promotion strategies within the community health sector. She is currently the Manager of Health Promotion & Community Relations at the East Mississauga Community Health Centre. In her role, she oversees health interventions targeting priority populations, supports strategic planning, monitors population needs, and advocates for the good health of the Mississauga community. She was a former Project Coordinator at CASSA for the CapaCITY Creators Project and is a current member of CASSA’s Health Equity Task Force.
Tanzina has worked in the areas of mental health, chronic health, gender-based violence, community engagement, social justice, and health equity across institutions such as Humber College, Toronto Public Health, St Michael’s Hospital, and the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH). Tanzina also leads two independent research projects focused on ‘understanding honour killing as a form of gender-based violence’ and ‘identifying risk factors for global sex trafficking’. She is a University of Toronto Alumni and holds a Master of Public Health degree. Her expertise lies in applying evidence-based knowledge when developing, implementing, and evaluating health interventions. Central to her focus is integrating equity-focused frameworks when planning health services for marginalized populations. She hopes to be a part of initiatives that empower communities, strengthen community action, and challenge sociopolitical structures that contribute to poor health and health disparities.
Leanne Saldanha brings a strong background in arts and cultural heritage to the board. Leanne graduated from the University of Toronto with an HBA and an MA in Art History. Delighted by the beauty and proliferation of art production in Renaissance Italy and the Netherlands, Leanne was initially drawn to the study of religious and philosophical themes in early Renaissance visual art with a highly Eurocentric focus. It was only later, as a graduate student, that Leanne realized the necessity of exploring and celebrating the complicated and searching works of post-modern and contemporary South Asian diaspora artists and collectives.
She is currently pursuing graduate research in Immigration and Settlement Studies at Ryerson University, with a focus on supplementary art practices that can ease the strain of immigration and integration processes for recent immigrants and refugees. Her research focuses on issues of integration and belonging and the complexity of these social asks in Western societies, especially for diaspora individuals and communities who are subject to experiencing social inequities and injustices here in Canada.
Over the years, Leanne has worked with several equity-seeking groups and not-for-profit organizations with a focus on refugee integration, environmental issues, capacity building, racial equity, community engagement, and social justice. Leanne is highly attuned to the difficulties of social inclusion and equity-seeking in urban contexts and is committed to tackling social concerns for South Asian communities through CASSA. She is also an avid policy and political campaigns enthusiast with a passion for fostering thoughtful and informed civic participation, especially in South Asian communities.
Jessica is a change agent guided by empathic accuracy; internally driven to work for issues like gender equality, art therapy, access to quality education, and child protection. As a social development professional and research consultant, she offers strategic advice to social enterprises to enable meaningful contributions and provides tools to measure their impact effectively. She works with creativity, consideration, and open-mindedness that allows seeing things from unconventional perspectives.
Jessica is a social worker and also holds a specialized degree in evidence-based research from the University of Oxford. She has 12+ years of experience in impact assessment, monitoring and evaluation, multi-stakeholder relationships, qualitative research methodologies, strategic partnerships, capacity building, and grant-writing both internationally and in Canada. She is currently serving on the board of North York Arts and has had the opportunity to work with organizations like the World Bank, Plan UK, Credit Suisse, GIZ, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, US Department of State, Centre for Social Innovation, Tedx Toronto and Plan Canada.
Thanuya is a Social Worker who has extensive experience in community and youth development. She attended York University for Human Rights & Equity Studies, and Seneca College for Social Service Worker Diploma, and is currently pursuing a degree in Public Administration & Governance at Ryerson University. Thanuya is TESOL certified and teaches ESL. She has learned to combine her roots in Social Work with her passion for music, specifically the piano, and teaches a unique curriculum to students through Ruby’s School of Music. Thanuya has extensive experience in grant writing, development and facilitation of workshops, community asset building, capacity building, strategic planning, and program evaluation.
Thanuya has shared spaces with vulnerable residents and has sought community partners and stakeholders to take a more collaborative and communal approach in the drafting and implementation of meaningful and impactful programs and services to better suit the needs of the communities they serve. Her desire to improve her quality of life and to create better and more meaningful human relations to bring forth a sense of connection and belonging has been the driving force that has propelled her unwavering commitment to social justice and to CASSA.
Ayesha Chughtai is a Pakistani-Canadian immigrant living and working in Ottawa. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Calgary in Political Science she moved to Ottawa in 2017 to pursue a career with the federal government. She served as a Regional Advisor, and later a Senior Policy Advisor for the Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development working on national housing policy, childcare, and service delivery in Canada. She then moved to the Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development serving as Director of Operations. In addition to managing a team of Regional Advisors, she worked on broadband policy and the development of new funding programs. Her last role in government was serving as a Regional Advisor to the Prime Minister focusing on the Prairies and North. In this role, she built relationships with provinces and territories, provided strategic advice, and managed the logistics of travel to the region. In July 2022, she left the federal government taking on a new role at Deloitte Canada as a Manager with the Future of Canada Centre (FCC). The FCC is Deloitte’s premier thought leadership and public policy hub.
A proud Calgarian who lived her early years in Pickering, Ontario, Ayesha is passionate about the diversity of the South Asian community across the country.
Jessica Devi Chandrashekar
Jessica Devi Chandrashekar works as a Staff Lawyer with the Refugee Law Office where she advocates for immigration detainees. She completed a B.Sc Honours degree at the University of Toronto, with minors in Women and Gender Studies, as well as South Asian Studies. There she went on to do her Masters in Women and Gender Studies, before pursuing a PhD at York University in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies. Her doctoral work examines transitional justice and peacebuilding mechanisms in Sri Lanka, with a particular focus on how these processes are perceived and experienced by Tamil women from the Vanni region. Jessica also completed a Juris Doctor at Osgoode Hall Law School where she focused on immigration, refugee, and administrative law.
Previously, Jessica sat on the Board of Directors for Parkdale Community Legal Services. She holds professional memberships with several migrant advocacy organizations including the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and the Refugee Lawyers Association. Jessica has presented her work at several conferences and workshops, enjoys mentoring and teaching, and is passionate about serving and supporting community organizations.
Samir Parmar holds a Juris Doctorate in Law from the University of Windsor Faculty of Law and holds a license to practice law in the Province of Ontario. His journey began at the University of Toronto where he completed an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English and Health Policy. During his time at the University of Toronto, he was offered co-op opportunities and worked alongside health professionals to advocate and conduct research on a variety of health and social issues in and around the GTA, including a placement at the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians. Through these experiences, he grew to appreciate the need to better understand the legal impact of health policies and how the intersectionality of factors such as race, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity created barriers to those accessing healthcare.
After graduating from law school, Samir had the opportunity to work with a major hospital and was able to utilize his diverse background to assist researchers, physicians, and key stakeholders in the negotiation, drafting, and review of corporate and research contracts. Samir currently works as a Contract Reviewer at a healthcare system in the Discovery District in downtown Toronto. Outside of his professional career, Samir enjoys spending quality time with his family, friends and is an avid fan of Toronto sports teams.
Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan
Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan is an award-winning faculty member and an internationally recognized–academic/professional leader in global health training, research, and education initiatives, with diverse experience in both developed and developing countries. In 2010, Dr. Bhuiyan emigrated to Canada where he began a new career focused on how equity-informed approaches can improve both health services and healthcare training. Over the next several years Dr. Bhuiyan moved through successively more senior positions so that today he is a faculty member at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at UofT. Throughout his career focus has been on improving the way we deploy and refine global healthcare resources – whether guidelines or training programs – to improve health system performance and the equity of health system performance in local and global contexts. Dr. Bhuiyan a co-creator of innovative post-graduate programs at UofT and Toronto Metropolitan Universities for immigrant healthcare professionals to integrate into the Canadian healthcare system.
Dr. Bhuiyan outgoing chair of the Canadian Coalition for Global Health & currently on the Board of Directors, of the Canadian Association for Global Health, and also Chair of, the Board of Directors, of Birchmount Bluffs Neighborhood Centre Scarborough South West, Toronto ON. He is serving Lions Clubs International District A711 ON as a Past Region Chair & Diabetes Chair, Past Youth Exchange & Campus Chair, and Charter President of Toronto Global Doctors Lions Club. He is also Co-chair of the internationally trained physicians access coalition. Dr. Bhuiyan is an RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants award finalist, Immigrant’s Master of Success Award winner, Hellen Keller Fellow & Melvin Jones Fellow for humanitarian services, Lions International President’s Distinguished Leadership Award 2020 winner, and a recipient of civic engagement & leadership award 2018, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians in Canada.
CHIEF STRATEGY, INNOVATION & GROWTH OFFICER, SKILLS FOR CHANGE
Zeeshan is an International Development expert with over 20 years of experience in community impact, evaluation, program design, and implementation at scale. At Skills for Change, Zeeshan works as the Chief Strategy, Innovation & Growth officer leading work in the key organizational areas of Business Operations, Strategic Planning & Implementation, Organizational Growth and Social Enterprise Development.
Prior to SfC, he worked as the Director of Programs & Operations at The Mississauga Food Bank and led the programs and operations teams that are responsible for client and agency service, capacity building, warehouse and operations aspects of the organization. In his previous roles, he was the Head of Community Impact for United Way India and General Manager – Programs for the Educate Girls Foundation where he designed programs that impacted the lives of over 600,000 children and youth. He was also a part of the team that designed and implemented the World’s first Development Impact Bond in education.
He has the experience of working in various non-profit sub-sectors, including education, livelihood support, sports for development and women’s empowerment. Zeeshan was also a part of the Skoll and Mastercard Foundation’s Emerging Leaders program in 2017. He is also a passionate public speaker who believes in constantly upgrading himself with knowledge and ideas that help the world become a happier place.