Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Michael MacMillan, Co-founder and Chair

In 2007, Michael MacMillan co-founded the Samara Centre for Democracy, an educational charity that is dedicated to reconnecting citizens to politics.

In 2011, Michael co-founded and is CEO of Blue Ant Media, a company that produces, distributes, and broadcasts television programming internationally.

In 1978, Michael co-founded Atlantis Films Limited with fellow Queen’s grads Seaton McLean and Janice Platt. He was Chairman and CEO of Atlantis (which later became Alliance Atlantis) for almost 30 years.

Michael is also the co-founder and co-owner of Closson Chase Vineyard and Winery in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

A member of the Order of Canada, Michael has volunteered with numerous community and industry organizations over many years. He is a Senior Fellow at Massey College and co-author of the book Tragedy in the Commons

Liban Abokor

Liban Abokor is the Executive Director of Youth LEAPS, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving educational and employment outcomes for Black youth in Toronto. Liban was a founding member of Ontario's Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities, which guided the development of Ontario's Youth Action Plan and Youth Opportunities Fund.

Liban is a dedicated volunteer who has served on the boards of the Laidlaw Foundation, Central Neighbourhood House, and the Catherine Donnelly Foundation. He is now sitting on the board of Shoot For Peace and is a member of the City of Toronto's Economic Development and Culture Division's Program Advisory Committee.

He is also a co-author of the UNFUNDED report and a co-founder of the Foundation for Black Communities, Canada's first-ever philanthropic foundation dedicated to investing directly in Black communities by supporting Black-led, serving and focused non-profits and charities.

Ranjan Agarwal

Ranjan Agarwal is Partner and Co-Head of Class Actions Practice at Bennett Jones LLP. His practice is focused on complex disputes, including class action, commercial, arbitration, constitutional, privacy, data breach and employment matters. He has appeared as lead or co-counsel in over 15 cases before the Supreme Court of Canada. He has also briefed and argued numerous cases in Federal Court, Ontario and across Canada, and provides strategic advice to companies, organizations, and individuals at all stages of complex litigation. 

In its national rankings, Lexpert Magazine, Benchmark Canada and Chambers Canada have all recognized Ranjan as a future or rising star in dispute resolution. Among other recognitions, Precedent magazine, the Canadian Bar Association, and the Ontario Bar Association have recognized him for his pro bono and community service. In 2015, Canadian Lawyer magazine recognized Ranjan as one of its Top 25 Most Influential lawyers.

Ranjan is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto, and co-author of Class Actions Law and Practice. He has published numerous articles on a wide variety of litigation issues in the Supreme Court Law Review, National Journal of Constitutional Law, Alberta Law Review, Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, and the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law. He is also Past President of the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto, one of North America’s largest diverse bar associations, and Treasurer of the Ontario Bar Association.

Leen Al Zaibak

Leen Al Zaibak is a leader in supporting the success of Syrian refugees resettled in Canada and abroad, as both co-Founder and Director of Jusoor, an international NGO that helps Syrian youth continue their education through scholarships and mentorship. Leen currently serves on the board of Lifeline Syria, an initiative to help sponsor and settle 1,000 Syrian refugees in the Greater Toronto Area. She also sits on the Telus Toronto Community Board. She currently serves as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of International Relations and Protocol for the Government of Ontario.

Leen holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, Trinity College, and a Master degree in International Relations from the University of Manchester. She is an advocate for arts and culture in the city serving as Chair of the Emerging Leaders for Toronto Arts Foundation and is on the executive committee for the Royal Ontario Museum’s Young Patron Circle. In 2015, she was named a Torontonian of the year, and in 2016 she was named one of RBC’s Immigrants of the Year. She has appeared on television, including appearances on CBC and Breakfast Television, and has been interviewed by The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and featured in Reader’s Digest

Kris Archie 

Kris Archie is the Chief Executive Officer of The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (The Circle). A Secwepemc and Seme7 woman from Ts’qescen, a mother, aunty and engaged community member.

Kris is passionate about heart-based community work and facilitating positive change. In all of her roles, Kris works to transform philanthropy and contribute to positive change by creating spaces of shared learning, relationship-building and centering Indigenous wisdom.

She is a PLACES Fellow Alum of 2015 with The Funders Network, a board member with Environment Funders Canada and JUMP! Canada and a newly appointed Dialogue Fellow with Simon Fraser University focused on Indigenous ways of knowing and Philanthropy. 

Alejandra Bravo

Alejandra Bravo is Director of Leadership and Training at the Broadbent Institute. Previously a Manager of Leadership and Learning at Maytree, for a decade she designed and delivered innovative political and civic training for emerging and diverse leaders. 

Alejandra’s work promotes and demystifies democratic engagement and participation, supporting leaders and organizations to map public processes and influence decision-makers. She is a facilitator, trainer, mentor, coach and strategist specializing in cross-organizational collaboration. 

Alejandra has a 25-year history of leadership with civil society organizations, including extensive governance experience with boards ranging in sectors from the community arts to the Toronto Board of Health. She has worked as community organizer, political staff and has been a municipal and a federal candidate in Toronto. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Stephanie MacKendrick

For more than 30 years, Stephanie MacKendrick has been a key player in Canada’s communications industry, from print and broadcast journalism to senior communications roles and association management.  Stephanie is the former President of Canadian Women in Communications (1996-2012), and recently became the CEO of Crisis Services Canada in 2018, which provides bilingual access to voice and text suicide prevention services. 

In 2010, Stephanie was inducted into Canada’s Telecom Hall of Fame in recognition of her longstanding advocacy on behalf of women in the communications and telecom sectors. Since 2013, she has also been a partner at Lotus Wonders, an organization that provides training and employment to Women in Cambodia who have experienced displacement due to land evictions. Stephanie was also awarded one of Top Most Powerful Women in Canada in 2005 and 2012 by the Women's Executive Network.

Stephanie is the author of In Good Hands: Remarkable Female Politicians From Around the World Who Showed Up, Spoke Out and Made Change, which will be published in Spring 2020 by KCP Loft. 

Rick Mercer

Rick Mercer is a well-known Canadian satirist, comedian, screenwriter and actor who hosted the Rick Mercer Report on CBC television for fifteen seasons. He has published a number of books that feature his trademark social and political commentary about Canada in the form of “rants”– the latest, Rick Mercer: Final Report, was published in 2018.

Rick is also an Officer of the Order of Canada, who has excelled as a humanitarian through his involvement with numerous charitable organizations. He has received ten honorary degrees, 18 Gemini Awards, ten Canadian Screen Awards, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, among many other honours. 

Rick was born and raised in St. John’s, NL.

The Honourable Ratna Omidvar, C.M., O.Ont.

The Honourable Ratna Omidvar is an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity and inclusion. She came to Canada from Iran in 1981 and her own experiences of displacement, integration and citizen engagement have been the foundation of her work.

Ms. Omidvar is a Director at the Century Initiative, a Councillor on the World Refugee and Migration Council and Chair Emerita for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

Previously at Ryerson University, she was a Distinguished Visiting Professor and founded the Global Diversity Exchange, a think-and-do tank on diversity, migration, and inclusion.

Ms. Omidvar is co-author of the book Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada (2015), an Open Book Toronto best book of 2015 and one of the Toronto Star's top five good reads from Word on the Street. She received a Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws, from Ryerson University in 2018 and from York University in 2012.

Ms. Omidvar was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2005 and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011, with both honours recognizing her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and devotion to reducing inequality in Canada. In 2014, she received the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of German-Canadian relations.

Ruth Ostrower

Ruth Ostrower is an executive assistant supporting Michael MacMillan across both his business and philanthropic endeavours. Previously, she served as the executive assistant to Michael when he was the chairman and CEO of Alliance Atlantis. Prior to joining Alliance Atlantis (then Atlantis Communications), she worked for 12 years in the finance industry, primarily in Human Resources. She is the past president of the Toronto Kiwanis Music Festival, where she has volunteered for many years, and is also an active supporter of theatre and dance. 

Chad Rogers

Chad Rogers is a strategist, entrepreneur and founding partner at Crestview Strategy, a public affairs agency. Chad helps leaders, companies, and industry associations face crisis head on, make their case, and get things approved.

The Hill Times magazine named Chad one of the ‘Top 100 Lobbyists’ in Canada. A sought-after media commentator, he’s been a member of the ‘Power Panel’ on CBC Television’s Power & Politics. A recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for public service, Chad serves as Honourary Consul of the Republic of Kosovo in Canada.

As a Country Director with the Washington, DC-based National Democratic Institute under chair Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, he’s worked with governments and political leaders around the world. He has advised leaders Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Georgia, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Serbia, Trinidad & Tobago, and Ukraine.

Chad is an active board member of Action Against Hunger, True Patriot Love Foundation, the Samara Centre for Democracy, and Journalists for Human Rights.

Originally from Prince Edward Island, Chad resides in Toronto with his partner Mark.

Zain Velji

As Partner and VP Strategy for Northweather, Zain Velji brings a decade of experience in political, business, and non-profit communications, as well as marketing and engagement. Zain is also a frequent public speaker and regular political commentator who appears weekly on CBC radio and television and appearing federal election coverage for CTV and Bell Media.

Zain chairs the board of The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and serves on the boards of the YMCA Calgary, Samara Centre for Democracy, and Pillar 9. His consulting and political experience has allowed him to work for companies and non-profits as well as notable political campaigns, serving as campaign manager for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in 2017.

Zain is also the host of the award-winning podcast The Strategists, where he dissects political strategy and public affairs issues of the day and the host of the Zain Velji show on Newstalk 1010. He was named one of Calgary’s Top 40 under 40 by Avenue and was awarded the Horizon Alumni Award by the University of Alberta.

Zain has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Alberta.

Janet Yale

Janet Yale is an accomplished leader and senior executive with long years of management experience in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. She served as the President and CEO of the Arthritis Society (Canada) from June 2012 to January 2020 after a long career in the telecommunications and broadcast sectors. In June 2018, she was appointed by the federal Ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Canadian Heritage to serve as Chair of The Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel.  The Panel released its Report “Canada’s Communications Future: Time to Act” in January 2020.

Previously, she served as President and CEO of the Canadian Cable Television Association and, later, as the Executive Vice President of External Affairs at TELUS. Janet also served as a Director General at the CRTC and as General Counsel at the Consumers Association of Canada.
 
A long-time volunteer, Janet currently serves on the boards of the Samara Centre and Salus. In 2008, she was awarded the United Way Community Builder Award for Volunteer of the Year.

During the course of her distinguished career, she has received a number of awards and recognitions. In 2001, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the Canadian Women in Communications Organization. She is a recipient of both the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals. She was also named as one of Canada's 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women's Executive Network from 2004 to 2006, and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2005, she was named Businesswoman of the Year by the Women's Business Network and in 2006 she was named Woman Leader of the Year by Federated Press. 

A lawyer and economist by training, Janet is fully bilingual (English & French), a keen marathon runner, and passionate about health, the arts, and business. 

William Young

In 2011, Dr. William (Bill) Young completed a successful six-year career as Parliamentary Librarian with the Library of Parliament, capping a thirty-year career as an historian, academic, and educator. He holds a Ph.D. in History, an M.A. in History and Political Science from the University of British Columbia, and a B.A. in History and Political Science from York University. Bill has offered his support and expertise to many professional groups, and has maintained active memberships in professional societies and centres of academic excellence throughout his career.