Director Biographies

Sheila Regehr (Chairperson): Sheila is a founding member of the Basic Income Canada Network and former Executive Director of the National Council of Welfare. Her 29 years of federal public service spanned front-line work, policy analysis and development, international relations and senior management, with a focus on improving fairness and equality, and on gender and race in particular. She has policy expertise in areas of income security and taxation, such as child tax benefits, child support, maternity/parental benefits, pensions and social assistance. Her insight also comes from experiencing poverty as a young parent. Sheila is grateful, in her retirement, to have resources, time and health to do volunteer work and help care for twin grandsons.

James Mulvale, PhD (Vice Chairperson): Jim is Dean of Social Work at the University of Manitoba. He is a founding member of the Basic Income Canada Network, and is active with the Basic Income Network of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council. Jim’s research interests include basic income and the theoretical foundations of Social Work. He teaches Canadian social welfare history, and has an interest in the use of distance and distributed learning to enhance teaching effectiveness and equity in post-secondary education. He has professional social work experience in community development in the fields of developmental disability and mental health. Jim has also been an Executive Committee Member of the Basic Income Earth Network and co-editor of Basic Income Studies.

Pierre Stevens (Treasurer): Pierre grew up in the Netherlands where he benefitted from a government-funded post-secondary education that would not have been possible otherwise. In Canada since 1973, he taught for 33 years, primarily as a Senior Instructor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Dalhousie University. He has been active in the Faculty Association, serving as an executive member, as treasurer and on the negotiation team. Pierre is guided by his belief that every human being has the right to a fair standard of living, and that as a society, as a community, we have an obligation to make this possible for all. As treasurer, he wants to support the Basic Income Canada Network in achieving its goals, especially eradicating poverty and securing fair income redistribution.

Jenna van Draanen, PhD (Secretary): Jenna recently obtained a PhD at the University of California Los Angeles and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Most of her research and evaluation interest and experience are in the fields of mental health, addiction, and homelessness. Jenna became interested in the concept of basic income during her master’s degree and continues to advocate in both a personal and professional role for the alleviation of poverty and income security for all. Jenna has worked extensively on research projects with people who have lived experience of poverty, and is personally dedicated to creating a truly inclusive society.

Eleni Bakopanos: The Hon. Eleni Bakopanos has over 40 years experience in public service, including as a Member of Parliament (1993-2006), serving as Parliamentary Secretary for Justice and social economy portfolios and as Assistant Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. She is presently President of the Women’s Commission of the Liberal Party of Canada (Q), promoting policies such as social cohesion and inclusion, a guaranteed basic income, immigrant and women’s rights. She served as senior policy advisor to Quebec’s Premier and the Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities. Eleni recently held the position of Senior Director for Government Relations at her Alma mater, McGill University, where she is currently President of the Women’s Alumnae Association. Her extensive community activism began in the 1980's as a volunteer on several Boards, including Centraide Montreal (Executive member), the Montreal Council of Women (VP) and the Shield of Athena Family Services (President; Chair of fundraising) which assists women and children facing conjugal violence.

Stephen Brown: Steve is a Partner in Deloitte’s Consulting Practice and leads the Consumer and Industrial Products Industry Practice. He volunteers as Chair of the Board of Youth Challenge International, a Canadian-based NGO focused on global youth development. In both his paid and volunteer work he has increasingly come up against the topic of Basic Income and the opportunities and challenges brought about by automation, disruption and concentration of income/wealth. He recently addressed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology regarding the future of Manufacturing in Canada and he serves clients who are confronted by choices regarding robotics, artificial intelligence, wages, employee retention and workforce development on a daily basis. He hopes to help bring the voice of business to the discussions of Basic Income and act as an ambassador for the topic back into the business community. 

Debbie McGraw: Debbie has been an advocate/activist focusing on homelessness, poverty, and women’s issues for the last 20 years, working in her community, as well as provincially and nationally. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Indian Social Work and presently works in a homeless shelter for women and children. She has lived experience of poverty and has worked with several nonprofit organizations in many different capacities, including as: co-founder of the Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition; co-founder of the Lived Experience Advisory Council, a national group aiming to get first voice participants to the tables of organizations, boards, and policy makers; board member and President of Canada Without Poverty; and head advocate at  Equal Justice for All in Saskatoon, providing leadership in training, making presentations, and meeting with government officials. Debbie wants to continue to work towards positive policy changes that will benefit people from all walks of life.

John Rook, PhD: John is founding director of the Canadian Poverty Institute at Ambrose University in Calgary and currently Director of Programs & Strategic Initiatives at The Mustard Seed. He is past President and CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, was previously CEO of Potential Place, Co-Executive Director of The Alex Community Health Centre, and CEO of The Salvation Army Community Services. John was an Associate Professor at McMaster, holds an adjunct faculty position at the University of Calgary, and lectures primarily in areas of poverty, mental illness and homelessness. He brought this experience and knowledge to his role as Chair of the National Council of Welfare (2007-2012) and the Alberta Interagency Council on Homelessness (2013-2014). 

Celina Symmonds: Celina has worked in not-for-profit (Social Profit) organizations her entire career, enabling her to clearly see the holes in government systems that have lead to the inequality of supports and services for individuals living in poverty. She is the co-executive director of the Medicine Hat & district food bank, has served on several boards, and has worked extensively as a front line worker with the Housing First and mat shelter initiative as well as becoming team lead in Housing First, consulting with front line agencies on best practice and approach. As a city councilor for the City of Medicine Hat, Celina brings knowledge and experience of government and political process, as well as understanding of the patience and perseverance needed to reach an important goal like a basic income.

Lorna Turnbull: Lorna is a professor and former dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. She is the author of Double Jeopardy: Motherwork and the Law and has been concerned with the economic impacts of caring for the past two decades. She is interested in whether policies that improve the inequality result in better outcomes for the carers and the children or adults receiving care. In particular she is interested in exploring basic income as a means to rectify inequality. She is the co-Chair of the steering committee of Basic Income Manitoba/Revenu de Base Manitoba, and has presented at two NABIG conferences. 

Paul Vallée: Paul is a highly successful entrepreneur and a fluently bilingual Francophone. Paul began his career as a data scientist and systems architect, and then in 1997 founded Pythian which has become a global leader in data consulting and managed services, with 400 employees across offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. Paul is Pythian’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Through his work in the IT sector, Paul is witnessing first-hand the phenomenon of technological unemployment, which has led him to the cause of basic income. Paul’s business acumen was recognized in 2011 with an Ottawa Forty Under 40 award and, in 2014, the Trudeau Medal: this medal is the highest honour given by the Telfer School of Management to its University of Ottawa alumni, recognizing leadership, initiative and contributions to the business world, the community and the recipient’s alma mater. In addition to social equity, Paul’s other community interests include gender equity and immigration. 

Maria Wong: Maria represents the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, a 20-member collective. She became interested in a guaranteed livable income a few years ago during activist work to end violence against women and theorizing on women’s poverty through her frontline work. In addition to running the shelter Maria speaks and writes on social justice issues and has expertise in advocating structural change and in working through consensus membership and democratic practice.