Mohamed H. Awad
Chair of Youth Affairs, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

Mohamed AwadMohamed H. Awad is Chair of Youth Affairs with the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs. Born and raised in Cairo during the pre-Egyptian Revolution era, Mohamed immigrated to Canada in his early teens and holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, double majoring in Diaspora & Transnational Studies and History, and a Master of Public Administration from Queen’s University. Mohamed works as a Policy Advisor in Toronto and is actively involved in community-based initiatives.




Rima Berns-McGown
Chair of Outreach, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

Rima Berns-McGownRima Berns-McGown is Chair of Outreach of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs. In her non-Couch life she is adjunct professor of diaspora studies with the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto at Mississauga and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Her interests lie in the creation of socially just diverse societies and the dynamics between diasporic communities and the wider society. Her research and writing have explored the renegotiation of identity and religion that Somali refugees undertook in the first years after moving into the West. Her current research focuses on Somali-Canadian youth and their sense of identity and belonging. Rima is also the managing editor of International Journal,  Canada’s pre-eminent academic quarterly of international politics, published by the Canadian International Council.

Gwen Burrows 
President, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

Gwen BurrowsGwen Burrows has been President of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs since August of 2009. She is also Director of Strategic Projects at the SickKids Research Institute in Toronto where she is a member of the executive team which runs the 2000-person Institute.Her volunteer commitment to Couchiching includes having chaired/co-chaired four Couchiching summer conferences over the past eight years. Gwen holds an Honours B.A. in Philosophy from McGill University and an M.A. in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University



Leslie de Meulles
Member of Youth Affairs & Conference Program Committee, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

Leslie de MeullesLeslie de Meulles is member of Youth Affairs and the Conference Program Committee of the Couchiching Institute. Her first Couch conference experience was last summer; after catching the Couch bug, she soon after became involved with both the Programming Committee as well as the Youth and Young Professionals Committee. Originally from Northern Ontario, Leslie is fluently bilingual, has a B.A. in Canadian Literature and Philosophy from Carleton University in Ottawa and a Master’s Degree in Political Theory from McGill University in Montreal. The subject of her M.A. thesis was Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is currently working in Ontario provincial politics as Policy Advisor, NorthernDevelopment for the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry in Toronto.

Martha Deacon
Member of Conference Program Committee, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

Martha DeaconMartha Deacon is a member of Conference Program Committee of the Couchiching Institute. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Townships Project, which she created in late 1998 in response to then President Nelson Mandela’s challenge to do something about the poverty in his country.For the past 13 years, The Townships Project has worked with local microfinance organizations in South Africa to extend small loans to individuals in groups to start or expand tiny businesses,  always exploring how to make these loans more effective in the fight against poverty. Prior to starting The Townships Project, Martha founded and ran P1 Parking Systems Inc. in Vancouver which was purchased by Impark in 1998. From 1986–1994,  she was founding Vice-President Corporate Finance and a Director of Deacon BZW Canada Limited, partly owned by Barclays.  Before that, Martha was a corporate solicitor with the Toronto law firm of Fraser & Beatty (now Fraser Milner Casgrain) and with Blake Dawson Waldron of Sydney, Australia.

Hana Gartner
Award-winning Investigative Journalist and Broadcaster

Ana GartnerHana Gartner enjoyed a distinguished career at CBC Television for 35 years. Born in Prague and raised in Montreal, Gartner graduated cum laude from Concordia University’s Loyola College before kicking off her broadcasting career at Montreal’s CJAD Radio in 1970. She became the parliamentary correspondent for Standard Broadcasting News and, in 1974, moved to television as host of the CBC Montreal evening news program, The City at Six. A year later, she accepted a similar post at CBC Toronto and was given her own summer series, In Good Company, a position that led to her role as co-host of CBC’s Take 30. Gartner’s candid, uncompromising style eventually attracted the attention of the producers of CBC’s current affairs series, the fifth estate, which she first joined in 1982. Gartner’s superior interview skills were also put to good use through Contact with Hana Gartner, a series of specials that ran concurrently with the fifth estate. In 1985 she won the prestigious Gordon Sinclair Award for excellence in broadcast journalism. Since then, she has won five Gemini Awards, including the Best Host award in 1995 – the year she debuted as host of The Magazine and she has won four Gracie Awards. She was honoured with her second Gordon Sinclair Award in 2006. Recently, Gartner and her production team were honoured with the prestigious Michener Award, for the best meritorious public service journalism, for their report on the incarceration and death of Ashley Smith, a  troubled teenager who spent the last four years of her life behind bars for a minor offence.

John Lorinc
Journalist and Author

John LorincJohn Lorinc is an award winning Toronto journalist and author who specializes in politics, urban affairs, the environment and business. He writes regularly for The Globe and Mail, Spacing, Zoomer and Walrus Magazine. John has won numerous national magazine awards for his business and political writing. Lorinc is also the author of three books, including The New City (Penguin, 2006), which was included on The Globe and Mail’s list of Best 100 Non-Fiction Books for 2006, and Cities: A Groundwork Guide (House of Anansi/Groundwood 2008). He is also a contributor to uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto (Coach House, 2005), a collection of essays on what works about Canada’s largest city and to Local Motion: The Art of Civic Engagement in Toronto (Coach House, 2010) a collection of essays with in depth analysis of civic engagement in Toronto.Outside his professional work, he served for two years as PEN Canada’s National Affairs Chair, and has participated in advocacy efforts to promote school libraries and reading policies as the co-founder of the Canadian Coalition of School Libraries. He is currently working on a long-term research project on the life and times of R.C. Harris, a former visionary Commissioner of Toronto’s Public Works.

Candida Paltiel
Conference Chair, Couchiching Institute in Public Affairs

Candida PaltielCandida Paltiel is the 2011 Conference Chair of Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, where she has been an active member for many years. She is the Founding Producer of Mining Stories Productions, a new multiplatform production company, and is a filmmaker and writer. From 2005–2010 she was the Artistic Director & CEO of Planet in Focus, Canada’s pre-eminent environmental media organization and festival. She has been a producer, director and writer for a variety of award-winning documentaries and series programming broadcast on Canada¹s major networks in addition to having taught in the Film Program at the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University. Canadian born, she grew up, studied and worked in a variety of international settings including Bosnia, Spain, Honduras, Jerusalem, Geneva and New York City. She has programmed films and participated as a guest film juror at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, Sarajevo-Bosnia, Turin, Italy, and Ya’an, in Szechuan, China. She received her B.A. in Political Science and East Asian Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Film from Columbia University.

Adam Redish
Conference Vice-Chair, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

Adam RedishAdam Redish has been keen on Couchiching for many yearsm and has been an active participant on the Program Committee and others for the past 5 years. Adam joined the Board in 2010 and was the Vice Chair of the 2011 conference. When he is not focused on Couchiching issues, Adam works in the public sector where he has held a number of different positions involving labour relations and, more recently, in the environment area. Adam holds a BA in economics from McMaster University in Hamilton and a Master’s of Industrial Relations from the University of Toronto.


2016 Summer Conference

The Canada Project

Identity, Citizenship, and Nationhood in a Changing World

August 5-7, 2016
The YMCA Geneva Park Conference Centre, Orillia, ON

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Couchiching Connects
April 2017
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