Rima Berns-McGown – President, Couchiching Institute

Rima Berns-McGown is adjunct professor of diaspora studies with the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto.  She is also the senior project advisor and research director of The Mosaic Institute’s imported conflict study project, and the president of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs. Rima holds a PhD from the University of Wales at Aberystwyth and an MA from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.

 Rima was born of a mixed background in Apartheid South Africa, which has fueled her lifelong interest in the creation of socially just diverse societies. Her book Muslims in the Diaspora: The Somali Communities of London and Toronto explored the renegotiation of identity and religion that Somali refugees undertook in the first years after moving into the West. It was followed by articles based on further interviews with Somali women, on political culture, and on the dynamics between diasporic communities and the wider society. Her most recent article, on interviews with Somali-Canadian youth on questions of identity and belonging and entitled “The Lost Boys (and Girls)? Somali Canadians and the ‘Risk’ to North American Security,” is forthcoming from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.


Martha Hall Findlay - Chair, 2012 Couchiching Summer Conference

Martha Hall Findlay is the Chair of the 2012 Couchiching Summer Conference. She is a former Member of Parliament, and held several senior shadow Cabinet positions, including that of Associate Finance; Transport, Infrastructure and Communities; Public Works and International Trade.  In 2006, Martha was a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada and her “Big Red Bus” campaign was highly praised for substance and intelligence.  Before politics, she worked extensively as a lawyer, senior executive, and successful entrepreneur both in Canada and internationally.

Martha is now an Executive Fellow at the school of public policy at the University of Calgary. She graduated from the University of Toronto International Relations Program and from Osgoode Hall Law School.


Amanuel Melles - Social Entrepreneur and former Director of Organizational Capacity Building for United Way Toronto

Amanuel Melles is a social entrepreneur and the former director of Organizational Capacity Building for the United Way Toronto. Originally from Eritrea, Amanuel headed the Department of Marine Biology & Fisheries at the University of Asmara and conducted research in Kenya, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. He was the 2002 recipient of the Jane Jacobs Prize, awarded to “unsung heroes “ who have made Toronto a better place, and in 2001 received the Skills for Change Pioneers Award. Amanuel was also the founding president of the African Canadian Social Development Council and co-founded the Canadians for Peace & Development in Eritrea (CPDE), an organization advocating peace and respect for human rights in the context of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.


Candida Paltiel - VP Marketing & Communications, Couchiching Institute

Candida Paltiel is the Vice President of Marketing  & Communications for the Couchiching Institute and was the 2011 Conference Chair. A producer and filmmaker passionate about public and cultural affairs, she is the founding producer of Mining Stories Productions. Candida was the Artistic Director & CEO of Planet in Focus, Canada’s major environmental media and festival organization, and lectured at Ryerson University for seven years. She has worked and lived in a variety of international settings and has been a festival film juror and programmer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Brazil, Bosnia, Italy, and China. She holds a BA in Political Science and East Asian Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an MFA from Columbia University in New York City.


Salim Rachid - Chair, Conversations & Roundtables, Couchiching Institute

Salim Rachid is Chair of Couchiching Conversations & Roundtables. Salim brings over five years of experience in complex policy analysis and research, policy development, political strategy, and social policy. He is currently a City of Toronto DiverseCity Fellow. He has worked with numerous academic, philanthropic, and nongovernmental institutions on three continents. Previously he was a policy and project analyst with the Ontario government. Originally from Lebanon, Salim has an MA in international relations from the University of Oxford and a BA in political science and public administration from the American University of Beirut.



Adam Redish - Chair, Executive Committee, Couchiching Institute

Adam Redish is Chair of the Executive Committee of the Couchiching Institute. He was the Vice Chair of the 2011 conference. Adam joined the board in 2010. When he is not focused on Couchiching issues, Adam works in the public sector where he held a number of different positions in 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.





Andrew Spears - VP Program, Couchiching Institute

Andrew Spears is a Partner at Novantas Inc. in Toronto. Previously he served as Chief Executive Officer at NewCanFinancial and was part of the team that led, the CIBC subsidiary white label bank, Amicus Bank to profitability. While at Bain and Company, he led strategy and operations engagements for financial services and technology in both Canada and the United Kingdom. Earlier in his career, he reported to the Canadian Prime Minister’s Director of Policy and Research as part of the Liberal Caucus Research Bureau. He holds an MBA/MPPM from Yale University’s School of Management and received his BA 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

Read More


Couchiching Connects
April 2017
View Now

Sign Up for our Newsletter!