Sara L. Austin

Sara L. Austin, Founder and President/CEO of Children First Canada is the passionate visionary behind this national organization dedicated to the protection and empowerment of Canada’s children.

With over 20 years leadership experience in the non-profit/charitable sector, Sara is an expert in international human rights law, she has helped change the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children, through her leadership of global advocacy campaigns, by shaping major public policy efforts, and by launching philanthropic campaigns. She has learned multiple languages, and is fluent in the parlance of diplomacy. Her work has taken her into the top circles of power at the United Nations, government corridors and boardrooms around the world.

Her leadership of a global campaign to protect children resulted in the UN General Assembly adopting a ground breaking international law which allows children or their advocates to file complaints against their government for violations of their rights. She drafted the protocol during her graduate studies at the University of Oxford, and her efforts culminated in April 2014, when Sara delivered a speech at the UN Headquarters in New York as the law went into effect. She has also shaped Canadian public policy efforts, including testifying before Senate and Parliamentary Committees on Canada’s obligations under international law. 

Sara is also a member of Mount Royal University’s Centre for Child Well-Being and a Lecturer in the Child and Youth Studies Program. As a regular contributor to mainstream and social media, she also shapes public opinion on issues relating to the protection and empowerment of children.  Sara’s Opinion Editorials have been published in Canada’s leading newspapers and she has been interviewed on major TV and radio networks such as CTV and CBC.

Angela Simo Brown

Throughout her 19 year tenure at LoyaltyOne, owner of the AIR MILES Reward Program, Angela has held a range of leadership roles focusing on strategic initiatives and partnerships, most notably co-founding and running the organization’s first social change venture, AIR MILES for Social Change. Angela has spearheaded numerous cross-sector partnerships and consumer programs that use the unparalleled reach and popularity of the AIR MILES Reward Program to inspire and reward Canadians for making healthier and more environmentally responsible choices. These innovative partnerships have established the AIR MILES Reward Program as a powerful social change agent in Canada.

As a recipient of the Women's Executive Network’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada award in 2014, Angela has been widely recognized for her vision and leadership around driving economic value to business while also creating positive social change.   An engaging speaker, Angela has spoken at many conferences throughout North America including Professor Michael Porter’s Shared Value Summit and the Clinton Foundation Initiative.  Her innovative ideas have been featured widely in news outlets across Canada, including her regular contributions to the Huffington Post.  In 2015 Angela was trained and certified by former US Vice President Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project to be a climate change ambassador and she speaks regularly on the subject . 

Angela is an advisor for Evergreen Brickworks CityWorks Leaders Council and for Companies and Causes Canada. Angela has two teenage children with life threatening food allergies and also acts as a spokesperson and a volunteer emergency reaction educator for Food Allergy Canada.

Gail O'Brien

Gail O’Brien is a founding member of the Advisory Board of Children First Canada.  Born in Montreal, and with a Bachelors Degree in English and Fine Arts from McGill University, Gail moved to Calgary with her husband David and three children in 1978. Her career in fashion spanned the next 25 years including 10 years as General Manager of Holt Renfrew Calgary.

During that time Gail began her deep commitment to community involvement serving on the boards of both the YWCA of Calgary and as Vice-Chair of the Glenbow Museum. Since her retirement, she has devoted herself fulltime to the Not-for-Profit sector focusing largely on women, medicine and the arts in organizations across Canada.

Gail’s current board commitments include: The Hospital for Sick Children Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors; the National Arts Centre Board of Trustees; Co-Chair, Council for Canadian American Relations; Director of Business for the Arts; as well as involvement at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary as Chair of the Advisory Board and member of other Institute Advisory Boards. Past Board commitments include the National Arts Centre Foundation as Chair and the Ontario Science Centre.

Gail received the Women of Distinction Award for Business and Entrepreneurs in the year 2000. In 2010, Gail received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Calgary as well as the Eric Harvey Award  from the Glenbow Museum. In September 2011, Gail received  the Alberta Medical Association Award of Honor (for a non medical person) for her contribution to Health Quality in Alberta. Gail is married to David O’Brien; they have 3 children and 10 grandchildren all residing in Toronto.

Julia Foster

Julia Foster is a Governing Council member of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Board, the immediate past chair of York University’s board of governors, and former chair of its faculty of fine arts advisory board. 

She has extensive experience working with arts, culture, health care and postsecondary education boards, having chaired the National Arts Centre’s board of trustees from 2006 to 2014, and served as a trustee on the Hospital for Sick Children board of governors from 1996 to 2005. In 2014, she was named a member of the Order of Canada. She received an honorary doctorate from York University in 2015.
Foster’s community and voluntary sector history includes having served as board chair for the 13th annual Canadian Arts Summit, the Ontario Arts Council and the Stratford Festival, and as vice-chair of the Toronto International Film Festival. She has been a board member of the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and sat on the Art Gallery of Ontario’s public affairs committee. She has also sat on the advisory boards of the Non-profit Management and Leadership Program at York University’s Schulich School of Business and the Centre for Cultural Management at the University of Waterloo.

Foster’s deep commitment to voluntarism is supported by a successful career in business. She was vice-president of McCann-Erickson Advertising, senior associate with the Environics Research Group, and president and CEO of the Olympic Trust of Canada. She has been active on several international corporate boards, including that of the Brookfield Corporation.

Mary Jo Haddad

Mary Jo Haddad is recognized for her innovative leadership and commitment to children’s health through a distinguished career in healthcare in Canada and the U.S.  Mary Jo retired in 2013 as President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, a position she held since 2004. Prior to that, she held several leadership positions at SickKids, including Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Nurse Executive.

Mary Jo is an Honours graduate of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Windsor, holds a Master’s in Health Science from the University of Toronto and an Honorary Doctorates from the University of Windsor, Ryerson University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.  She is a Member of the Order of Canada.

Robert Harding

A Chartered Accountant by profession, Robert Harding is Director, Past Chair of Brookfield Asset Management Inc.’s Global Infrastructure Advisory Board and has served Brookfield and its predecessor companies since 1984 in various executive positions. He is a currently a Trustee at the Art Gallery of Ontario, past Chair and Board member of the Chair of the Board of Governors at the University of Waterloo, past Chair of the Board of the United Way Toronto, Past Chair and Board of Trustees of Sick Kids Foundation, Director and Chairman of Norbord Inc., Director and Chair of NexJ Systems Inc. and a director of Manulife Financial Corporation.

He holds a Bachelor of mathematics and an honorary doctorate from the University of Waterloo. In 2002, he was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his community service. He was elected a Fellow Chartered Accountant in March 2000 and named as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 in 1996.

Shawn Cornett

Shawn Cornett is a leadership and business management consultant with extensive experience working with boards, executives, and operations in the for profit and not-profit worlds to support BGCC. Leveraging a highly diverse career, her focus is on assisting organizations to effectively and strategically manage their business by providing leadership in a changing world, whether through mergers, acquisitions, technology shifts or organic growth, to achieve sustainable business success. With more than 25 years in the energy sector, most recently as VP HR and Talent Management, Nexen, Shawn has also always provided time to volunteer in not-for-profit organizations contributing the same skills, experience and passion to the social sector as she does in her consulting practice. She believes that we all have a responsibility to do what we can to help others and to make our community, i.e. the city of Calgary, a great place for everyone. 

Shawn is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary and is also a board member for CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology), an executive for the Women’s Leadership Initiative of the United Way and sits on the Leaders’ Cabinet. Shawn holds various technical and academic degrees, including a BSc Geography, MSc Environmental Studies, MA Human Development and PhD Human and Organization Development, board governance, executive coaching, leadership development, change management and employee engagement.

Ilona Doughtery

Ilona Dougherty is a youth engagement expert, and co-founder of Apathy is Boring.  She speaks to audiences internationally about redefining intergenerational relationships and tapping into the innovation potential of Millennials and Gen Z.  A lifelong social and public policy innovator, Ilona’s diverse experience ranges from being a Canadian delegate to a United Nations conference at 17 years old, to working with youth in a small community above the Arctic Circle.

In 2004, Ilona co-founded Apathy is Boring, a Canadian non-partisan charitable organization that uses art and technology to educate youth about democracy and encourages them to vote. With Apathy is Boring, she has accompanied the Governor General of Canada on the 2009 State Visit to the Ukraine and Norway, been featured in the national media hundreds of times, and has even worked with rock stars.

A regular commentator on CTV News Channel and, Ilona is also a published author, and recently completed a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation at the University of Waterloo. She was named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network in 2015; was a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012; received a Global Ashoka Fellowship in 2009; and a Yukon Women’s Award in 1999. Ilona has served on the Board of Directors of Volunteer Canada, Michaelle Jean Foundation (Founding Member), Sierra Club of Canada, and Studio 303, amongst others.


Christian Whalen

Christian Whalen is a graduate of Carleton University (B.A. 1987), UNB (LLB 1989) and Université de Strasbourg III (DEA 1993) where he studied as a New Brunswick Law Foundation Scholar, French Government Scholar and Fellow of the European Human Rights Commission.

After working in private practice and with the Attorney General's Office in New Brunswick, he served as Legal Counsel to the Human Rights Commission and then as Legal Counsel with the Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate. He was appointed Acting Child and Youth Advocate for the Province of New Brunswick on April 1, 2011.

He has served as Vice Chairperson of the New Brunswick Arts Board and Chairperson of the New Brunswick Foundation for the Arts. He was the Founding Chairperson of the Canadian Bar Association NB Branch's Children's Law Section and of the CBA's National Children's Law Committee and founding Secretary-General of the Working Group on Children's Rights in the Francophonie.

Terry Allen

Terry Allen is the President of Pivotal Capital Advisory Group, with nearly 30 years of financial advisory and banking experience leading a wide spectrum of financing transactions in a range of sectors.
Since 1996, Terry's experience has included acting as an independent financial advisor on domestic and international financings, serving as Senior Vice President and Director of PwC's Project Finance & Privatization practice in Calgary, and founding Pivotal: providing objective project and corporate finance advice and raising capital for clients. From 1987 to 1996, Terry was a senior corporate banker managing multi-billion dollar portfolios at TD Bank and CIBC.

Terry has closed a wide variety of transactions, including project financing (debt and equity), expansion financing, merger and acquisition financing, general corporate financing, bridge financing, bond financing, mezzanine/subordinated debt financing, balance sheet re-capitalization and restructuring, asset securitization and leasing. She has worked on transactions in Canada, the U.S., Latin America, the U.K. and Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Terry has extensive board governance experience, and currently serves as a Board member of the Alberta Securities Commission and the Calgary Airport Authority.