SCIO Board of Directors

Experience + Expertise

As a Canadian charity, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario is governed by a Board of Directors composed of dedicated volunteers who provide strategic direction within a culture of collegiality and continuous improvement. A number of our Board members have personal experience with spinal cord injury or other disabilities, bringing even deeper insights into our strategy and services. Their shared sense of purpose, positive outlook and commitment to improvement keeps our Board members active and engaged. If you haven’t met them yet, you are bound to see them at events around the province.



Mark has served on SCI Ontario’s board as Treasurer and Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee since 2016 and has been contributing to the financial oversight of the organization as a committee member since 2011. Mark is the Director of Operations and Administration at Blueprint-ADE. A senior organizational leader, he has successfully guided both for-profit and not-for-profit businesses through phases of growth, change, and maturity. He brings a deep level of business and financial acumen to Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, with over 15 years of management, consulting, and board-level experience across a range of sectors including healthcare, education, policy research, and technology. Mark holds a Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo and a Master of Business Administration with a specialization in strategic management from York University’s Schulich School of Business. Mark is a Certified Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis Professional and active member of the Association of Finance Professionals.


Kent served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, a position he has held since 1999, and was appointed as the Executive Director of the Canadian Spinal Research Organization in 2014. Kent has extensive experience in developing strategic linkages and partnerships, organizational restructuring and working with the Ministry of Health on policy and system reforms. Kent is a Certified Health Care Executive with the Canadian College of Health Services Executives. He completed his undergraduate work at Schulich School of Business, York University and graduate work at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in the School of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. Through his work with the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation Kent has been involved in a number of partnership activities with the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Rick Hansen Institute including the SCI Solutions Network, Canadian Neurotrauma Research Partnership and more recently with the Best Practices Implementation Project.


Heather Flett is the Advanced Practice Leader for Spinal Cord Rehabilitation at University Health Network in Toronto. She has 20 years of experience in the field of spinal cord rehabilitation working as a Physical Therapist for 8 years prior to her current role. In her Advanced Practice Leader role, Heather supports clinical research integration and leads projects to advance best practices in SCI rehabilitation. Heather has been an active member of the Ontario Solutions Alliance since 2010. She is a Lecturer in the Department of Physical Therapy at University of Toronto and completed an MSc in the Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science focusing on walking outcomes following incomplete spinal cord injury.


Dana Francoz has had a long career in media representing some of North America’s most iconic brands to Canadian advertisers and marketers, across every media platform – print, digital, broadcast, radio and Out of Home. Throughout her career, Dana has also been an active volunteer and board member. Most recently, Dana was an active member of the board of the Clarendon Foundation, seeing its eventual integration into PACE, which serves people with disabilities, allowing them to live independently. Dana grew up with an amazing mother who, although she was in a wheelchair, gave her a real-life example of just how much can be accomplished, no matter what your physical limitations. Her mother, Marjorie Francoz, has been a peer supporter of SCI Ontario for close to 40 years.


Gary Froude is a Muskoka transplant arriving a short 20 years ago coming surreptitiously from an environmental project in Costa Rica and a musical project in Africa. He became managing director of the Muskoka Lakes Music Festival which evolved into an international Chautauqua with Gary at the helm and chaired the national Arts Network for Children and Youth for several years and continues as a director in assisting that organization with re-structuring its ArtsSmarts partners across the country. Gary was one of the first presidents of a newly formed Rotary Club in Muskoka Lakes, is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow, and has been Secretary of a leading-edge, affordable home ownership project since its inception. He chaired the Board of Muskoka Tourism for a number of years and led Muskoka in the development of a new provincial tourism structure and chaired the Board of the newly formed Explorers’ Edge In 2012 Gary was honoured to receive the Muskoka Citizen of the Year award.

In 2013 he was paralyzed by an unknown virus and was introduced to the field of health care as he gained insight into the challenges of complex continuing care in the province and in Muskoka. Gary has been bringing the patient voice to the table as a member of the Muskoka Area Health System Transformation Executive Committee, the Critical Care Council of Ontario and as co-chair of the MAHST Community Engagement Workstream. Gary and his partner Gayle are active members of their community, striving for positive change and valuing quality of life.


Omar Ha-Redeye is a lawyer who practices civil litigation, employment and human rights law, technology, and health law. He holds a JD from Western, and an LLM in Health Law from Osgoode Hall. Prior to becoming a lawyer, he worked in clinical healthcare, and maintains his American designation in nuclear medicine technology. Omar joined the Board in 2018 and served on the SCIO Young Professionals Board prior to that since 2015. He is a member of the Advocacy Committee and is actively involved in SCIO’s government relations and legislative strategies.


Sarah Hicks is a communications professional with more than 25 years’ experience. For the last fifteen years she has been working with nonprofit corporations to strengthen their communications and stakeholder engagement capacity – including the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Sarah started her career in public relations working with pharmaceutical clients in Toronto, the U.S. and U.K., and then joined GlaxoSmithKline Canada. Sarah speaks English, French and German and has a BA in Social and Political History from Victoria College, University of Toronto, and a Public Relations Post Graduate Certificate from Humber College.


Barbara Ibbitson is currently a Partner and the Clinical Director of Wright Rehab, a company that, for 18 years, has been providing Social Work and Rehabilitation Therapy to individuals, couples and families adjusting to the aftermath of a traumatic event or injury. Prior to merging with Wright Rehab, Barbara owned and operated Barbara Ibbitson and Associates. Barbara is an active member of The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers and the Ontario Association of Social Workers.

Barbara has a Bachelor’s of Social Work degree from the University of Western Ontario and received her Master’s of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto. Barbara has a history of volunteer experience in many community programs and embraces opportunities to give back and be part of something that makes an impact. Barbara has lived with the effects of permanent spinal cord damage for the past 15 years. Her personal lived experience, in addition to her training and clinical background assist her in fostering resiliency and self-compassion in those she works with.


Taylor sustained a spinal cord injury after a gymnastics accident at the age of 14. Over the past 13 years, she has thrived and learned to adapt even with her new body and circumstances. She is passionate about helping improve the lives of all people living with an SCI. Taylor is a successful entrepreneur as the founder and owner of Cup of Té Luxurious Loose Leaf Teas, is a team player, empathetic and dedicated to positive change. As a Black Canadian living with an SCI, she brings a unique perspective to the SCIO Board of Directors.


Joanne MacDonald started in the news business 38 years ago, first in radio, then transitioning to television as a story producer with Canada AM in 1983, then on to field producing for CTV National News in 1989. From there, Joanne headed to Ottawa, where she became the Bureau Manager then Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief for CTV News. She continued to ascend the ranks, ultimately to the role of Senior Vice- President, CTV News where she oversaw day-to-day operations and strategic vision for CP24 and CTV News Toronto.

Joanne has helped shape some of Canada’s best journalists. Her leadership, news sense, and commitment to the highest news standards have contributed greatly to cementing CTV News as the powerhouse it is today. She actively contributes to the professional development of young journalists and is on the Advisory Council for her alma mater at the Ryerson School of Journalism.


Currently, Emily is the Lead Researcher, Business Solutions Department for the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW). She holds an MA in Critical Disability Studies from York University. She has sat on a variety of committees including the Standards Council of Canada’s Accessible Tourism Working Group and was the Co-chair of the Volunteer Engagement Logistics Team for PrideHouseTO. She has been a member of the SCIO Young Professionals Board for the past four years and played a significant role in the logistics and fundraising of the annual Comedy Night event.


Alex McKinnon, CEBS is the Research Director for the United Steelworkers Union – Canadian National Office. He has been on staff with the Union for over 30+ years. In 1991, he became the first rank and file member to go into the Unions National Office Research Department and in 2013 became the first rank and file member to be promoted to the Research Director.

Mr. McKinnon serves as a pension trustee on the multi-employer Steelworkers Pension Plan, as well as Chair of the Canadian Energy and Related Industries Pension Plan (CERi). and is the Vice-Chair and past Chair and Vice-Chair of the University of Toronto Pension Plan; President of MEBCO and serves on several committees of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario. He also serves as a Trustee of the new JSPP – the University Pension Plan (UPP).

Alex is a graduate of Sir Wilfred Laurier University with a Bachelors’ in Economics, as well as holding the CEBS designation and a variety of certifications in pension fund governance. He also volunteers as a spinal cord peer support and in 2018 was awarded the Peer Support Volunteer of the Year.


Julie Sawchuk is a best-selling author, professional speaker and designated Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) professional. Julie combines her experience of living with a spinal cord injury with her passion for education in order to help people make smart decisions when planning for accessibility.

After completing the construction of her own fully accessible home, Jue authored Build YOUR Space – How to create an accessible home for you, your family and your future. Julie’s home is a showcase of how accessibility is not just functional, but also beautiful. Knowing there is a need for more information about building for access, Julie has since published the online series of courses Building Without Barriers.

Julie is an Accessibility Strategist and founder of Sawchuk Accessible Solutions. She has completed the RHFAC certification of Blyth Cowbell Brewing, Ottawa International Airport, many major buildings in the City of Vaughan as well as the Fairfield Marriott Hotel in Ottawa. Julie has also planned the renovations of century-old buildings on the mainstreet of her hometown as well as newly constructed single family homes and an elementary school. Aside from educating about accessibility, Julie and her husband Thea have two teenagers and together they live on a 10 acre farm in Blyth. She takes any chance she can to get on her hand-bike on the local rail trail.


Karen is a personal injury lawyer practicing in Barrie, Ontario, where she was born and raised. She was called to the bar in 2013. Karen represents clients across Ontario and over the years has represented and advocated for numerous individuals who have suffered a spinal cord injury. She has become very familiar with the life-altering effect of an SCI. She understands there are barriers for people living with a disability such as accessibility, lack of equipment and continuity of care that can prevent people having the best quality of life. Karen has participated in SCIO events since she was a teenager and has been a volunteer with SCIO since 2015 when she became the Co-Chair of the newly created Young Professionals Board. In that role, she was and has been instrumental in the development and increasing success of the annual Comedy Night event.


Dr. Wai obtained his medical degree and completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at the University of Toronto. During this time, he obtained a Masters of Science in Community Health (Clinical Epidemiology) and then went on to complete 2 additional fellowships in spinal surgery. Currently. Dr. Wai is the Head of the University of Ottawa Combined Adult Spinal Surgery program with over 20 years of experience as a spinal surgeon. Along with front line clinical experience with spinal cord injured patients, Dr. Wai recently led the implementation of evidence based national standards and practices into the Hospital’s Acute Spinal Cord Injury Program.

Dr. Wai is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery, with a cross appointment in the School Epidemiology and Public Health and has authored over 100 publications related to patient centered outcomes assessment, advanced analytics, and critical evaluation of evidence. He is a member of the Ottawa Hospital Research Ethics Board. Most recently, Dr. Wai served as an expert panelist for Provincial Evidenced Based Initiatives including Quality Based Programming and Health Quality Ontario.


On June 11,1980, my life changed forever after breaking my neck diving. After two years of extensive rehab and the care from a lot of devoted nurses and doctors I was able to start a new life in a new community with new goals. I began to advocate on behalf of the physically disabled. Over the last 40 years I have seen a lot of changes that have improved the quality of life for those living with a disability. As a director on the boards of non- profit organizations I have been able to work closely with those who have greatly influenced the changes we enjoy today through out Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. Many of these changes have made their way into Municipal and Provincial legislation. I am presently working to improve accessible housing options for the disabled community in NWO. I am dedicated and proud of the work we are doing but there is still much to be done.

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