Meet the members of the amazing team who worked together to bring you the Cannabis and Mental Health project! From creating the content and design to translating, reviewing and building the website, course and Mentor Guide these awesome and skilled humans from across Canada made this for you!

To contact us please email :

Youth Action Committee 2024

Kavisha Borikar (she/her)
Kavisha Borikar (she/her)
Kavisha holds a BSc in Psychology from York University, which gave rise to her fascination in Substance Abuse Disorders and the significance of listening to lived experiences. She currently works in a local non-profit organization, where she supports and advocates for the social-emotional well-being of rural youth in her community. It is because of her involvement in this activism and subsequent project work that she wishes to keep working in the non-profit sector.

Fun fact: I appear in season 2 of the Building Bridges Podcast, where older adults are interviewed by youth about their lived experiences in our community!

Sam Barry (they/them)
Sam Barry (they/them)
Aanii boozhoo, Sam ndizhinikaaz, N’Swakamok ndonjiibaa miinwaa Maniwaki ndonjiiba Anishinaabe-Algonquin/francophone nizh manidowok ndow.

Sam Barry is an Indigiqueer, Non-Binary, and Francophone artist and activist. They are a recent graduate of the Baccalauréat en Service social (French Social Work) program at Laurentian University, where they are also completing their Masters in Social Work. Sam has worked mainly in Student Services, as President of both the Indigenous Students Circle and of Fierté Laurentian Pride, in research, in EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) initiatives on campus and in harm reduction/sexual health education (particularly for Queer and Trans folks).

Fun fact: I learnt to bead during the lockdown and was able to turn it into a side business! I am currently learning how to integrate porcupine quills and various furs into my designs.

Emma Giberson (she/her)
Emma Giberson (she/her)
Emma holds a BSc in Psychology (Hons) and Masters of Applied Psychology, Research, and Evaluation from the University of New Brunswick and is currently a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of New Brunswick. Emma’s research interests surround the accessibility and effectiveness of internet-based mental health interventions.

Fun fact: I have sailed through the Bermuda Triangle.

Gandharva Krishna (she/her)
Gandharva Krishna (she/her)
Theater is my first, and cars are my second love, my curiosity makes me travel the world, and I am mostly always dancing.

Fun fact: Gandharva gives the best hugs!

Armaan Fallahi (he/him)
Armaan Fallahi (he/him)
Armaan is an MD-PhD student at the University of Toronto with interests in how the brain works in health and disease.

Fun fact: Armaan’s birthday is on Valentine’s day!

Alsa St Rose (she/her)
Alsa St Rose (she/her)
Alsa is completing the final year of her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at York University, specializing in Counselling in Mental Health with a minor in Visual Arts. She is incredibly passionate about mental health advocacy and education for all, and giving a voice to those with lived experience. She is currently working as a Mental Health First Aid and The Working Mind course moderator for the Mental Health Commission of Canada and has recently joined Cannabis and Mental Health as a Youth Action Committee Member after spending the summer as a practicum student.

Fun Fact: In her free time Alsa loved to paint!

Jalani Bennet (he/him)
Jalani Bennet (he/him)
Jalani hails from Toronto, ON, and is a member of the Youth Action Committee for the Cannabis and Mental Health Project. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology while completing a second degree in Global Health at York University. He is passionate about understanding the intricate interplay between health, society, and cultures and finding ways to drive positive change while advocating for mental health.
Laiba Khaqan (she/her)
Laiba Khaqan (she/her)
Laiba is a dedicated mental health advocate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from York University. Four years ago, she founded the Schizophrenia Society of York at York University, focusing on humanizing individuals with schizophrenia and providing support to their loved ones. Recently, she launched Living Beyond Labels, a mental health organization emphasizing the significance of lived experiences through storytelling.

Fun Fact: My daily dose of creativity flows from my iced coffee addiction.

Josephine Kanu (she/her)
Josephine Kanu (she/her)
Hi, I’m Josephine Kanu! I’m from Etobicoke, ON. I’m a Psychology student at York University and an Administrative Associate for the Schizophrenia Society of York. I’m very passionate about weightlifting, reading, and listening to music.

Fun Fact: My birthday is on October 13th and every now and then it falls on a Friday when I lock myself in my room and avoid anything unlucky. I can’t wait to work with such an amazing team and I’m so excited to see what the future holds for us!

Nusrat Iftikhar (she/her)
Nusrat Iftikhar (she/her)
Nusrat is a recent graduate from York University majoring in Psychology BA (Hons). She is passionate about mental health advocacy and spends her free time supporting different youth led projects.

Fun fact: Nusrat has been in Canada for a year (since Aug 2022) only and enjoys having new experiences as a foreigner here.

Natasha Taylor (she/her)
Natasha Taylor (she/her)
Natasha obtained her Master of Applied Psychology, Research, and Evaluation from the University of New Brunswick, and is now pursuing her MSc Clinical Psychology from the University of Regina. She is passionate about advocating for evidence-based discussions and policies within the field of mental health.

Fun fact: I have a goal to visit every province and territory in Canada at least once (9 down, 4 to go!)

Herleen Parmar (she/her)
Herleen Parmar (she/her)
Herleen is currently a Psychology and Education student at York University. She is deeply passionate about mental health advocacy and committed to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health challenges.

Fun Fact: I am into film and photography, especially collecting film cameras!

Alyana Lalani (she/they)
Alyana Lalani (she/they)
Alyana is currently pursuing a degree in biology and oceanography at the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about the environment and improving access to mental health resources across Canada.

Fun fact: I am a huge hockey fan and the Canucks are my favourite team (obviously).

Strategic Advisors 2024

Kiah Ellis-Durity (she/her)
Kiah Ellis-Durity (she/her)Cannabis and Mental Health Project Coordinator
Kiah holds a degree in Comparative Religion, Culture and Political Science. She currently sits on the national board of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. With Explore the Link, she works as a Project Facilitator for the Cannabis and Mental Health Project. Through her work Kiah aims at normalizing discussions around cannabis while empowering youth to make educated, well-informed decisions.
Connor Lafortune (he/him)
Connor Lafortune (he/him)Indigenous Strategic Advisor
Connor “G’chi Waabshka Mukwa” Lafortune is from Dokis First Nation on Robinson Huron Treaty territory of 1850 in Northeastern Ontario. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree at Nipissing University with a Double Honours Major in Indigenous Studies and Gender Equality and Social Justice with a minor in Legal Studies. In September, he will begin his Masters in Indigenous Relations at Laurentian University. Connor is Anishinaabek, Queer, and Francophone. He works primarily in Life Promotion, harm-reduction, mental health, and Indigenous education through organisations such as the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, School Mental Health Ontario, Cannabis and Psychosis Canada, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Niki Pankratz (she/her)
Niki Pankratz (she/her)Strategic Advisor
Niki lives and works in Nanaimo, BC, on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. Niki loves yoga, vegan food and going on adventures with her two awesome daughters. She has a background in health promotion, teaching and writing. And she loves working with youth!
Vijai Raj (he/him)
Vijai Raj (he/him)Outreach Coordinator
Vijai is a recent graduate from York University with a deep passion for advocating for marginalized populations, especially those experiencing psychosis. During his time at York, he was an active member of an organization called the Schizophrenia Society at York for three years, where he had the opportunity to advocate and shed light on the lived experiences of individuals and caregivers affected by the illness. In his last year, he had the privilege of serving as the president of the organization.
Heath D’Alessio (they/he/she)
Heath D’Alessio (they/he/she)Strategic Advisor
Heath believes that the stories we tell shape the way we understand each other and the world around us, and sharing those stories has the power to foster healing and care in our communities and remind us that we aren’t alone. They also do stand up comedy and love to MC events.
Mikhaila Mitrovic (she/her)
Mikhaila Mitrovic (she/her) Research Lead
Mikhaila holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree in Neuroscience and Mental Health. She has an innate thirst for mental health and substance use health policy and research, and is passionate about the development and advancement of evidence-informed mental health and wellness initiatives. In her free time, she can be found spending time with loved ones, reading, out in nature, and watching sports.
Kalpit Sharma (he/him)
Kalpit Sharma (he/him)
Kalpit is a recent graduate from York University, he is passionate about helping people with mental health issues. He wants to become a psychotherapist in the future where he can help people, especially those suffering from psychosis.

Fun fact: I like doing improv and find joy in making people laugh through my lived experiences.

Catherine Willinsky (she/her)
Catherine Willinsky (she/her)Strategic Advisor and Past Project Manager
Catherine Willinsky holds a Master of Health Science, and is the former Manager of National Projects for SSC. She has managed all aspects of the previous Cannabis and Psychosis projects. She brings skills in project management, partnership development, facilitation, and youth engagement. Catherine is proud to be a member of this amazing, creative team, and devoted to peer support, harm reduction and recovery!
Hargun Kaur (she/her)
Hargun Kaur (she/her)Strategic Advisor
Hargun is a medical student, entrepreneur, and advocate committed to empowering marginalized communities. She has founded organizations promoting self-care for vulnerable pregnant individuals and creating affordable diabetes education apps for at-risk South Asians, while also representing Canadian youth at the international Y7 summit, with her work recognized by organizations like YWCA, Scotiabank, McMaster University, and the Government of Canada.

Fun Fact: I’m currently writing my first poetry book – a book of people. Be a kind, interesting person and who knows, maybe you’ll become a poem too 😉

Scientific Advisors

Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde (he/him)
Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde (he/him)
Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. He trained and worked at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsely Hospitals in the UK before moving to Canada. He has worked as the Medical Director of the Early Psychosis Intervention Program for South East Ontario – Heads Up! As a specialist in both the addictions and psychiatry, Oyedeji has been actively involved in research and interventions aimed at awareness and reducing the risk of psychosis in youth and young adults. Oyedeji has additional qualifications in Research in Psychiatry (University College London), History of Medicine and an Executive MBA from Imperial College, London. He has received a number of knowledge and innovation awards including the Canadian Partners in Research, National Biomedical Science Ambassador Award (2019) for cannabis awareness initiatives.
Dr. Yarissa Herman (she/her)
Dr. Yarissa Herman (she/her)
Dr. Yarissa Herman is a clinical psychologist registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Western Australia where she completed her pre-doctoral internship with street-involved youth diagnosed mental health and addiction difficulties. Her doctoral research explored the relationship between cognitive functioning and outcomes in addiction treatment. Dr. Herman is currently a psychologist in the Complex Mental Illness Program at CAMH. The focus of her clinical and research work is the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based interventions for individuals with severe mental illness and concurrent substance use disorders. Alongside her clinical work, Dr. Herman provides training and supervision across a number of therapeutic modalities including cognitive behaviour therapy, motivational interviewing, and mindfulness-based interventions.
Dr. Phil Tibbo (he/him)
Dr. Phil Tibbo (he/him)
Dr. Tibbo is a Professor of Psychiatry and the Dr. Paul Janssen Chair in Psychotic Disorder at Dalhousie University, Halifax NS. He is also the Director of the Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program (NSEPP) and President of the Canadian Consortium for Early Intervention in Psychosis (CCEIP). Dr. Tibbo’s research includes studies of individuals at the early phase of, and individuals at risk for, a psychotic illness. He is a recipient of the Michael Smith Award from the SSC, the 2017 CAMIMH Champion of Mental Health Research/Clinician award and the 2018 RCPSC Specialist of the Year (Region 5).
Ilyas Khamis (he/him/them/they)
Ilyas Khamis (he/him/them/they)
Ilyas is a peer support worker at a First Episode Psychosis intervention clinic and has lived experience with cannabis use and psychosis. Ilyas has been spending the past year sharing his story at community forums focused on cannabis and psychosis to promote awareness about the risks of cannabis use and try to promote a balanced conversation around substance use. Ilyas is studying for a bachelor’s of social work. He lives with schizoaffective disorder, and was twice on the Cadet Men’s Epee National Team, Ilyas loves spending time at home with his partner.
Dr. Tom Bell (he/him)
Dr. Tom Bell (he/him)
Dr. Tom Bell spent 42 years as a family doctor and is a retired Adjunct Professor of Family Medicine, Queens University. His work with CMHA and the Cannabis and Youth Clinical Information Team led him to write a book for parents and caregivers, particularly in light of the legalization of cannabis. “Cannabis and Kids” is about the long lasting and in some cases permanent effects of cannabis on developing brains.

Project Management

Sarah Roht (she/her)
Sarah Roht (she/her)Project Manager
Sarah has a background that ranges from film production, website, graphic and interior design to administration and large scale event planning. All of which have common themes of management, problem solving, partnerships and creativity.

She found her passion in the Not for Profit sector as Operations/Project Manager for the Cannabis and Psychosis project for the Schizophrenia Society of Canada (SSC). The past six years of managing the project allowed her to focus and hone her skills by co-creating engaging evidence-based substance use health-related knowledge products, alongside the project’s Youth Action Committee. Drawing on her extensive management and design skills, Sarah helped create the Cannabis and Mental Health website, Course and Mentor Guide, to broaden the outreach to more youth and adult allies. Sarah also manages the team’s outreach, social media and workshops both virtually and in community. Fun fact: Sarah loves working with this fabulous team! being creative and her amazing family.

Past Youth Action Committee

Ally Campbell (she/her)
Ally Campbell (she/her)
A member of the MHCC Youth Council since March 2014, Ally enjoys finding new ways to learn and grow in the mental health landscape; through music and art, training and education, and networking to create a broader more cohesive mental health community in Canada. Ally was elected as Vice Chair in March 2017 and recently stepped up as Chair in March 2019.

Fun fact: Ally lives in Huron County, a farming community on the South-Eastern shores of Lake Huron. She enjoys photography, music, and hanging out with her partner and their three cats.

Anvita Desai (she/her)
Anvita Desai (she/her)
Anvita is currently pursuing a degree in Knowledge Integration with a minor in Cognitive Science at the University of Waterloo. She is passionate about working in the mental health sector, where she has been volunteering since she was 15! She hopes to continue to work with initiatives that value youth engagement, health equity, harm reduction and accessibility.

Fun Fact: Anvita loves reading, cooking, crocheting, and mental health equity for young people!

Leif Harris (he/him)
Leif Harris (he/him)
Leif is currently studying psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. He has numerous connections in his community in regards to the support of mental health. He has spoken at conferences and political summits involved with homelessness, substance use, and mental health. His skills and resources make him a valuable asset to the development of Exploring the Link.

Fun fact: Salutations! Leif is a spoken word artist from Ottawa, Ontario. He advocates for healthy living through the utilization of writing and mindfulness!

Teresa Chen (she/her)
Teresa Chen (she/her)
Teresa studies Medicine at the University of Alberta. Mental health has had a major impact in her life and the lives of her loved ones, leading her to join several local, provincial and national mental health projects including and ACCESS Open Minds. With cannabis legalization, she feels this project is incredibly relevant to Canada’s healthcare landscape.

Fun fact: Teresa welcomes you to our website! She is a medical student at University of Alberta, a mental health advocate and amateur chef.

Kristy Allen (she/her)
Kristy Allen (she/her)
Kristy is completing a Masters of Public Health at Simon Fraser University. She studies the social determinants of mental health, focusing on youth engagement in community programs. She is the BounceBack Youth Engagement Co-Lead at CMHA-BC, co-facilitating the Youth Advisory Committee and supporting research and program development.

Fun fact: Kristy loves yoga, playing piano, and hiking with her dog, Moose.

Dr. Jimmy Tan (he/him)
Dr. Jimmy Tan (he/him)
Jimmy is a youth mental health advocate with a neuroscience background, currently studying medicine at the University of Toronto. With this project, Jimmy extends a background in knowledge mobilization and community-driven services. He previously advised the creation of a youth-friendly version of Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines.

Fun fact: When Jimmy is not advocating for youth mental health, he can be found catching them all on the mobile game Pokémon GO (spoiler: he has not caught them all yet).

Maleesha Paskarathas (she/they)
Maleesha Paskarathas (she/they)Practicum Student - York University, Global Health
Maleesha is currently completing her degree in Global Health, specializing in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at York University. She studies the social determinants of health and understands the broader influences that shape one’s health. Maleesha is passionate about mental health and hopes to work in further strengthening the connection in fostering better mental health support and awareness amongst youth and families of various backgrounds such as immigrant, refugee, diaspora, and racialized individuals. With lived experience of challenging mental health issues herself and her brother who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Maleesha sees the importance of better connection in mental health services and cultural understanding on creating healthier societies.

Fun fact: Maleesha recently completed her degree in Global Health, at York University. Maleesha sees the importance of better connection in mental health services and cultural understanding on creating healthier societies and loves trees!

Ishani Sharma (she/her)
Ishani Sharma (she/her)Practicum Student - York University, Global Health
Ishani is currently studying Global Health at York University in Ontario, and enjoys film photography!

Past Strategic Advisors

Scott Ste Marie (he/him)
Scott Ste Marie (he/him)Past Strategic Advisor
Scott is the Founder of Depression to Expression, helping people take control of their mental health and discover the strength within themselves. Scott is a Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host and YouTuber reaching over 20 million people worldwide with his positive mental health content. He is thrilled to be part of this project to help youth make informed decisions about cannabis use.
Will Landon (he/him)
Will Landon (he/him)Past Indigenous Strategic Advisor
Waabishkigaabo (Will Landon) is a citizen of Wauzhushk Onigum Nation which is on the northern shores of Lake of the Woods in Ontario, he is of the Lynx Clan, and is Seventh Generation from the signing of Treaty #3. He is the proud father of a daughter.

Waabishkigaabo studied Political Studies at the University of Manitoba and represented Indigenous students as the Indigenous rep on the Student Union. From University he was elected to multiple youth representative positions at Grand Council Treaty #3, Ontario First Nation Young Peoples’ Council, and AFN National Youth Council. Holding multiple portfolios but focused primarily on mental health, social policy, and health policy.

Waabishkigaabo utilizes his experience in low context and high context culture relationship building to help create bridges between Canadian organizations and First Nations’ communities and people.

Kira London-Nadeau (she/her)
Kira London-Nadeau (she/her)Past Strategic Advisor
Kira holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Montreal where she studies cannabis and mental health in youth, particularly in sexual minorities. Her work/passion is centred around creating connections between science, policy and advocacy. Kira furthers this work as the Chair of the national organization Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Co-Founder of project VoxCann, a Montreal-based bilingual cannabis education initiative.
Katarina Gligorijevic (she/her)
Katarina Gligorijevic (she/her) YouthRex Research Assistant
Katarina Gligorijevic is a Research Associate at YouthREX, where she supports knowledge translation, as well as research and evaluation projects. She is committed to using data to drive social change, and has worked to advocate for cultural and youth-friendly urban spaces. Katarina studied Sociology at McGill, and went on to obtain a Master of Arts in Human Geography from the University of Toronto.
Chantal Phillips (she/her)
Chantal Phillips (she/her)YouthRex Research Assistant
Chantal Phillips is a medical student at the University of Toronto. Her research and advocacy interests include addressing oppression, with a specific focus on harm reduction and anti-Black racism in academic, political, and health-based contexts. She is currently working as a research assistant for YouthREX and project manager of the Black COVID Resilience Health Promotion Project with Black Health Alliance.

Translation team for Cannabis and Mental Health Project

Gaëlle Nicolussi (she/her) – Switzerland
Gaëlle, is originally from Switzerland, has a cocker spaniel and loves drawing!

Jérôme Lelièvre (he/him) – Montreal, QC
Jérôme sells legal cannabis, at a governmental store, in Montreal, and loves writing!

Mary Aucoin (she/her) – BC
Mary loves being around her loved ones!

Connor Lafortune (he/him) – Dokis First Nation, ON
Connor loves to surround himself in community!

Teen Advisory Committee

This committee consists of 12 teens across Canada, ages varying from 17-19. They gave feedback on course content aided in the general direction of the project. Teen Advisory Committee members include:

Analise Hoberg (AB)

Daniel Silva (ON)

Paige Schacher (BC)

Eric Normandeau (MB)

Jercin Elsa Koshy (ON)

Aislin McWilliam- Roht (ON)

Kelsey Mclean (NS)

Manny Pahwa (ON)

Alessandra Chiu (BC)

Hana Lalani (BC)

Katrina Moncayo (ON)

Lilly Garneau (BC)

Visuals Team

Brendan Carr (he/him)
Brendan Carr (he/him)Web Developer
With over two decades of experience in the industry, Brendan is a skilled developer and technician. He has helped hundreds of clients with tech support and web development in the Fraser Valley.
Seb Jagoe (he/him)
Seb Jagoe (he/him)Web Developer
Seb Jagoe is a web designer and developer who loves working with organizations and individuals trying to do good in the world!
Cory Ingwersen (he/him)
Cory Ingwersen (he/him)Web Designer
Cory is a Professional designer, amateur adventurer. He is also a cultivator of indoor homegrown organic cannabis.
Rob Comeau (he/him)
Rob Comeau (he/him) Video Editor
Rob has been creating videos since he was 12 years old. Today, he continues to help everyone he can scale with video!
 Payton Mikrogianakis (she/her)
Payton Mikrogianakis (she/her)Graphic Designer
Payton studies design and law, but is at her happiest when crocheting, horseback riding, and spending money at antique markets (not all at the same time).

CEO of Schizophrenia Society of Canada

Chris Summerville (he/him)
Chris Summerville (he/him)
As a family member (father and brother with Bi-Polar Disorder, a brother with schizophrenia, siblings living with depression, and two suicides in his family) and a recipient of mental health services himself, Chris has been the executive director of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society since 1995 and has served as the CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada for the last eleven years. With an earned doctorate from Dallas Theological Seminary, he is a Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Recovery Practitioner (CPRRP). As a regional, provincial and national leader and advocate for a transformed, recovery-oriented mental health system (services) he believes that mental health concerns should be addressed from a holistic and person- centred philosophy: bio-psycho-social-spiritual-recovery-empowerment, and community perspective.