Keynote Speakers

Tanya Talaga

Opening Plenary, Friday, June 26

9:00 – 10:15

All our relations: Finding the path forward

Stemming from her award-winning book Seven Fallen Feathers, the story of seven Indigenous high school students who mysteriously died in Thunder Bay, Tanya Talaga creates an intimate experience for her audiences. She imparts audiences with in-depth knowledge on Indigenous culture and history, while leaving them empowered through a hopeful message that we can learn from our past and set forward on a new path based on inclusivity and equity.


An award-winning journalist and author, and the First Ojibway woman to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures, Tanya Talaga is an acclaimed storyteller. Her book Seven Fallen Feathers, a national bestseller that introduced us to seven Indigenous high school students who mysteriously died in Thunder Bay, won the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize. In her powerful keynotes, Talaga shares Indigenous stories from across Canada and the world, humanizing the legacy of residential schools and colonization and sharing her hope for a more inclusive and equitable future.

Talaga is of Polish and Indigenous descent. Her great-grandmother was a residential school survivor and her great-grandfather was an Ojibwe trapper and labourer. For the past 20 years, Talaga has worked as a journalist, and is now a columnist for The Toronto Star. She has been nominated five times for the Michener Award in public service journalism. From 2017-2018, Talaga was the Atkinson Fellow in Public Policy through The Canadian Journalism Foundation.

Talaga is also the bestselling author of two books All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward and Seven Fallen Feathers, which also won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, and the First Nation Communities Read: Young Adult/Adult Award. The book was a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize and the BC National Award for Nonfiction, and named CBC’s Nonfiction Book of the Year and a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book.

In addition to the CBC Massey Lectures — a renowned lecture series that travels to cities across Canada — Talaga has also spoken to diverse audiences ranging from university students and school children to corporate and non-profit organizations.

The Honourable Wanda Thomas Bernard,
PhD, C.M., O.N.S.
Senator – Nova Scotia (East Preston)

Closing Plenary, Sunday, June 28

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard was appointed to the Senate in November 2016 as an Independent Senator, based on her community work, her frontline social work in Nova Scotia, and her work at Dalhousie University School of Social Work. Senator Bernard was the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights during the last Parliamentary session. The committee has been studying the rights of federally-sentenced persons. In May 2018, Senator Bernard introduced an inquiry into Anti-Black racism to the Senate. Stemming from this work, she sponsored Bill S-255, the Emancipation Day bill, which would nationally recognize August 1st as this historically significant day. Although this bill was dropped from the Order Paper upon the dissolution of the 42nd Parliament, Senator Bernard plans to continue this important work in the new Parliament.

Senator Bernard has deep roots in the Preston Township and currently lives with her husband, George Bernard, on one of the original land grants that her ancestors received in East Preston. She is a member of the East Preston United Baptist Church, where she serves as an Elder and is Vice-President of the EP Empowerment Academy.  Senator Bernard is the first African Nova Scotian women to be appointed to the Senate.

Senator Bernard is one of four founding members of the Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW) in 1979 and remains active in the organization. Senator Bernard speaks at many community events across the country, focusing on connecting with youth, social workers, and African Canadian communities. You can find Senator Bernard on Twitter and Facebook, @SenatorWanda, so feel free to check out her social media.

Michael Ungar

Presentation: Closing Plenary, Sunday, June 28

10:45 – 12:30

Helping those Who Help Nurture and Maintain Their Resilience

Sustaining our resilience as caregivers can be challenge during times of tremendous change or stress. Based on Dr. Ungar’s research around the world and his clinical practice, this presentation will explore how those who help others can avoid burnout and maintain their own resilience when stressors pile up at home and on the job. With examples from his latest book, Change Your World, Dr. Ungar will explore 12 factors that make us more resilient as adults, along with practical tools audience members can use to find the resources they need to cope successfully in culturally and contextually relevant ways. Using the concepts of navigation and negotiation that are key to understanding resilience, Dr. Ungar will outline strategies we can use to succeed. Finally, Dr. Ungar will talk about vicarious resilience, the positive impact we experience as helpers when we nurture resilience in others.


Michael Ungar, Ph.D., is a family therapist and professor of social work at Dalhousie University, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience. With over $10M in funded research, Dr. Ungar’s clinical work and research spans more than a dozen low, middle, and high-income countries, with much of that work focused on the resilience of marginalized children and families, including those in care, and adult populations experiencing mental health challenges. Dr. Ungar has published over 180 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on the subject of resilience and is the author of 15 books for mental health professionals, researchers and parents. These include Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and The True Path to Success, a book for adults experiencing stress at work and at home, Working with Children and Youth with Complex Needs, a book for professionals, and I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need from Their Parents, an inspiring story of family resilience written for caregivers and educators. His blog, Nurturing Resilience, can be read on Psychology Today’s website.

Keynote Panel, Saturday, June 27

9:00 – 10:15

Peers are doing it for themselves: Conversations with leaders from care about the different ways of doing youth engagement & empowerment

Around the world, young people in and from care are leading movements for change. Day 2 of the IFCO conference kicks off with a peer facilitated and led panel that highlights the young leaders who are building a movement for change in Canada’s child welfare system. Join us for a frank and enlightening conversation with young leaders from care on the ways they practice youth engagement and empowerment within their communities, from grassroots community-based organizing, formalized networks to advising government from within. You’ll learn about the strengths they rely on and challenges they face in their advocacy work, youth engagement and empowerment best practices, and the lessons these young leaders have learned along the way.

Ashley Dawn Louise Bach

Ashley Dawn Louise Bach is a former youth in care who grew up in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and is a member of the Mishkeegogamang First Nation located in Northwestern Ontario. She is currently the President of Youth in Care Canada, and is also a member of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s Oshkaatisak (All Young Peoples’) Council. In her leadership positions and personal life, Ashley works to address issues related to youth in/from care, in particular the challenges faced by Indigenous youth. Ashley is committed in advocating for child welfare reform across Canada that is guided by the voices of those with lived experience.

Zoe Bourgeois

Zoe Bourgeois started her employment with Partners for Youth Inc. in December 2016. She is the Program Coordinator for the New Brunswick Youth in Care Network. Zoe obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Criminology in 2014 and her Bachelor of Social Work in 2016.

Zoe was a former youth leader for the New Brunswick Youth in Care Network since 2011. Zoe has also been a voice for the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation since 2007 for foster children and older child adoptions. In Zoe’s free time she is a photographer. She is committed to providing affordable photography to low or no-income families because she believes every family deserves a record of their memorable moments.

Zoe grew up in the foster care system and was eventually adopted out at the age of 15.

Dylan Cohen

Dylan Cohen is a former youth in care and community organizer who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. As a Métis youth from care he grew up in a system plagued by inadequate resources, irresponsible outcomes, and a serious need for change. As a change-maker, Dylan brings contemporary organizing principles to the longstanding foster kid advocacy present across Turtle Island, joining peers across the country in provincial and federal child welfare policy conversations. Dylan seeks to bring justice to youth who have left care through creative policy organizing, and leads campaigns to support youth with guaranteed, comprehensive supports after leaving care.

Dylan has been the lead with Fostering Change in BC as it gathers political momentum through youth organizing and public policy advocacy. Dylan is supported in his work with youth from care across the province through mentors, community organizers, and teams of youth leaders seeking to change outcomes for all youth from care. Before Fostering Change, Dylan founded and led public policy campaigns, notably 25not21, which challenged provincial policy through creative direct action and strategic storytelling. Since leaving Manitoba, he’s worked with youth in various capacities and was’s Project Coordinator.

Dylan’s a trained facilitator, a public speaker, and advocate. Connect with him on Twitter (dylscoh) & Facebook.

Melanie Doucet

Melanie Doucet is a former youth in care originally from New Brunswick who has been working to improve the lives of children and youth in and from care for more than 15 years through her academic work and community engagement. Currently, Melanie is a PhD candidate and sessional instructor at McGill University’s School of Social Work, and is a recipient of SSHRC and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Doctoral scholarships. She is a board member of the International Foster Care Organization (IFCO), and is also the co-founder of the Montreal Youth in Care Alumni Student Association (MYCASA), a peer support group for former youth in care pursuing post-secondary education. Stemming from her unique experience as a youth in care, Melanie’s main research interests are rooted in issues that affect youth in and from foster care. Her doctoral research, Relationships Matter for Youth ‘Aging Out’ of Care, examines the pathways to supportive long-term relationships for youth exiting government care at the age of majority.

Melanie is a frequent public speaker on the importance of relationships and fostering resilience for youth in and from care, and has organized multiple panels with other youth in care alumni in various academic and community settings across the country. She continuously aspires to become a university professor, a research consultant, an author, a motivational speaker, and a mentor to and advocate for youth involved in the child welfare system.

Jennifer Dupuis

Jennifer Dupuis is an alumnus of care from Quebec and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work from McGill University. She is the co-founder and current President of CARE Jeunesse, the Quebec youth in care network and is a board member of the Child Welfare League of Canada. Jennifer is passionate about empowering youth in/from care and is providing them a platform to share their voices on issues that affect them. In her professional role, she has helped to develop the Youth Empowerment Program at Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, and has worked in residential care and as a frontline Youth Protection Social Worker. She is currently a Clinical Activity Specialist in the Montreal youth protection system. In recognition of her work, Jennifer was the recipient of the 2018 Leviers award from the Quebec National Assembly and the 2019 Community Organization award from the Montreal Community Cares Foundation.

Meredith Graham

Meredith is a grateful visitor on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. She is a person, proudly, from government care, a spoken word artist, a youth advisor with the Ministry of Children and Family Development of British Columbia, and an advocate for change inside our child welfare, mental health, and educational systems. Meredith holds a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care Counselling. She journeys with five mental illnesses and weaves those stories into her workshop facilitating, keynote presenting, and consulting. She is a recipient of the Coast Mental Health’s 2016 Courage to Come Back Award. Meredith believes in the possibility and responsibility of community in becoming instruments in a person’s symphony of resiliency. 

Cheyanne Ratnam

Cheyanne Ratnam is a former youth in care and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work. In 2016, she was the recipient of York University’s Bryden ‘One to Watch’ Alumni Award. Currently, she is a child advocate, an independent consultant, a public speaker, a post-secondary educator in the social services sector, and the primary investigator of the Family and Permanency Project/Study which engages young people in systems of care across Ontario to explore conceptualizations of permanency and family-making. She was also the Phase 2 project coordinator at A Way Home Toronto, focused on youth homelessness. Cheyenne is highly passionate about youth homelessness, youth in/from the child welfare system, educational outcomes of vulnerable populations, childhood sexual abuse, youth development, mobilization and ethical engagement, equity issues and human rights issues regarding marginalized populations.

Cheyanne is a founding member of the Ontario Children’s Advocacy Coalition (OCAC), and is on the board of directors of the Scarborough West Community Legal Clinic, the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, as well as a member of the Children in Limbo Taskforce. She is also a survivor and advocate for childhood sexual abuse survivors. She is also an ambassador of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, and is actively engaged in various communities through her volunteerism.

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