Human Rights & Equity
Human Rights and Equity Caucus

Every year the Ontario Nurses’ Association hosts a Human Rights and Equity Caucus. It is an opportunity for ONA members to come together to focus on education and to create an awareness of the human rights and equity issues occurring in their workplaces and communities.

Members can hope to find support in any of the five equity groups, as they challenge discriminatory practices within the health-care system. The five equity groups are:

  • Francophone Members
  • Indigenous Members
  • LGBTQ2IS Members
  • Members with disabilities
  • Racialized Members

ONA members from these groups are able to meet in smaller caucuses to share stories, identify common issues, provide support, and share strategies that will assist them in their places of work.

The Caucus also provides an opportunity for ONA members who are allies and friends in the fight against discrimination to show support and solidarity for their colleagues, to share their insights, and to take part in the solutions.

2022 Human Rights and Equity Caucus

The 2022 Human Rights and Equity Caucus will be held on Monday, October 31st, 2022 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto.

The theme for this year’s Caucus education session is Truth and Reconciliation: History, Healing and Hope.

If you need any assistance with your registration, please contact our Event Registration team by email at or by phone at 416-964-8833 or 1-800-387-5580 (toll free).

2022 Caucus Agenda

Time (EST) Agenda Item
0730 Sunrise Ceremony – optional
0800 Zoom Digital Waiting Room – opens
0830 Meeting Commences
0835 Indigenous Land Recognition
0840 Welcome from Cathryn Hoy, President and Dawn Armstrong, Vice-President Region 1, HRE Portfolio
0855 Speaker: Kelly Brownbill Reconciliation defined; Calls to Action in Healthcare
0930 Break – Screening #1 Blood & Water – Layla Staats
1000 Speaker: Daniel Stevens Land Acknowledgement/Treaty Education
1145 Lunch (Includes performance by Layla Staats)
1245 Introduction to Communities of Support and breakout sessions
1300 Equity Group Breakout sessions:
  • Allied Members
  • Francophone Members
  • Indigenous Members
  • LGBTQ2IS Members
  • Members with disabilities
  • Racialized Members
1430 Break – Screening #2 Blood & Water – Layla Staats
1500 Speaker: Darrel McLeod What does Reconciliation Mean to you
1620 Wrap up
1700 Adjourn

2022 Guest Speakers

Elder Gail Whitlow


Gail Whitlow is Mohawk, born into the Bear Clan of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). Since she was 25 years old, her life has been dedicated to fostering traditional ceremonies that allow connection to Spirit. Gail is the 13th Grandmother on the Turtle Island Council. She is a strong presence in the Grandmothers movement worldwide, and has been instrumental in creating the Grandmothers Circle the Earth Foundation. As medicine person working with visualization tools and traditional healing methods, Gail is led by guidance from the spirit world to connect with ancestors and animal totems. She owns the Ancestral Voices Healing Centre in Ohsweken, Ontario on the Six Nations Reserve.

Layla Staats

Layla Staats is an Indigenous Film Maker, Speaker, and Activist. Layla is a 4th generation survivor of residential schools in Canada and stands to inspire others like her, who are on their own reclamation story. Her activism for water protection and water rights for First Nations Communities has taken her on a journey across Turtle Island and her gift for teaching and connecting has left lasting impacts on young and old. Layla has produced her own short documentaries, one of which will be screened at this year’s Caucus. She offers screenings, workshops and discussion panels to continue to spread education about Indigenous perspectives.

Kelly Brownbill

Kelly Brownbill’s spirit name, Wabunnoongakikwe, means Woman Who Comes from the East and she is proud to be WabizhashiDodem, Marten Clan. She is a member of the Flat Bay community of the Mi’kmaq Nation in Newfoundland. She currently lives near Barrie, Ontario and has been an active member of the Indigenous community in this area for the past 30 years. Kelly believes that enhanced knowledge is the key to successful Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relationships, whether it be employee/employer relations or in collaborating with Aboriginal communities and organizations. She believes that it is important to provide balanced understanding of historical issues and is adept at enhancing the learner’s knowledge in a manner that utilizes humour, kindness and compassion.

Daniel M. Stevens

I am a Citizen of Nipissing First Nation and Director of Education for Nipissing First Nation. Previous to this role I was an elected Band Councillor in 2021 and was a full-time teacher at Northern Secondary School in Sturgeon Falls for 19 years. I was highly active within OSSTF at all levels. I also worked with the OFL, CTF, and PHE on various committees. I consult privately with labour councils, organizations, other unions, and federations as a means to work towards the awakening that Canada must achieve before we can honestly examine the truth of our relationship. I continue my work as an educator working with the ministry, boards, and schools on behalf of my Nation, Nipissing and the Chiefs of Ontario and influencing Indigenous Education Policy and integration in Provincial classrooms. I am an avid coach, director of athletics at my school, and treasurer for my local athletics association for secondary school athletics NDA. I bring indigenous ways of knowing the Nipissing people to every classroom. I am the father to a child with significant developmental delays and rare conditions and advocate for his inclusion as an athlete to perform for his school.

Darrel McLeod

Darrel J. McLeod is the author of Peyakow and Mamaskatch, which received the Govenor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction. He is Cree from treaty eight territory in Northern Alberta. Before deciding to pursue writing in his retirement, McLeod was a chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations. He holds degrees in French literature and education from the University of British Columbia. He lives in Sooke, British Columbia.

Our Human Rights and Equity Team

Dawn Armstrong

Dawn is the Regional Vice President serving Region 1. She has been a Registered Nurse for 32 years and a member of Local 81 Dryden Regional Health Centre. Dawn also holds the Portfolio of Human Rights and Equity on the ONA Board of Directors and more recently chairs the Anti Racism Advisory Team. She is very proud of the innovative ideas this team have come up with to highlight and elevate the HRE profile. It has been a great three years and she will continue in this role and looks forward to the work to come.

Annie Mazmanian

Annie has been a passionate, courageous, and benevolent critical care registered nurse in the Niagara Health Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Department for 17 years. NH is part of Region 4 and is represented by Local 26. Annie is a practicing registered nurse psychotherapist under the College of Nurses of Ontario. She runs a private Facebook group called The Nervous Nurse to help empower other nurses to share their stories surrounding mental health and awareness. Annie co-facilitates a nurse-run nurse-to-nurse peer support group within her hospital to better support her coworkers during challenging times. Annie recently joined ONA’s HRE committee in January of 2022 as the new Disabilities rep for Region 4. Annie is also her local ICU rep and attends many HAC meetings. She is a proud mental health advocate for healthcare professionals. She hopes to break down the stigma surrounding mental health to raise awareness that mental health is still health and that it challenges all healthcare professionals.

Brittany Hertz

Brittany has been a registered nurse for 11 years in various positions ranging from Surgery, Nursing Reserve Unit, Emergency Department, and Cardiac Care Unit. Currently, Brittany works as a Clinical Nurse Educator in Professional Practice at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, Local 134, Region 4. Brittany joined the Anti Racism Advisory Team in 2021 as an Indigenous representative. She has played a part in offering an Indigenous perspective for upcoming ONA events and plans.

Irma Wakegijig

With a Nursing career spanning almost 3 decades and bearing witness to many changes in health care, Irma has been an advocate for people living with Serious Mental Illness. With a career start on a medical floor and NICU, Irma developed a passion for Mental Health Nursing early on while working on Mental health inpatient units, PICU and finally in community. She has worked with clients living with dual diagnosis, mood disorders, personality disorders, addictions and psychotic disorders and has supported them not only with medical treatment but with her commitment to continuous learning in the areas of CBT, CBTP, DBT and Trauma informed care. Most recently she started working with Early Psychosis Intervention program with the intention to make the first episode of psychosis the last, for those she works with.  Irma is a valued member of the Human Rights & Equity Team representing Indigenous members.

Jasen Richards

Jasen is a Registered Nurse with London Health Sciences Centre, Local 100, Region 5. He has proudly served on the Provincial Human Rights & Equity Team. Jasen is proud to be a member of the LGBT Community and ONA.

Karina Saavedra

Karina has been a registered nurse for 10 years in the family birthing centre at Montfort Hospital, Local 42, Region 2. Karina has been extensively involved with ONA since 2016. currently she is the treasurer for Local 42.  Karina has worn many different hats at the bargaining unit level including being on the negotiation team, attending HAC meetings, being the acting bargaining unit president and most recently, Karina is the proud Francophone representative on the Human Rights & Equity Team.

Leanne Cooke

Manager, Labour Relations Assistants/Project Teams

 Leanne started her career with the Ontario Nurses’ Association as a Labour Relations Assistant in the Hamilton office 33 years ago.  Since that time, Leanne has held numerous positions within the organization and most recently, in April of this year became the Manager for the Regional LRAs. As this is where she started with ONA, Leanne has said managing this team is like coming full circle.  Leanne undertook the role of Project Manager for the Human Rights and Equity Team in January of 2019 and is honoured to work with the HRE team to advocate for the equal treatment of all members.

Brigitte Goar

Labour Relations Officer, London Office, Region 5

 Brigitte has been a Registered Nurse for the past 25 years, working in the Emergency Department for 21 of those years. For the last 4 years Brigitte has worked for ONA as a Labour Relations Officer out of the London office in Region 5.  Previous to that, Brigitte was the Bargaining Unit President at the hospital where she worked; and joined the Human Rights and Equity team as the Indigenous representative. Brigitte was then accepted into the Secondment Program with ONA, which lead her to her current position. Just recently she joined the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee within ONA.

Catherine Gendron

Labour Relations Officer, Membership Education Team

Catherine (Cat) Gendron (she/her) is a Labour Relations Officer on the ONA Membership Education Team and Region 4 Prime. Cat joined ONA in January 2021 with many years of experience working in the labour movement both as an elected leader and staff. In addition to her work within the labour movement, she has been involved in numerous anti-poverty, climate justice, social justice, and racial justice organizations and community groups. Cat is passionate about workers’ rights and is dedicated to the pursuit of a just and equitable society for all.

Kieran Maxwell

Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression Specialist

Kieran joined ONA in 2018 as a Servicing Labour Relations Officer and then an Educating Labour Relations Officer. Prior to joining ONA, Kieran was a Public Health Nurse at York Region Public Health and served a number of roles, including Bargaining Unit President. Kieran also gained extensive experience as a Mental Health Nurse at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences where she worked in the Dual Diagnosis and Adolescent populations.  Kieran now enjoys her role as the Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression (ARAO) Specialist at ONA where she will help guide ONA’s ongoing ARAO work.

Pauline Lefebvre Hinton

Human Rights & Equity Specialist, Litigation Department

Pauline Lefebvre Hinton is an RN and a lawyer.  She joined ONA in 1991 and has worked for over 20 years as a litigator representing ONA initially in pay equity matters and then at grievance arbitrations and Ontario Labour Relations Board proceedings.  She is currently a Human Rights & Equity Specialist.  In this position, she provides organizational support and resources on human rights and equity issues including development of policies and guidelines.  Prior to coming to ONA Pauline worked as an RN for 8 years in an adult medical surgical and cardiac ICU at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington and 18 months in a pediatric and step-down neonatal unit at McMaster Hospital in Hamilton.

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