Moderator: Leen Al Zaibak
Leen grew up in Toronto where she received her Honorary Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Trinity College, University of Toronto. After working for the Ontario Attorney General, she pursued her post-graduate studies and received her Masters degree in International Relations from the University of Manchester in England. Following her graduation, Leen moved to Damascus where she managed a World Bank supported project at a Syrian NGO. In 2011 Leen co-founded the international NGO Jusoor that focuses on continuing the education of Syrians in the midst of the crisis affecting the country. Leen has over three years experience in the Ontario Provincial Parliament and has worked in the Minister’s Office of the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of the Attorney General, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Education and most recently in Ministry of Children and Youth Services as Policy Advisor.
Omar Alghabra is a long-time resident and community activist in Mississauga. Omar completed his Mechanical Engineering degree at Ryerson University. To pay for his formal education, he worked at a donut shop, a gas station and a convenience store, where he received another kind of education. Those experiences allowed him to work with and serve people from all walks of life, and hearing the stories of those Canadians were his first motivations to get involved in the community. Omar went on to earn an MBA from York University. He built his career by taking on several managerial roles at General Electric Canada and other private corporations. He served on the Toronto Star Community Editorial Board and authored columns on both local and national issues. He also dedicated time to supporting initiatives that empowered new Canadians and promoted economic and social integration.
Inspired by his first-hand experience of the challenges and opportunities faced by everyday Canadians, Omar’s community service evolved into political activism. In 2006, Omar was elected as Member of Parliament for the riding of Mississauga-Erindale. As an MP Omar championed political accountability, immigration reforms, equal human rights, foreign policy, infrastructure funding, energy and the environment. During his time as MP, Omar helped resolve hundreds of individual problems for local constituents, tabled bills on protecting employee rights and balancing civil liberties with security laws, and pushed for improved funding of Mississauga Transit. In addition to his work for the community, Omar served in the Liberal Shadow Cabinet as Citizenship and Immigration Critic and later as Natural Resources Critic. Omar is presently Distinguished Visiting Professor at The Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science at Ryerson Univerity and Senior Strategic Consultant at the Ontario Energy Board.
Boudjenane is a Moroccan-born journalist. He served in the Bob Rae NDP government as a staffer to cabinet minister Gilles Pouliot until 1995. He joined the Franco-Ontario television station TFO in 1995, and served as a reporter there for ten years. He switched careers again, in 2005 and served as the Executive Director of the Canadian Arab Federation until 2009. Over the years he has been part of many human-rights organizations and boards. Since 2010, he is a civil servant in the Ontario provincial government.
Boudjenane came to Canada at the age of 20 to study international economics and communications at Laval University. During this time, he worked at Quebec City's City Hall, and was a reporter and board director for the local campus radio station, CKRL-FM. In 1989, Boudjenane moved to Ontario to become a political advisor and then executive assistant to the Minister of Transportation and Francophone Affairs, where he spent four years working on a broad set of policy issues for the provincial government. In 1995, Boudjenane joined the provincial broadcaster TFO as bureau chief for the Ontario Legislative Assembly. For the next ten years he covered Ontario politics for Ontario’s leading Francophone public affairs program, Panorama. He was also a regular panelist discussing provincial political affairs for CBLA's Metro Morning, and he contributed pieces to CBC Radio’s Dispatches, as well as the Moroccan segment of an award-winning documentary on terrorist networks that was co-produced internationally by CBC, The New York Times, and PBS.
In 2006, Boudjenane sought the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) nomination to run in the Pardale-High Park by-election to replace outgoing Ontario Liberal Party Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Gerard Kennedy. Boudjenane was defeated for the NDP nomination by United Church minister Cheri DiNovo. DiNovo defeated Liberal candidate Sylvia Watson and is now the Parkdale—High Park MPP. On July 9, 2007, Boudjenane was acclaimed as the NDP's provincial candidate in Etobicoke North.He ran against Liberal party MPP Shafiq Qaadri and Mohamed Kassim of the Progressive Conservative party, the first time in Ontario history that all-three candidates from major parties were Muslim.
Maria has lived in Belgium, Tunisia, Egypt and Montreal, Canada, before moving to Toronto in 2011. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from McGill University before working at the Center for International Governance Innovation as an Event and Research Assistant. She then received her Master of Arts in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. Following her graduation, she worked as an international development coordinator for the Women’s Information Network. She volunteers with several community organizations that work with young girls to help them achieve their goals. Maria currently serves as policy advisor to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.
Anthony Salloum has a BSc in Biology and a Masters in Public Administration. He has been active in politics since he was 18 years old, first with the Liberal Party, then with the NDP, starting in 1997 when he opened Halifax MP and former NDP Leader Alexa McDonough’s constituency office and worked as an advocate for constituents on their immigration, tax, social services, housing, and other problems.He was promoted to the position of media and communications assistant, and eventually brought to the NDP Leader’s Office as her Atlantic Canada liaison and communications assistant. Following her resignation as Leader, Anthony was named Ms. McDonough’s communications and legislative assistant, serving as her policy advisor on all foreign affairs, international development and post-secondary education issues. He also provided policy advice to her successor, the late Jack Layton on foreign affairs and international development.
In 2007, Anthony Salloum co-founded the Rideau Institute on International Affairs. As program director, he was responsible for files on human rights, defence and security, space security, and nuclear disarmament. He has written opinion pieces and appeared on CTV and CBC as a commentator on various issues. Anthony is recognized for having an in-depth understanding of Canada’s parliamentary system and an extensive network of MPs and staff from all political stripes on the Hill. He returned to Parliament Hill in 2010 and currently serves as Assistant to the Chief Opposition Whip, Nycole Turmel, helping to run the Opposition Lobby and responsible for matters related to the NDP’s role as Official Opposition in the House of Commons.