Canada Board and Committee

Human Rights Watch Canada Board of Directors

Deane Collinson, Chair

Deane joined the HRW Canada Committee in 2006 after attending a powerful HRW photo exhibit where Sr. Researcher, Anneke Van Woudenberg and photographer Marcus Bleasdale presented the report “The Curse of Gold in D.R Congo”. He was inspired by their courage and tenaciousness to not only get the facts of the atrocities, but to have met with and photographed the dangerous warlords surrounded by child soldiers carrying guns and machetes, often with severed limbs. From that point forward, Deane committed himself to HRW and its’ amazing people who are even willing to risk their lives to shine a light on and advocate for victims of human rights abuses. In 2016, Deane became even more involved, initiating and co-chairing the HRW Canada Children’s Rights Circle to focus on supporting and advocating in this area. At that time, he also became a member of the Executive Committee. In 2019, Deane joined the HRW Canada Board and was elected Chair in January 2022. Deane spent most of his business career as a senior executive in the retail food industry and continues to be involved with a number of other local charities. 

Ahmad Attia 

When Ahmad Attia's family learned that a loved one had been unlawfully arrested in Egypt, he was thrust into campaigning, media, and government advocacy. Ahmad initiated an international campaign to release his family member from solitary confinement and bring him back to Canada with the help of his family, friends, and thousands of Canadians. It was around this time that Ahmad met Human Rights Watch (HRW) for the first time. HRW researchers helped to uncover the human rights violations committed against his family member. 

Ultimately, it was in response to this experience that Ahmad formed the public relations and government affairs firm Incisive Strategy. In collaboration with HRW researchers, Inclusive Strategy has fought to uncover the truth and deliver justice to those who have been wrongfully imprisoned by authoritarian governments, armed conflict zones, and prosecute war crimes at the International Criminal Court. Ahmad has worked extensively with the Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council to call attention to situations of human rights breaches all around the world. 

Ahmad's commitment for human rights activism has led him to serve on the Peel Police Services Board, where he is leading the charge to tackle systematic racism in policing using a human rights framework and to reform police responses to mental health issues. 

Ahmad’s high regard for HRW led him to expand the awareness and support for HRW Canada among many Canadians. Ahmad joined HRW’s International Justice Circle in 2021 and was invited to join the HRW Canada Board of Directors in early 2022. 

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston 

Margaret was invited to join the Canada Committee of HRW in 2013, shortly after she retired from a 37 year career in government, both Canadian and Ontario. She has followed China’s human rights issues since her first visit to the country in 1979 to see the Xidan Democracy Wall and talk to the students and workers who were putting up big character posters calling for the Chinese regime to introduce elements of democracy in their system. Margaret has a Masters of International Relations focussed on China and speaks basic Mandarin. After the Tiananmen massacre she and her family welcomed into their home a Chinese professor of economics who could not return as he was calling for political reform. While her government responsibilities included helping China to build their science and technology capacity, the kidnapping of innocent Canadians in 2014 and 2018 to hold hostage in state-to-state relations caused her to advise the Canadian Government, along with HRW, on the release of Kevin Garratt, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and to speak out in the media on their unjust incarcerations. 

The HRW Summits in Chicago, Berlin and Los Angeles were pivotal events for Margaret, including a speaking on panel at the Berlin Summit about Canada’s policies regarding human rights in China. Hearing in-person reports from HRW researchers posted in challenging regions all over the world was tremendously motivating, and for a number of years she accompanied HRW researchers to their meetings with Canadian Government officials on how Canada could effectively defend human rights at the UN and in other international fora. She has also been a member of a team in Ottawa resettling Chinese human rights defenders in Canada. In 2022 Margaret was invited to join the HRW Canada Board of Directors which reviews and approves funding for projects supported by Canadian donors. She brings to this role years of government experience regarding program and project management. At the same time, she is continuing her work as a Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa and a Board Member of the China Risks Institute and the Canadian International Council (NCR). 

Kate Robertson 

Kate Roberson is a criminal and regulatory litigation lawyer at Markson Law in Toronto, where she also advises institutions, boards and directors/officers on a range of regulatory and governance matters. Kate has also acted as a Research Fellow at The Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto since 2018. She previously acted as a provincial Crown prosecutor in Ontario, as a Law Clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada, and in human rights research and advocacy in the non-profit sector. Kate is active in the legal community and has provided pro bono services to public interests organizations in human rights and constitutional cases before the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Kate joined the HRW Canada Board in 2021 in order to contribute to and support HRW’s work as a defender of human rights. Throughout her legal career, Kate has had the opportunity to observe the vital importance and success of the scrupulous research methodologies employed by HRW to investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and bring those with power to account by securing justice and respect for rights. HRW’s vital fact-finding role and methodology is what caused Kate to join the Board to serve in her advisory capacity. 

Canada Committee

The Canada Committee seeks to increase awareness of local and global human rights issues and enlist the public and governments to support basic rights for all. Committee members meet regularly to learn about human rights crises and policies and support Human Rights Watch through outreach, education and fundraising initiatives.

Membership in the Human Rights Watch Canada Committee provides an inside perspective on one of the most exciting and effective international organizations. Founded in 2002, the Canada Committee is composed of more than 50 opinion leaders from a variety of backgrounds. It was launched out of the belief that an informed and engaged constituency is essential for the defense of fundamental freedoms.

Canada Committee members have access to regular briefings by Human Rights Watch investigators, senior government officials, and informed observers. These sessions provide a unique and sophisticated perspective on breaking news and today’s most serious global problems. Canada Committee members strengthen Human Rights Watch and its global defense of essential liberties by contributing financially, attracting potential supporters, and promoting the organization’s message and concerns.

Co-Chairs: Susan Guichon and Michelle Meneley
Canada Director: Farida Deif
Senior Associate Director: Alison Thornton
Officer: Danielle Foster
Coordinator: Elaheh Sajadi
Coordinator: Anthoula Bourolias
Coordinator: Danielle Mulima
Associate: Bianca Balut

Khaled Al-Qazzaz
Jennifer Baichwal
Suresh Bhalla
Lindsay Blakely
Amanda Carling
Meredith Cartwright
Michael Charles
Deane Collinson
Judy Collinson
Kathryn Cottingham
Nick De Pencier
Brenda Dinnick, Founding Chair
Sarah Dinnick
Jacques Frémont
Nancy Hamm
Donna Ivey
Mary Johnston
Wendy Keys, Founding Member
Raja Khouri
Elizabeth Levitt
Louise Levitt
Sheena Macdonald
Michael MacMillan
Margaret McCuaig-Johnston
Judy McLean
Tess Mclean
Warda Shazadi Meighen
Errol Mendes
Sarah Milroy
John Monahan
Vina Nadjibulla
John Packer
Andrew Park
Penny Pepperell
Robert Peterson
Chip Pitfield
Mary Rolland
Andrea Russell
Caitlin Sainsbury
Kim Samuel
Vinay Sarin
Bruce Simpson
Donna Slaight
Heather Spinks
Helga Stephenson, Founding Chair

Sally Armstrong
Lloyd Axworthy
Atom Egoyan
Bernie Farber
Paul Heinbecker
Norman Jewison
Stephen Lewis
Margaret MacMillan
Deepa Mehta
Allan Rock
Brian Stewart

Visit our Canada country page for more information on our work in Canada.  See our Canada office for information on upcoming events and initiatives, and links to our social media channels.