Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner
Renu Mandhane is the former Executive Director of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. She has an LL.M in international human rights law from New York University, and is a recognized expert. Renu sits on the Canada Committee of Human Rights Watch, and has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada and the United Nations. She has also trained Canadian and foreign judges through the National Judicial Institute of Canada. Renu has worked at several domestic and international organizations to advance women's human rights, and has represented survivors of domestic and sexual violence and federally sentenced prisoners. Renu was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission in October 2015.
Ruth Goba is a lawyer who has worked both domestically and internationally on issues related to economic and social rights (ESR), with a particular focus on women’s rights. Before joining the OHRC, Ruth worked for an international NGO in India on women’s housing, land, property and inheritance rights and with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. Upon her return to Canada, she worked with the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), a human rights organization that advocates for housing and the elimination of poverty. From 2007 to 2009, she held the position of Executive Director at CERA.
Ruth also worked in private practice focusing primarily on issues of gender, disability and racial discrimination in education and employment. Ruth served on the board of the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) and was a member of LEAF’s Legal Committee. She has also taught Disability Studies at Ryerson University. Ruth also serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.
Appointment: October 5, 2006 – December 31, 2017
Interim Chief Commissioner: February 28, 2015 – October 30, 2015
Mary Gusella has served as the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Canadian Chair of the International Joint Commission of Canada and the United States, a member of the Public Service Commission, President of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and Chair and President of Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation. In addition, she was a board member and President of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada and a member of the Canadian Human Rights Museum Advisory Committee. Ms. Gusella holds a membership with the Law Society of Upper Canada and the International Commission of Jurists – Canadian Section. She has a Certificate from the Canadian Securities Institute and holds undergraduate degrees from the Universities of Toronto and Ottawa. Ms. Gusella also serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.
Appointment: February 24, 2016 – November 24, 2017
Raja Khouri is president of the Canadian Arab Institute, a policy think tank he co-founded in 2011. Raja is co-founder of the Canadian Arab/Jewish Leadership Dialogue Group, and an international consultant in organizational development and capacity building.
Raja formerly served on several government and civil society bodies, such as Ontario’s Hate Crimes Community Working Group (for the Attorney General and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services), the Minister of Education’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy Roundtable, the Pride Toronto Community Advisory Panel, the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, and as advocacy co-chair of Human Rights Watch Canada. He served as president of the Canadian Arab Federation in the period following the events of 9/11.
Raja’s earlier career included a senior management position at CIBC and management consulting tenures in Europe and the Middle East. He has designed and chaired conferences, given and moderated lectures, numerous media interviews, and published commentaries in journals and major Canadian dailies. He's the author of Arabs in Canada: Post 9/11.
Appointment: September 20, 2006 – December 31, 2016
Fernand Lalonde retired from the federal public service in 2001 after serving in many roles including General Secretary of the National Joint Council, Executive Director of Appeals and Investigations for the Public Service Commission of Canada, and Director, Human Resources, Parks Canada.
Mr. Lalonde is a former President of the Canadian Public Personnel Management Association, and is currently a consultant providing services in union-management relations, dispute/conflict resolution, workplace assessments, training and executive coaching.
Appointment: May 18, 2005 – December 31, 2016
Julie Lee is a lawyer, practicing family law in London, Ontario. Julie clerked for the Honourable Mr. Justice Iacobucci at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 – 2000. Before her legal education, she worked in the anti-violence movement as an educator, administrator and advocate.
She is the co-founder of second stage housing in Huron County and the past executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre in London, Ontario. Julie’s advocacy has also been directed at achieving equity and dignity for same-sex families.
Appointment: September 8, 2009 – March 7, 2018
A member of Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, Larry McDermott served as an Ontario municipal politician for 28 years including as the first national rural chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
He is currently Executive Director of Plenty Canada, a non-profit organization devoted to environmental protection and healthy communities, and a member of the Sciences Sectoral Commission of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.
Appointment: September 8, 2009 – March 7, 2016
Professor Mendes is a lawyer, author and professor, and has been an advisor to corporations, governments, civil society groups and the United Nations. His teaching, research and consulting interests include public and private sector governance, conflict resolution, constitutional law, international law and human rights law and policy. He has authored or edited 11 leading texts in these areas. He has been a Project Leader for conflict resolution, governance and justice projects in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, El Salvador and Sri Lanka.
Since 1979, Professor Mendes has taught at Law Faculties across the country, including the University of Alberta, Edmonton, the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario and the University of Ottawa from 1992 to present. He recently completed a Visiting Fellowship at Harvard Law School.
Appointment: September 8, 2009 – March 7, 2018
Fiona Sampson is the Executive Director of “the equality effect,” a non-profit organization that uses human rights law to transform the lives of women and girls. Fiona has worked as counsel for the OHRC and as the Director of Litigation at the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). Fiona has appeared as counsel before the Supreme Court of Canada on many occasions, representing women’s NGOs in different equality rights cases. She has worked as a legal consultant with, amongst others, the Ontario Native Council on Justice, the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) of Canada, Education Wife Assault, and the Ethiopian Muslim Relief and Development Association.
Fiona has published numerous articles on women’s equality and disability rights, and has her Ph.D. in women’s equality law from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University.
Appointment: September 8, 2009 – March 7, 2016
Bhagat S. Taggar has an excellent record of service to the profession of engineering, as an educator, to public service and to human rights. He is a chartered electrical engineer from England and a professional engineer in Ontario. As a senior engineer for the capital city of Zimbabwe (during the two years following independence), he earned praise from the Parliamentary Speaker for his advisory work to farming co-operatives.
Before coming to Canada in January 1983, Bhagat was an engineer in England and a City and County Councilor. He also served on various public service bodies in England. In Canada, he worked in highly specialized technical areas. Bhagat served as a college professor in Canada and as chair of the Electronics Advisory Committee for Centennial College. He was also the owner, founder and President of a private career college.
As an activist, The Toronto Star listed Bhagat among the “movers and shakers” of the Toronto community (Oct. 15, 1992). He has chaired and presided over many community organizations, such as Panorama India and the Canadian Council of South Asians. He is a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Service, and has served as the Chair of the Employment Insurance Board for Scarborough.
At the OHRC, Bhagat has played an active role in key issues such as mental health and addiction disabilities, removing the “Canadian experience” barrier from employment, and human rights governance.
Appointment: May 18, 2005 – December 31, 2015
Maggie Wente is a partner with Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, representing First Nations and First Nations-controlled organizations, corporations, and service providers across Canada. Maggie is the past President and current Vice-President of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. Maggie is frequently asked to speak at conferences and to law students about Aboriginal legal issues. She is a mentor to Aboriginal law students and participates often in career panels at the University of Toronto law school.
Appointment: October 5, 2016 – December 31, 2015