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cynthiaCynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Ph.D., – President

Dr. Cynthia Wesley-­Esquimaux is the current Vice-­Provost (Aboriginal Initiatives) at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay. She held the Nexen Chair in Aboriginal Leadership at the Banff Centre in Alberta for the past four years, is a Status Only Asst. Professor at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, and an Adjunct Asst. Professor at Carleton University. She is a former Advisory Member of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and a newly appointed Healthy Minds Canada Board Member. Cynthia is interested in environmental and humanitarian causes and is actively engaged in a variety of initiatives across Canada, and is a member of the Lake Simcoe Science Advisory Committee, a Lady of the Lake, and an active and engaging media representative. Her teaching and academic writing is directed towards understanding Historic and Intergenerational Trauma within the Aboriginal community and she is a member of the Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation in Lake Simcoe. She has dedicated her life to building bridges of understanding, and sees endless merit in bringing people from diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds together to engage in practical dialogue. Cynthia is deeply committed to public education and active youth engagement, and co-­‐founded and chairs the Canadian Roots Exchange.


16_judith_rae_800px_0541-238x300Judith Rae – Director

Judith Rae is a lawyer at Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, a firm dedicated to working for Aboriginal peoples. Judith works with First Nations on a variety of negotiation and litigation matters. She also has a Master in Social Work, and a background working with youth at Christie Lake Kids.  Judith is excited to join the team at Canadian Roots.






max biopic3Max FineDay – Director

Max FineDay is nêhiyaw (Cree) from Sweetgrass First Nation and has been serving as the President of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union representing 18,000 undergraduate students for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

Most of Max’s work focuses on both the student and First Nations movements. He is passionate about youth leadership development in Indigenous communities and increasing the accessibility of post-secondary education for traditionally underrepresented communities. Max is currently the co-coordinator of “Next Up: First Nations & Metis Youth in Action” which will focus on Youth Indigenous Activist Training & Leadership development. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Political Studies at the University of Saskatchewan and has also studied at the University of Nordland in Bodø, Norway.

When Max isn’t rabble-rousing you can find him learning nêhiyawewin (Cree language), tweeting, and laughing at his own jokes.




Alysha Li – Director

Alysha joined Canadian Roots Exchange in 2013 and has since served as a summer intern, an exchange participant, exchange group leader, and a Youth Reconciliation leader in London, Ontario. Alysha was born in China and immigrated to Vancouver with her family at the age of 8. As a newcomer to Canada, Alysha feels the duty to learn about the history and culture of this country and its original peoples. Alysha has a passion for developing youth leadership opportunities, advocating on education policy, and creating forums for dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.

Alysha holds a Honours Business Administration (HBA) degree at the Ivey Business School, Western University and currently works as a Business Process Analyst at Bell Canada. In her spare time, Alysha enjoys watching political dramas and doing yoga.



Diana Pirri – Director

Diana is a chartered accountant (CA) with a passion for books, travel, and all things French. She works at Ernst & Young but recently took a leave of absence as she is completing a fellowship in microfinance with the Aga Khan Foundation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. She holds a commerce degree from McGill University, where she was active in campus activities such as the Management Undergraduate Society executive, the Varsity Ultimate Frisbee team and inter-university case competitions.   Diana has previously participated in international exchange programs and after living in different parts of the world, she is enthusiastic to learn more about the Indigenous communities in Canada and to support youth leadership.



Justin Wiebe – Directorthumbnail.justin-headshot

Justin Wiebe is Michif (Métis)  born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He completed a Bachelor’s of Education degree at the University of Saskatchewan, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of British Columbia in Community and Regional Planning. He is an activist, a critical thinker, an educator, and is always working to make the world a better place. Justin has a strong interest in decolonization and anti-racism work, as well as the importance of building community as a means to tear down colonial and marginalizing structures. He enjoys politics, dismantling oppression, facilitating, tweeting and the occasional beer.



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