CCD Announces New Executive Committee

Media Release

For Immediate Release | July 10, 2020

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national organization working for an accessible and inclusive Canada, is proud to announce the Executive Committee for 2020-22 that was elected by CCD’s member organizations:

Chairperson: Roxana Jahani Aval
Past Chair: Jewelles Smith
1st Vice Chair: Heather Walkus *New
2nd Vice Chair: Tracy Odell *New
Secretary: Ian Young *New
Treasurer: Pat Danforth
Member-at-Large on the Executive Committee: Frank Folino

The Executive Committee has strong cross-disability representation and a balance of members from national and provincial disability advocacy organizations.

CCD thanks Jewelles Smith for her leadership during her four-year term as Chairperson, since June 2016. As Past Chair, she serves on the Executive Committee for the next year.

Both Past Chair Jewelles Smith and Roxana Jahani Aval were elected by CCD’s member organizations. The Council demonstrated its commitment to being inclusive of younger people with disabilities and learning from their experiential knowledge of disability and their intersectional approach to social justice.

“As CCD Chair, I would continue my advocacy for better representation of women, people of color, indigenous communities, youth, and LGBTQ+ members for Council. I will speak to injustices in our community as a representative of our community. In the year 2020, our organization requires the voice of an Iranian woman with a disability to properly represent the diversity and intersectionality of the disability community and the direction this organization is leading into,” stated Roxana Jahani Aval.

The members of the Executive Committee have demonstrated their commitment to CCD’s mission as a social justice organization of people with all disabilities that champions the voices of people with disabilities, advocating an inclusive and accessible Canada, where people with disabilities have full realization of their human rights, as described in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In the coming months, the members of the Executive Committee will be pursuing the implementation of CCD’s Strategic Plan, which emphasizes increasing diversity at all levels within the organization, ensuring sustainability and effective governance.

One of the first pieces of business for the new Executive Committee will be the implementation of a bylaw amendment which adds three new members-at-large to the Council - one Indigenous person with a disability, one racialized person with a disability, one youth with a disability. Members-at-Large on Council are elected by the membership. Each CCD member organization also appoints one representative to the Council.

CCD’s members are: Disability Alliance BC; Voice of Albertans with Disabilities, Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities, Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities Inc., Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario, Confédération des Organismes de Personnes Handicapées du Québec, Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities, PEI Council of People with Disabilities, Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Canadian Association of the Deaf - Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD ASC), National Educational Association of Disabled Students, National Network for Mental Health, People First of Canada, Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, and the NWT Disabilities Council.


For more information contact:

Roxana Jahani Aval, Chairperson -
Shari Hildred, National Coordinator -

*CCD welcomes Video Relay Services (VRS) calls.

Executive Committee Biographies

Roxana Jahani Aval completed her 1st year at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law where she is pursuing her Juris Doctorate degree. As a young Iranian woman, Roxana continuously advocates for young voices to be heard in the disability rights movement. As the Past-Chair and Member-at-Large of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students, she works closely with post-secondary students to acquire accommodations, to promote accessibility on campus, and to aid students in accessing resources. Roxana received two Bachelor of Arts degrees from York University in Psychology and Human Rights. At York University, Roxana worked with the EnableYork committee to better accessibility practices on campus. Roxana received the Marilyn Nearing Award for Outstanding Community Service from the York Support Network in York Region, Ontario. In addition to her volunteer work and education, Roxana is an artist, photographer, and active Iranian community member in Toronto, Ontario. Roxana plans on working closely with Council and staff to continue the work of CCD as leaders in the disability rights movement. "

1st Vice Chair
Heather Walkus is a seasoned and well respected advocate in multiple arenas including disability issues and social justice, with a strong knowledge and belief in human rights legislation. Heather's beliefs include, "the diverse voices of people must come first” and “the way we work and organize, must reflect the diversity and inclusion of the society we are building”. A fresh approach to advocacy is what Heather brings to the CCD.

2nd Vice Chair
Tracy Odell brings a wealth of experience working to improve the lives of persons with a variety of types of disabilities both in paid and volunteer roles. She believes it is vital to have a strong, united voice on national issues.

Tracy has a B.A. in Special Education and English, and a Masters’ degree in Critical Disability Studies. She received CCD’s 2007 John Lord Participatory Action Research Award for her Major Research Paper, “Not Your Average Childhood.”

Tracy worked for over 30 years in policy at the provincial government level. Her roles in government included managing adult literacy and special education policy as well as planning to address accessibility, anti-racism and inclusion for a ministry delivering public-facing services.

Tracy is currently President of Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario (CWDO), a non-profit organization that actively promotes the rights, freedoms and responsibilities of persons with disabilities.

Ian Young has been in disability activism since becoming disabled in 2004 from a brain injury.

He has been very vocal in the province of Alberta, being a member/advisor for “The Voice of Albertans with Disabilities”, The City of Edmonton Accessibility Advisory Committee, Brain Injury Association of Canada, Friends of Medicare Alberta, The Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, and Public Interest Alberta.

Ian has completed Human Rights Facilitator Training, and has completed Humanities Courses through The University of Alberta, he has also been writing a column since 2010 titled “Community and Ability” for an Edmonton Community Newspaper.

Pat Danforth has more than 30 years' governance and board experience in government and non-profit sectors. Pat has worked on rights-based issues since becoming reliant on a wheelchair in 1970. She represents the Disability Alliance BC on the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) board. She also volunteers on CCD’s Transportation Committee and Human Rights Committee. She is a founding mother of the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN). Pat’s career includes work for provincial and federal governments, Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, as well as the Canadian Labour Congress. Her varied background includes the Saskatchewan Public Service Commission Board of Commissioners, Regina Health District Board, National Transportation Agency and CUPE National’s Disability Working Group. She has specialist knowledge of rights and disability issues, policies and programs.

Member-at-Large on Executive Committee
Frank Folino is a Deaf Canadian who brings a wealth of experience of human rights and accessibility on national and international level. He shares his knowledge on governance in multiple areas related to not-for-profit and profit sectors.

Recently on July 2019, Frank Folino got elected at General Assembly in Paris, France to sit as Board Member for the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) from 2019 to 2023, which is an international human rights organization representing at least 125 countries around the world. In addition, he presided during the Opening Lead Session on Civil Society Forum prior to the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in June 2019.

Frank served as an Interim Board of Director for the Canadian Administrator of Video Relay Services (CAV) in 2014-2015, which is a not-for-profit telecommunications services company with a mandate from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to design, implement and oversee the delivery of Video Relay Service (VRS) in Canada.

His work has focused on public education, consultation, and advocacy related to the implementation of the CRPD and other international human rights treaties in Canada and around the world where he provides his expertise on human rights and accessibility issues related to sign languages.

Frank was awarded with honour the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in December 2012 for his advocacy and volunteerism. Frank Folino holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science from York University.