MEET OUR TEAM

 

Empathy for Peace is a Canadian volunteer operated non-profit. We are guided by a distinguished board of directors, including empathy research scientists and practitioners, who actively support the organization’s strategic, operational and financial affairs.

Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen, Chair
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Simon Baron-Cohen is scientist a clinical psychologist and a world renowned expert and author in the fields of autism and cognitive neuroscience. He is currently Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at University of Cambridge and Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. He also serves as Director, Autism Research Centre (ARC) in Cambridge. He has a degree in Human Sciences from New College, Oxford, a PhD in Psychology from UCL, and an M.Phil in Clinical Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, and he held lectureships in these departments. Profession Baron-Cohen has authored a number of books in the area of autism and empathy, most noted are: Autism and Asperger Syndrome: The Facts, and Teaching Children with Autism to Mindread (written for parents and teachers); The Exact Mind; Mindblindness; The Essential Difference; Prenatal Testosterone in Mind; Zero Degrees of Empathy and the Science of Evil. He is also the author of the DVDs Mind Reading and The Transporters, to help children with autism learn emotion recognition, both nominated for BAFTA awards, and the author of more than 450 scientific articles.  In 1985 Baron-Cohen formulated and went on to test the ‘mindblindness’ theory of autism. In 1997, he formulated and went on to test the ‘fetal sex steroid’ theory of autism. He has also made contributions to the fields of autism prevalence and screening, autism genetics, autism neuroimaging, autism and technical ability, typical cognitive sex differences, and synaesthesia. Professor Baron-Cohen’s work has essentially helped countless individuals who fall within the autistic spectrum, have their disability recognized. His scholarly work and advocacy has earned him numerous awards for his work including: the British Psychological Society (BPS) (Spearman Medal); the American Psychological Association (McCandless Award); the BPS (May Davison Award); the Autism Award Philadelphia Autism Association/Princeton University; the President’s Award (BPS); the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA), Joseph Lister Lecturer; the Lifetime Achievement Award, MENSA; and Kanner-Asperger Medal (German Society for Research into Autism).  Professor Baron-Cohen is an active contributor and editor of a number of scientific publications, including the journal Molecular Autism and the Lancet Psychiatry. He is currently a Fellow of the BPS, the British Academy, and the American Psychological Association, as well as Vice-President of the National Autistic Society, Autism Anglia. He is also a Scientific Advisor or Patron to 6 autism charities and a member of the Department of Health Program Board, Autism Strategy; Chair of the Psychology Section of the British Academy, and President-Elect of INSAR and an National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Senior Investigator.
Lily McGregor, Vice-chair

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Lily was born in Egypt and was raised in Israel during her formative years. Her parents emigrated to Canada in 1967. Growing up in Egypt and Israel, Lily experienced first-hand the effects of the racial and cultural tensions that were prevalent in the region at the time. Her childhood experience ignited a lifelong drive to champion organizational values and policies that embrace empathy, equity and inclusion.

As co-founder of Empathy for Peace, Lily brings passion and drive to lighting a path toward peacebuilding. She also brings extensive experience in organizational development and not-for-profit governance. Lily is currently Chief People Officer at University of Toronto Schools (UTS) a not-for-profit merit based independent school affiliated with the University of Toronto, where she oversees human resources and labour relations and attends to corporate governance matters. Prior to joining UTS, Lily worked as a branding and strategy consultant. She holds a B.A in History and Philosophy of Religion from Concordia University and a Certificate in H.R. Law from Osgoode Hall Law School.
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Haifa Staiti, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

Haifa was born and raised in Palestine before moving to Norway at age 17 and then Canada at age 19. Growing up during the 80s and 90s, Haifa experienced first-hand the effects of the conflict in the Middle East. Her childhood experience, as well as a formative summer as a participant in the Seeds of Peace program in 1997, fueled her passion for peace-building and desire to work with others to achieve fair and just society in Palestine and throughout the world.

Haifa has an International Baccalaureate Diploma from United World College –Red Cross Nordic (Norway), a BA in Political Science and Economics, and a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (both from Simon Fraser University, Canada). In 2015 Haifa was awarded the Gather Fellowship, a Seeds of Peace initiative that amplifies the exceptional efforts of innovative individuals whose ideas and work have the greatest potential to contribute to positive change in their communities and to disrupting the status quo of conflict.

In addition to her work as the co-founder and Executive Director of Empathy for Peace, Haifa is also a grantmaking and philanthropy advisor with over 10 years of experience in working with large grantmaking foundations in Canada, including the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Brain Canada Foundation. In 2016 Haifa joined GrantBook, a social purpose business specializing in the procurement, implementation and management of cloud-based tools for grantmakers and their networks, where she specializes in supporting philanthropic organizations thrive in the digital world.

Neha Charnalia, CPA, CA, Treasurer

Neha Charnalia is an accounting and finance professional turned entrepreneur with 12 years of experience in professional services and the not-for-profit sector. She spent nine years with Ernst & Young LLP and led audit engagements for a diverse portfolio of public and private companies with a focus on technology, media and entertainment.

Subsequently, Neha led the finance team at Pathways to Education Canada, a national not-for-profit organization focused on providing resources to youth in 18 low-income communities across Canada in order to help them graduate from high school. During a time of leadership transition, Neha provided oversight of the finance function with the overriding goal of ensuring Pathways achieved its strategic objectives, met obligations to all key stakeholders and operated with efficiency and effectiveness.

In 2016, Neha founded SwitchGrocery, a one-stop shop for innovative and low carb food products for Diabetics and Keto & Paleo lifestylers.

Neha is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA), and graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with an Honours Bachelor of Business Administration. In addition to her role as Treasurer, she is passionate about Empathy for Peace and its mission.

F. David Rounthwaite, Corporate Secretary

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Mr. Rounthwaite is a lawyer specializing in corporate and securities compliance and corporate governance. He has recently retired from his position as General Counsel, Corporate Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer of eHealth Ontario, an agency of the Government of Ontario, where he also served as Interim C.E.O. Mr. Rounthwaite began practicing law in 1976. He joined McCarthy Tétrault LLP in 1976 and was a senior partner specializing in corporate securities with a focus on nuclear power generation as well as all aspects of renewable energy development, financing and operations. In 2004 he became president of a specialized financial services company returning to the practice of law in 2007. Mr. Rounthwaite has served on private and public corporate boards in the energy and financial sectors, as well as the not-for-profit education sector. Mr. Rounthwaite holds a Bachelor of Laws from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Master of Science (Economics), International Relations, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science from Trinity College, University of Toronto. He has an avid interest in environmental and human rights issues.
Ahmad Abu-Akel, PhD, Board Director

 

 

 

 

Dr. Ahmad Abu-Akel is a cognitive and social neuroscientist, and is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute of Psychology, University of Lausanne. He received his BA from Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and his PhD from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Dr. Abu-Akel is Palestinian, originally from the Wadi Ara region of Israel. His interest and involvement in peace building began at age 15 when he started volunteer work as a lecturer and coordinator at the Givaat Haviva Center for Peace, Israel.

In his academic work, Dr. Abu-Akel is credited with introducing the notion that autism and schizophrenia have diametric mentalizing profiles, and is one of the first to introduce a putative neurobiological model of theory of mind. His current work seeks to explore how co-occurring autism and psychosis traits affect attentional and socio-cognitive abilities in clinical and healthy populations. He also works on understanding the role of social cognition in intergroup conflicts and dynamics, work that is motivated by his personal experiences as a Palestinian growing up in Israel.

Dr. Abu-Akel is the author and co-author of a number of scientific papers including: Giving peace a chance: Oxytocin increases empathy to pain in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Oxytocin increases empathy to pain when adopting the other- but not the self-perspective; The social saliency hypothesis of oxytocin; And perspective-taking abilities in the balance between autism tendencies and psychosis proneness.

Deborah Hinton, MBA, Board Director 

As a communication and change management consultant, coach and facilitator, Deborah works with for-profits and non-profits to help them create what matters most to their organizations. She helps her clients deliver results while creating value for the people that work for them and for the people and communities they serve.

Deborah is passionate about the mission of Empathy for Peace and the translation of research on empathy to achieve practical and sustainable impact especially at this time when our world needs it most. Her related volunteer experience includes her work as a board member at Equitas, an international NGO that designs and delivers transformative human rights education programs across Canada and around the world. Deborah provided advice and support on organizational design, branding and communication issues that contributed to their success. She is also a founding board member of the Peace Grantmakers Network. Deborah is currently working on a new community-based project that is bringing different faith communities together to feed the homeless and working poor in downtown Montreal.

Prior to building her consulting practice, Deborah led the global internal communication functions at both Alcan and Bombardier Aerospace.  She has a BSc from Carleton and earned her MBA at the John Molson School of Business.

Emile Bruneau, PhD, Board Director

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Dr. Emile Bruneau is a social and cognitive scientist and a leading expert in the field of empathy neuroscience. He was recently a research scientist at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at MIT and is currently a research associate and lecturer at the Annenberg School, UPenn for Communication. Dr. Bruneau holds a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan.

Prior to his formal training in neuroscience, Dr. Bruneau worked, traveled and lived in a number of conflict regions: South Africa during the transition from Apartheid to Democracy, Sri Lanka during one of the largest Tamil Tiger strikes in that nation's history, Ireland during "The Troubles", Israel/Palestine around the Second Intifada.Dr. Bruneau is now working to bring the tools of science to bear on the problem of intergroup conflict by (1) building methods to better characterize the (often unconscious) cognitive biases that drive conflict using explicit, implicit and functional neuroimaging (fMRI) techniques, and (2) critically evaluating efforts aimed at transcending these biases. These efforts have focused on three psychological processes relevant to intergroup conflict: empathy, dehumanization and motivated reasoning, and involve target groups that are embroiled in intractable conflict (e.g., Israelis and Palestinians), or subject to extreme hostility (e.g., Muslims in the U.S., the Roma in Europe).

Dr. Bruneau is the author and co-author of a number of scientific papers including: Putting Neuroscience to work for Peace in Understanding the social psychology of intractable conflicts: The Israeli-Palestinian case and beyond, A tribute to the legacy of Daniel BarTal; The Ascent of Man: A Theoretical and Empirical Case for Blatant Dehumanization; Empathic control through coordinated interaction of amygdala, theory of mind and extended pain matrix brain regions; Us and Them: Intergroup Failures of Empathy and others. He is the 2015 recipient of the Beyond Conflict Innovation Fellowship, as well as the Ed Cairns Early Career Award of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Division of Peace Psychology, American Psychological Association.

Eva Armour, Board Director

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Eva joined Seeds of Peace as a counselor at its Camp in 2000. In 2001, she joined the full-time staff as part of the development team. In 2004, she began liaising between the programming and development departments in order to research, design, and implement new programs, including Seeds of Peace’s Beyond Borders program that brought together young people and educators from the United States and the Middle East.

From 2006 to 2007, Eva worked out of the Seeds of Peace Tel Aviv and Ramallah offices as the Director of Multinational Programs, orchestrating programs that brought together Seeds in the Middle East. After two years directing program development for Empower Peace, a nonprofit dedicated to bridging cultural and communication divides between youth worldwide, Eva returned to Seeds of Peace in 2009 and currently works out of Boston, overseeing the organization’s global programming and strategy.

Eva is a graduate of Tufts University, where she majored in Child Development and Communications, and Columbia University, where she received an MA in International Educational Development with a focus on International Humanitarian Issues in the Middle East and Africa.

Eva was recognized as one of 25 “change-makers” in the best-selling Japanese book Change-Makers: Social Venture Specialists Changing the World by Nana Watanabe and was featured in a full-length profile in the Japanese edition of Le Figaro as an upcoming leader and change-maker.
James F. Leckman, MD, Board Director

 

 

 

 

Dr. James Leckman is the Neison Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Psychiatry, Psychology and Pediatrics at Yale. Dr. Leckman is a well known child psychiatrist and patient-oriented clinical investigator. He has served as the Director of Research for the Yale Child Study Center for more than 20 years.

Dr. Leckman has a longstanding interest in Tourette syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). His research on these disorders is multifaceted from phenomenology and natural history, to neurobiology to genetics, to risk factor research and treatment studies. His work on OCD has led Dr. Leckman to study normal patterns of evolutionarily conserved obsessive-compulsive behavior, with a major focus on parenting and the role of the bio-behavioral systems that closely interconnect our affiliative and stress response bio-behavioral systems. Dr. Leckman is the author or co-author of over 460 original articles published in peer-reviewed journals, twelve books, and 140 book chapters. He is regularly selected by his peers as one of the Best Doctors in America.
In recent years, Dr. Leckman has begun to explore the question whether strengthening families and enhancing child development is a path to peace and violence prevention. This work was done collaboratively in partnership with colleagues at UNICEF and the Mother-Child Education Foundation based in Turkey. In October 2013, he chaired with Rima Salah and Catherine Panter-Brick the 15th Ernst Strüngmann Forum in Frankfurt, Germany. The Forum included more than 40 international scholars across diverse fields—from child development to neuroscience and cultural anthropology, and explored the relevance of early child development to the pursuit of peace. Their deliberations are summarized in Formative Childhoods: The Transformative Power of Children and Families, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press in 2014.

Dr. Leckman’s other related efforts include the Early Childhood Peace Consortium that was launched in September 2013, in New York at the United Nations Headquarters. More information on Dr. Leckman's work concerning how the science of early childhood development can facilitate the development of a more peaceful world is available at: http://childstudycenter.yale.edu/international/peace/index.aspx.