Prime Minister's Youth Council member biographies

Prime Minister's Youth Council

Sara Abdessamie

Photo: Sara Abdessamie

Sara Abdessamie lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where she actively works with organizations such as Best Buddies, French for the Future and her local Soup Kitchen. Not only is Sara passionate about the French language and culture, she is also passionate about improving the lives of homeless people, and working toward the inclusion of young people with intellectual or social disabilities. Sara is a Loran Scholar currently studying at Dalhousie University. 

Mustafa Ahmed

Photo: Mustafa Ahmed

Mustafa Ahmed was born and raised in Canada’s largest social housing project, Regent Park, in Toronto, Ontario. He sought to make a difference in his community by founding programs to get youth involved in arts and literature. He is also deeply involved in helping immigrants to Canada feel at home in their new country.

Hani Al Moulia

Photo: Hani Al Moulia

Hani Al Moulia resides in Toronto, Ontario, where he is enrolled in his first year of Computer Engineering at Ryerson University. Through his experience as a person with poor vision, he has embraced photography and been recognized for his artistic style and talent as a photographer. Prior to coming to Canada as a refugee from Syria, Hani helped fellow refugees while living in camps in Lebanon and working for UNICEF. Upon arrival to Canada, Hani settled with his family in Regina, Saskatchewan, where he was involved locally to help other newcomers adapt to their new context. Hani is passionate about employment and immigration. He would like to find ways to help more Canadians with disabilities and special needs participate in the workforce.

Alex Bouchard

Photo: Alex Bouchard

Alex Bouchard is from Haines Junction, Yukon, and is a proud francophone who was involved with the Fédération de la Jeunesse Canadienne Française. She also founded the University of British Columbia Parks Canada Club while attending university and inspired youth to get outdoors and live an active lifestyle.

Rayene Bouzitoun

Photo: Rayene Bouzitoun

Rayene Bouzitoun is a Collège de Maisonneuve student living in Montréal, Quebec, where she is a long-standing and active member of the Forum Jeunesse de Saint-Michel. She is passionate about working to counter racism and radicalization leading to violence, and about working toward gender equity. As a leader in her community she has delivered talks on addiction and substance abuse to youth, and has helped to connect young people with the political world through events with local politicians.

Simone Cavanaugh

Photo: Simone Cavanaugh

Born in Toronto, Ontario, and partly raised in Montréal, Quebec, Simone Cavanaugh is a Loran Scholar and a recipient of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 award. Currently, she is in her final year of law school at McGill University where she serves as Equity Commissioner. She is a human rights activist who is passionate about women’s and children’s issues, particularly as they intersect with issues of disability and accessibility. As a motivational speaker, she recently gave a TEDx talk on overcoming challenges and providing for every child with special needs. She is interested in working toward better access to education and employment for Canadian youth with disabilities. She believes that everyone counts and can be an agent of change in Canada.

Joseph Darcel

Photo: Joseph Darcel

Joseph Darcel leads by empowerment. An Honours Microbiology student at the University of Manitoba, Joseph has spent time at home and abroad examining the issues facing society today. By engaging with community groups, youth parliaments, and government agencies, Joseph has made it his focus to be a part of the dialogue that is shaping Canada’s future. At home in Winnipeg, Joseph is a community leader and mentor. A member of the Canadian Armed Forces, Joseph now instructs the cadet program that he belonged to as a teenager. Joseph takes a multilateral approach to problem solving, drawing on years of experience as a Rotary exchange student and member of ΔKE fraternity.

Gregory Francis

Photo: Gregory Francis

Gregory Francis is from Kingsclear First Nation in New Brunswick. He acts as a positive role model through his actions to support youth. He has been a tutor for First Nation students in his community and has served as a facilitator for First Nation youth engagement. 

Molly French

Photo: Molly French

Molly French is a high school student who commutes daily from her Sherwood Park, Alberta home, to attend classes in Edmonton. She is a Science Expo Ambassador, a Student Senator and a Student Trustee for her school district. Molly has also served on the Strathcona County Youth Council as treasurer. She is passionate about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She pursues that passion through such ventures as volunteering in a robotics laboratory, peer tutoring, and speaking to younger children about science. She is especially interested in working to increase graduation rates for women in post-secondary STEM programs.

Lauren Kennedy

Photo: Lauren Kennedy

Lauren Kennedy is a teaching consultant and new mother living in Ancaster, Ontario. She is a strong leader with experience and training in youth facilitation, mentorship, and restorative justice. In the pursuit of her interest in anti-bullying and mental health, she co-founded Titans for Titans, an anti-bullying group in her high school, and continued to provide support for the group after graduation. For her work in contributing to a safer and more inclusive school, she was awarded the Premier’s Award for Accepting Schools, and she is eager to bring the same changes to communities across Canada.

Dana Kenny

Photo: Dana Kenny

Dana Kenny is from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages at the University of Prince Edward Island. He has served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity PEI as a Youth Engagement Director, as well as President of the UPEI Student Union on the UPEI Board of Governors. Dana brings with him experience living abroad in Spain and France, where he has studied and worked. He believes in a grassroots approach and is passionate about increasing democratic engagement, promoting and celebrating la Francophonie, and improving supports for victims of sexual assault through policy development and education.

Sylvia Pascua Matte

Photo: Sylvia Pascua Matte

Hailing from the remote community of Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories, Sylvia Pascua Matte has worked to provide activities to youth and children. She has volunteered for the Fort Simpson Historical Society, offering activities for all ages. She has also led fundraising efforts in her community. Sylvia is passionate about education and employment for youth living in northern Canada.

Francois-Olivier Picard

Photo: Francois-Olivier Picard

François-Olivier Picard lives in the city of Québec, where he is currently in the master’s program at Laval University’s Institute for Advanced International Studies. He is heavily involved as a leader in extracurricular activities on his campus. He is a veteran of the FSA ULaval debate team, as well as the Student Association’s former vice‑president of external affairs. He is a member of both the International Office and Laval University’s League of Arab States delegation. He recently set up a business to give guided jogging tours of the city of Québec. As a member of the Council, François-Olivier would like to get young Canadians more involved in political life.

Neha Rahman

Photo: Neha Rahman

Neha Rahman is a McGill University History and Classics student who, after immigrating to Canada at age three, grew up in Toronto, Ontario. Her passion for community involvement is closely connected to her own experiences as an immigrant and a woman of colour. As a high school student she was involved in such efforts as founding a Feminist Club and leading the Social Justice club. A few examples of her initiatives include raising funds and awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, collecting clothing for donation to a women’s shelter, and lobbying school faculty to deliver in-class content about women involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), for which she was awarded the District 12 Status of Women award.

Gabe Senecal

Photo: Gabe Senecal

Gabe Senecal credits his rural, farm upbringing near Melfort, Saskatchewan as the source of his personal interest in community, equality, and justice. His degree in Regional and Urban Planning at the University of Saskatchewan dovetails with his passion for bridging the divide between urban and rural Canadians. As well, Gabe is interested in reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians. While attending university he proudly served as as Vice President of Academic Affairs of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union. Now living in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, Gabe works with his local Member of the Legislative Assembly. 

Rachel Smale

Photo: Rachel Smale

Rachel Smale is a resident of Pond Inlet, Nunavut. She mentors children and youth in her community. She created an after-school sports program for elementary school children and wants to develop a greater number of activities for them to be happy in their community. Rachel recently graduated top of her high school class and won the Governor General’s Award for her achievements.

Donovan Taplin

Photo: Donovan Taplin

Donovan Taplin is from the Town of Wabana on Bell Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, where he is the youngest person ever elected to a municipal council in the province. Donovan has served on the Premier’s Youth Advisory Committee, and undertaken volunteer roles with the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation and the Atlantic Summer Institute on Healthy and Safe Communities. Donovan is a Students on Ice alumnus and an ambassador of Memorial University where he studies Folklore and Communications. Most recently, Donovan served as a delegate for the Young Diplomats of Canada at the Y7 Summit in Tokyo, Japan.

Aaron Taylor

Photo: Aaron Taylor

Aaron Taylor is from Debert in rural Nova Scotia. He has just started his Master’s at the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at Carleton University. During his undergraduate studies at Dalhousie University, he had the opportunity to foster cross-cultural dialogues through student-led societies and created a forum for cooperation, a place for students to live and share their unique cultures. 

Macgregor Tebbutt

Photo: Macgregor Tebbutt

Macgregor ‘Mac’ Tebbutt is from Penticton, British Columbia. He has been actively involved in the 4-H Club for 11 years, holding many executive positions. He has completed two years of Junior Leadership, has been 4-H BC Youth Ambassador for two years and has designed and implemented a Safety Checklist for 4-H Horse members. Mac has travelled across the province to promote agriculture and farm safety. He has organized yearly lesson plans, camp-outs, and clinics. He has taught public speaking and started a new 4-H club for rural youth in southern BC. Mac is a competitive rodeo athlete and a third-year engineering student at UBC-Okanagan.

Élyse Tremblay-Longchamps

Photo: Élyse Tremblay-Longchamps

Élyse Tremblay-Longchamps is from Montréal, Québec. She has worked as a volunteer for Lanaudière’s Regional Committee on Education for International Development, where she had a chance to work with people from her region and abroad in projects to promote the French language, as well as integration and sponsorship initiatives for newcomer families. She is Vice President of the Quebec Federation of College Students and hopes to continue being active in the development of a values and principles-based society.

Nmesomachukwu Umenwofor-Nweze

Photo: Nmesomachukwu Umenwofor-Nweze

Nmesoma Umenwofor-Nweze, originally from Nigeria, grew up in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She has been involved in planning activities focused on arts and active living for youth in her community as well as spearheading free mental health sessions and volunteering regularly. She is currently studying at Pearson College UWC in Victoria, British Columbia, where she is enriching campus life with a focus on fitness. Nmesoma has been nominated for the 2017 Schulich Leadership Award in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics and computer science (STEM) fields.

Sara Wheale

Photo: Sara Wheale

Sara Wheale lives in Breton, Alberta, where she works as a heavy equipment operator. Her roots are in agriculture and she has created and led an organization for raising awareness of agricultural issues. With her professional experience in the oil and gas industry, she has developed a passion for advocating on related subjects and she sees getting oil to tidal water as an economic priority for Canada. She is also interested in developing programs related to First Nations youth.

Ashley Whiteman

Photo: Ashley Whiteman

Ashley Whiteman is a high school graduate from Edmonton, Alberta, who is passionate about supporting her community. At school, she was part of several different programs and committees such as the Jean Forest Leadership Academy, Personalized Self-directed Learning, and the Student Union; she also mentored through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, Social Justice, and was involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a student facilitator. Outside of school, Ashley supports her community through the Edmonton Police Cadet Corps, sits on youth panels, including the City of Edmonton Youth Council subcommittee on Social Equity, and assists senior citizens in their daily activities.

Justin Charles Wong

Photo: Justin Wong

Justin Charles Wong is in his fourth year of Computer Engineering at the University of British Columbia and lives in West Vancouver. He is a fourth-generation Canadian who believes in diversity, perseverance, and that helping others should come naturally. He is an avid chess player, singer, fitness enthusiast, web designer, and independent developer of iOS applications. Justin also co-founded an app development team for his high school and produced an application that was well received by more than one thousand users and the West Vancouver Superintendent of Schools. He is passionate about positive youth mental health, access to transportation and education, as well as strategies to mitigate and prevent bullying.

Riley Yesno

Photo: Riley Yesno

Riley Yesno is an Eabametoong First Nation woman living in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where she attends high school. She is a strong leader who uses her voice to represent those who are underrepresented. She is a highly engaged community member, a youth facilitator, a public speaker, and a feminist. As a school board representative at the provincial level, she advocates on behalf of her peers. As a First Nations woman who has lived on reserve, she is most passionate about equity for Indigenous people in Canada, with a particular interest in missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Chris Zhou

Photo: Chris Zhou

As president of the Free the Children Club, Chris Zhou orchestrated initiatives that raised more than $7,000 towards youth empowerment campaigns. He serves as the highest-ranking air cadet in his squadron and volunteers as a glider pilot for the Air Cadet Gliding Program. While Chris currently studies Health Sciences at McMaster University, he is proud to call Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, his home and community.

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