Canadian Business Disability Network Board members

Chair of the Board

Gaurav Upadhya, Board Director, American Express Bank of Canada

Gaurav Upadhya is an experienced Board director with experience in financial analysis and risk management. He is:

  • Board Director and Audit Committee Chair of American Express (AMEX) Bank of Canada
  • Chair of the Advisory Committee for Ascend Canada
  • Member of the Advisory Board of Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, where he personally created an Indigenous student award in 2016

Until his early retirement in summer of 2023 to move to Victoria, he was the Global Chief Actuary and Chief Risk Officer for Foresters Financial. He was also a founding Co-Chair of the Inclusion and Diversity Council at Foresters Financial. Before that, he worked for almost 20 years at Manulife John Hancock, in a variety of roles including Senior Vice President, Global Product and Insurance Risk Management.

Gaurav was born in India, where he contracted polio when three years old and has since walked with crutches and leg braces. He immigrated to Canada at age 12 after living in Africa and the United Kingdom. His experiences, including challenges studying and living independently with physical disabilities, have helped him build empathy, communication and problem-solving skills, and a strong desire to support others in society.

Board members

Paula Allen, Global Leader and Senior Vice President, Research and Client Insights, TELUS Health

Paula is the global leader of research and insights and a senior vice president at TELUS Health. She has over 20 years of leadership experience in:

  • disability support and accommodation
  • product development
  • organizational health
  • workplace inclusion
  • mental health

Paula is a frequent public speaker and a media spokesperson. She leads a group of data scientists, researchers, and health experts. The group uses evidence-based practices to support health and wellbeing on an individual and systemic level. Paula also has significant experience as a director on several governance boards and as a member of advisory boards.

Karl Blackburn, President and Chief Executive Officer, Conseil du patronat du Québec

Karl Blackburn is a member of the Disability Inclusion Business Council. He will provide continuity between the work of the Council and the Canadian Business Disability Network (CBDN). He has held his current role with Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ) since June 2020. CPQ represents over 70,000 employers of all sizes and business areas from the private and para-public sectors.

Karl has worked as an entrepreneur, a politician, and manager, and occupies a central position in Quebec’s business ecosystem.

Jamie Burton, President, Chief Executive Officer, INNoVA Corp

Jamie Burton is the Chief Executive Officer of INNoVA. Jamie works to implement effective solutions based on global best practices to shape a future which meets job market demand.

Jamie has driven impactful initiatives as:

  • Vice President of Dolphin Digital Technologies
  • Chief Business Development Officer at Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW)

She has developed and implemented Disabilities Mentoring Day. A day which has been globally shared as a responsible, sustainable, and economic best practice.

Jamie has represented Canadian perspective on global economic panels. She champions the talent advantage of inclusive hiring and connection to human rights in business. Jamie is a recipient of:

  • BMO Celebrating Women - Innovation and Global Growth Award
  • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • Lt. Governor’s Community Volunteer Award
  • Rogers Women of the Year-Entrepreneur

James Delorme, Chief Executive Officer, Indigelink Digital Inc.

James Delorme is the Former Chief of Klahoose First Nation. He is a social and digital disrupter and champion of inclusion and equity for Indigenous people. His background as an Indigenous entrepreneur matched with leadership experience creates unique opportunities for organizations, government, and public interests to further the opportunities for disability inclusion in the business community.

Haley Flaro, Executive Director, Ability New Brunswick Inc.

Haley Flaro has more than 25 years of management and administration experience in non-profit and community-based sectors. Haley is a leader in health and disability public policy. She has been making her mark in communities throughout New Brunswick as Ability New Brunswick’s executive director since 2006.

Haley is a community builder, a published author, and was a recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal. She was recognized for her dedication to improving the lives of persons with a disability in New Brunswick through community development and person-centred planning.

Haley Flaro serves on several government committees and boards. Haley is:

  • Vice-chairperson of WorkSafeNB
  • Chairperson of the Accessible Canada Outdoor Spaces Technical Committee
  • A member of the Ocean Allies Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee
  • A Board member of the Institute for Research on Public Policy

Farah Huq (she/her)

Farah Huq is a public policy leader with over 15 years of experience working with government and business on the issues at the crux of Canadian society’s long-term prosperity. She has shaped and led programs and initiatives to engage stakeholders on a range of societal issues for RBC and Deloitte.

Previously, Farah was a director and senior policy advisor in a variety of ministries within the Government of Canada, including the Privy Council Office. She was also an economist at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Michelle J. Rafat, AVP and Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Canada, Manulife

Michelle J. Rafat is an accomplished Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) executive with 25 years of experience in Human Resources. Michelle has advanced within senior leadership roles at global Fortune 500 companies. She has also championed the importance of DEI in the workplace.

In her current role, Michelle leads the development and implementation of a comprehensive DEI strategy. She works closely with senior leadership to ensure that DEI is integrated into all aspects of the business. Michelle focuses on creating a more accessible and inclusive culture across the organization. This includes increasing diversity in leadership positions and promoting belonging.

Michelle brings a unique perspective to the DEI space. She has a strong understanding of the details of human resources and how to effectively drive change within organizations. Michelle is a respected and prominent leader within the DEI space. Her reputation is a result of a strong foundation inspired by her passion for creating increasingly equitable workplaces.

Stephen Shea, Former Partner and Canadian Executive Member and Talent Leader, EY Canada

Stephen Shea has a long history of non-profit board membership including disability organizations. He was a member of EY’s Executive Committee and was responsible for leading the firm's people strategy. He was a member of the firm's Inclusiveness Steering Committee. He often speaks on topics related to diversity, inclusion, and human equity.

Doug Tennant, Chief Executive Officer, UNITI

Doug Tennant is the Chief Executive Officer of UNITI. UNITI is a partnership of three not-for-profit organizations that build healthy and inclusive communities through advocacy, services, and housing. He is a strong believer that creativity develops spaces where people of different abilities can thrive together.

Doug has a Master of Education with a focus on innovating in the arts. He has been actively involved in the Community Living movement for the past 32 years. This involvement includes roles as a parent, a worker, and a volunteer. An expert in governance, he provides annual training to provincial boards. He has served as the board chair of both the Surrey Board of Trade and the BC CEO Network.

Page details

Date modified: