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JUNE 22 - Breaking Barriers in Education

On June 22nd, join a conversation with education leaders and trailblazers about the systemic changes needed to redress the issues faced by Black learners in all levels of education.

“Black students of all backgrounds and generations have lower levels of educational attainment than their white and other racialized counterparts. Disturbingly, third generation students - especially males - had the weakest educational record on every metric: being in an academic program of study, graduating from high school, pursuing and graduating from university.” Carl E. James, Colour Matters, University of Toronto Press, 2021

This disturbing portrait of the trajectory of Black learners demands our immediate and undivided attention as educational outcomes are correlated with the cultural, social, economic and political welfare of Black communities.

In this panel discussion, we will seek solutions to actively dismantle systems and structures that exclude and disadvantage Black people, while simultaneously identifying new pathways, supports and programs that aim to remove these barriers.

The discussion will highlight case studies demonstrating positive impact and sustainable change.


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Emilie Nicolas is a columnist with Le Devoir and The Montreal Gazette, as well as a consultant and public speaker on public policy, equity, human rights, international cooperation, race and gender issues. Emilie is committed to social justice and has co-founded Quebec Inclusif (2013) as well as a coalition campaigning for equality and against systemic racism in Quebec (2016).


She now sits on the boards of the Canadian Race Relation Foundation, a crown corporation dedicated to antiracism, and Informed Opinions, a non-profit working to increase gender balance in the media.

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Mylaine Cimé holds a DEC in Administration, a DEC in Special Education, a Bachelor in School and Social Adaptation and is currently pursuing graduate studies in educational management. She is currently assistant principal at Antoine-de-Saint-Exupéry high school in Montreal. She has more than 8 years of experience as a social worker in intermediate resources, schools and community organizations. She also has 4 years of experience as coordinator of a youth center. Over the years, Mylaine has done several internships overseas. The first in France in accounting in a company located in Limoges. Other internships include New York, Haiti, and Mozambique in social intervention. She also went for a professional immersion in Côte d'Ivoire allowing her to lead a 4-week workshop on remedial education and differentiated teaching with 50 Ivorian teachers. Passionate about education, she hopes to invest particularly in young leaders in her community to inspire them to go beyond their limits.

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Karen Hudson has been an educator for the past 26 years with the Halifax Regional Centre for Education. Currently she is the Principal of Auburn Drive High School in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Her understanding and foundation is rooted in her cultural work, direct guidance and leadership from the Cultural Awareness Youth Group where she was involved in the 1980s under the leadership of David Woods. Karen has chaired many community organizations and boards.

She has a Bachelor of Education and several Masters such as Administration Leadership and Environmental Studies where her thesis addresses “A Question of Environmental Racism within the Preston Area, Nova” written in 2001. She established the first Africentric Cohort in Math and Literacy in a public school in 2018. In 2019, the Learning Partnership recognized her as one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals for her groundbreaking work. 

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Dr. Sabrina Jafralie has led an impressive career as a secondary school teacher and a university course lecturer in her 20 years working in both the United Kingdom and in Canada. In 2018, she received the certificate of achievement for the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Dr. Jafralie has also been featured in several well- known publications including the Canadian Press, Journal of Beliefs and Values in Religion & Education, and the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). Jafralie is an educator, scholar and a rising leader in teacher education, racial and religious literacy and diversity, she has spent hours mentoring pre-service teachers and assisting in-service teachers with curriculum design that shape and create students’ opportunities to learn.

In 2020, Jafralie was awarded with the Activist of Year by for her work on Bill 21 and injustices in the Black community. In 2021, Jafralie was awarded the title of one of the Black changemakers in Quebec.

Recently, Jafralie launched her own consultancy business, which can be found at

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Kelsey Jones is the Director of the Indigenous Blacks and Mi’kmaq Initiative at the Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law. She received her B.A. in political science and her J.D from Dalhousie University. Kelsey articled with the Nova Scotia Department of Justice Legal Services Division and was called to the Bar in 2015.

While completing her Masters in Education, Administration and Leadership with a focus in culturally responsive pedagogies at St. Francis Xavier University, she worked at the university as the African Descent Student Affairs Coordinator. Kelsey sits on several boards and associations and currently serves as a Nova Scotia Barristers Society’s Racial Equity Committee member and sits on the Board of Trustees for the Dalhousie Legal Aid Clinic.



Sylvia is President of SVPARRIS CONSULTING and the CEO of the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute. Her work in education, strategic facilitation and the community is rooted in core Africentric Principles.

Through her extensive public sector involvement, Sylvia has gained a deep understanding and appreciation for what it takes to conduct policy analysis, oversee publishing projects, and develop and implement education products, and develop anti-racism and social equity transformation programs. Through her private business, she has influenced change in corporate firms and with leaders seeking to transform their practices. She offers a business effectiveness and profit analysis model that integrates measuring program impact and system change.

She was the recipient of the RBC Women of Influence 2020 Social Change Award, recognized by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and Who’s Who in Black Canada. She has been featured in such publications as the Chronicle Herald, Amplify East and Share News (Ron Fanfare).

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Dr. Cyrus is a Professional Engineer and Fellow of Engineers Canada, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Industrial Engineering at Dalhousie University. He has more than 36 years’ experience teaching industrial engineering, and has held administrative positions at Dalhousie University, including Associate Dean of Engineering and acting Associate Vice President Academic.

He volunteers in several organizations, including the Board of Examiners of Engineers Nova Scotia, the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, Vice Chair of the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, and President of Imhotep’s Legacy Academy.

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Dr. Marlene Ruck Simmonds is from the historical Caribbean community of Whitney Pier, Sydney, Nova Scotia and is a descendant of Black Loyalists who settled within the African Nova Scotian community of Upper Hammonds Plains.

As a Black woman living within the Nova Scotian landscape her professional gaze spans over 28 years and disciplines including, early childhood and elementary education, school psychology, student services, school administration and educational leadership.  She holds Bachelors degrees in Child Study, Education and Masters degrees in School Psychology and Literacy and has taught within public schools and post-secondary institutions.


Dr. Marlene’s understandings of leadership are rooted in the historical, communal and spiritual.  She embraces opportunities to dialogue around the quest for racial equity and justice, supporting others as they take up their role and professional agency to use their gifts in support of creating places and opportunities for Black people to breathe, thrive and advance towards their purpose.

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Colleen Russell-Rawlins is an accomplished educator who approaches leadership with an unwavering commitment to equity.  Her career spans three decades and includes senior leadership positions with the two largest school boards in Canada.  She is currently the Peel District School Board’s Interim Director of Education where she is leading the implementation of the Directives from The Ministry of Education’s Review of the board; a review focused on eliminating anti-Black racism and ensuring effective governance, leadership, and human resource practices. As the Associate Director at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Colleen led the team responsible for the board’s Multi-Year Strategic Action Plan which included improving early literacy and professional learning in equity, anti-racism, and anti-oppression. Colleen holds a Master of Education as well as a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from York University.  In 2020, she was recognized as one of the 100 Accomplished Black Women in Canada. 

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Isaac Saney is Director of the Transition Year Program at Dalhousie University, the ground-breaking program established in 1970 to redress the educational barriers and injustices that confront the Mi’kmaq Nation, other Indigenous peoples and the African Nova Scotian community. His teaching and scholarship encompass Africa, the Caribbean, the U.S. Civil Rights Movement Cuba, and Black Nova Scotian history. He is the author of Cuba: A Revolution in Motion (Zed, 2004),  and is currently finishing Africa’s Children Return! Cuba, Africa and Apartheid's End (Lexington Books). He is also a recipient of the Dalhousie President’s Award for the Advancement of Equity, Diversity and Inclusiveness (EDI). He is a longtime community activist and participant in the anti-war movement and the anti-racist struggle, and is the co-chair and National Spokesperson for the Canadian Network on Cuba. His roots lie in the Black Nova Scotian community and the Caribbean.



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