Russ Patterson(President)

Russ is currently President on the Board of MARL and has served on the Board of MARL for 5 years.  Russ is a Social Studies and ELA teacher in the Winnipeg School Division.  He started out at Gordon Bell but has been teaching at St. John’s for the last 10 years, mainly teaching Grade 9 Social Studies and grade 10 Geography.  He also coaches the varsity boys basketball team, department head, leads student council and runs the school Ethics Bowl team. Prior to becoming an educator, Russ had a career in the finance and trucking industries. Russ became involved with MARL through the Ethics Bowl and MARL school workshops. Passion in human rights, ethics, active citizenship and sustainability, working with MARL has provided Russ an opportunity to show his students how to apply their learning in real world experiences.

Emily Muller(Treasurer)

A Philosophical Counsellor at the Birch Wellness Center in Winnipeg, a student of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manitoba, and an affiliate of the U of M’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics. She lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two children. She has served on the MARL board for several years, after first participating in the sub-committee that originated and planned the Canadian High School Ethics Bowl project. This national, extra-curricular alternative to high school debate continues to grow in quality and involve more students and teachers every season. Emily’s doctoral work will argue that the Ethics Bowl’s strategies for promoting sincere dialogue about difficult social issues - as well as MARL’s work for civic dialogue, in schools and in the wider community – offer serious and under-appreciated tools for peacebuilding. Working respectfully together builds up our relationships, our capacities, and our inclinations to solve shared problems. Emily currently serves as the MARL’s Treasurer.

Melanie Beth Oliviero(Board Director) 

Melanie is a strategist and educator with global and grassroots experience.  Her lifelong advocacy of accountability, human rights and economic empowerment led her to MARL. Serving on the board since 2017, she lends her skills at working collaboratively with community, philanthropy, government and the private sectors.  This includes brokering strategic alliances serving marginalized communities and leaders of systemic change such as Indigenous reconciliation, Canada, right to information in Sri Lanka and agricultural transformation across Sub-Saharan Africa.  She has run nonprofit organizations (Panos Institute, Comparative Constitutionalism Project of the American Council of Learned Societies) and advised philanthropic and government donors (MacArthur, Ford and Soros Foundations, UN agencies and US foreign aid).  Melanie earned her degrees from Georgetown University, USA (Ph.D., M.S., Sociolinguistics) and teaches online and in person as visiting faculty to schools of Public Engagement, Law, Business and Continuing Education in Canada and the USA.  Her other volunteer services include board positions with the Maquila Solidarity Network (Toronto) and Circles for Reconciliation (Winnipeg).

Tracy Schmidt(Board Director)

Tracy's passion for workers’ rights sparked in 2009 when she joined a trade union as a postal worker. She soon became active as a shop steward and a local board officer, and her experiences representing fellow union members led her to pursue a career as an advocate.

As a student at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law, she gained exposure volunteering with various rights-based community organizations including; the UofM’s Centre for Human Rights Research, delivering lunch-hour seminars to high-school students on human rights issues; CanU Canada, co-facilitating a ‘Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Academy’ and providing mentorship to junior high-school students; the Community Unemployed Help Centre, assisting advocates and clients on issues of Employment and Income Assistance; and Winnipeg Harvest’s Community Income Tax Return Program, providing income tax services to Winnipeg Harvest clients.

Her broadening interests in rights and justice issues in our community led to her involvement with MARL in 2018, as a member of the Policy and Legislative Affairs Committee (PLAC). She later joined MARL’s Board in 2020, with hopes of continuing to learn from and contribute to the diverse and important work of the organization, and to represent a labour-rights perspective.

She currently work as the Labour Relations Officer for the Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers (WAPSO), providing advice and representation to the City of Winnipeg’s managerial and professional employees.  She also really enjoy cycling, hiking, gardening and camping with her family, whom I hope to grow up within an increasingly fair and just community.

Rob Walichnowski(Board Director)

Robert J. Walichnowski is a lawyer in private practice, working primarily in the areas of civil litigation and administrative law.  Born and raised in Winnipeg, Robert earned a B.A. (Honours) from the University of Manitoba in 2008, and a M.A. from the University of Guelph in 2010, both in history.  After working for a few years, Robert returned to school, attending and graduating from Robson Hall, where he served on the editorial board of The Canadian Journal of Human Rights, and took interest in access to justice. He articled at the Public Interest Law Centre, an office of Legal Aid Manitoba, and was called to the bar in June 2018. When not working, he enjoys watching films and almost any sport known to humankind.  Robert has been a Board member of MARL since 2018, and has served as MARL’s lawyer-supervisor for its work with Pro Bono Students Canada since joining the Board.  During his tenure, Robert hopes that MARL will continue to expand its education and outreach initiatives, to ensure that our community are informed of their legal and human rights, the knowledge of which, he believes, are important precursors to access to justice and a more fair society.

Izzeddin Hawamda(Board Director)

Izzeddin Hawamda was born and raised in a rural village just outside of the city of Nablus in the West Bank, Palestine. He has lived in Canada for over 15 years and currently works as a high school teacher. He is currently working toward a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manitoba. Izzeddin, along with Jewish-Canadian, and Quaker colleagues, is a co-founder of (Gaser/Bridge) and has been speaking publicly about the power of dialogue and the importance of sharing, listening, and respecting diverse perspectives and narratives. Izzeddin is also working to develop opportunities for Indigenous students and newcomer students to share spaces and stories in an effort to build bridges and break down the barriers. In addition, Izzeddin is a  member of the CRRIC board and a member of the Countering Radicalization to Violence in Manitoba Schools, has been selected to join the first CBC Manitoba Community Advisory Board, and is excited to be advising on new content with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Linda Conner(Board Director)

After learning and teaching for over 3 decades in the classroom, Linda Connor continues to learn in her current positon as the Social Studies Consultant for Manitoba Education. In addition to co-authoring the grade 11 Canadian history textbook, Shaping Canada, Linda has contributed to the grade 7 social studies textbook, The World Today, and the grade 9 civics textbook, Canada in the Contemporary World. Linda was on the Manitoba Social Studies Steering Committee and curriculum development teams for grades 7, 9 and 11 social studies. She is also the Provincial Coordinator for the UNESCO Associated Schools Network, is on the Speaker’s Bureau for the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, and co-edits the Manitoba Social Science Teachers Association education journal.

Jessica Da Silva(Board Director)

 Jessica da Silva is a proud Latina women from Brazil. She has a Master’s in Political Science from University of Manitoba and Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Escola Superior de Administração e Marketing. She has been volunteering and employed with the charitable and non-profit sector with a focus in youth, women’s issues, and community building. 

As an intersectional feminist, she practices transformative leadership, which takes an intersectional and holistic approach to understand, challenge, and transform complex systems of power and institutions that govern our day-to-day lives. Her professional and education background has allowed her to realize that oppression is a fluid and evolving concept that continues to impact how we experience systems of power and the world around us. We need to work collaboratively with those most impacted by colonialism, patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, cis-sexism, transmisogyn and binarism within civic institutions and beyond. Her vision, which aligns with the organization, is to support and empower folks through community partnership, collaboration, and ethical, safe and sustainable ally ship.  

On a more personal level, her favorite colors are teal, pink and purple. She loves Moana, Encanto, Bobs Burgers, watermelon and flamingos and she is always dancing (even if there is no song playing).

Stephanie Zirino (Board Member)

Stephanie Zirino has taught for over a decade in local and international schools. Stephanie is pursuing a Master’s in Human Rights degree at the University of Manitoba. Her focus is on experiential learning for human rights education. As a Social Studies teacher by training, she is deeply committed to exploring Reconciliation and working towards fostering a decolonized, inclusive, and brave learning environment. Stephanie is a member of the Global Teacher Inquiry Project, the Manitoba Writing Project, and has facilitated DEI workshops for Professional Development as well as Anti-Semitism education with Manitoba Education and Training. As MARL’s Education Coordinator, Stephanie will work to promote human rights education for all Manitoban communities. Outside of education, she spends her time giving treats to her dog.

Talia Taras(Board Member)

Talia Taris is a Syrian Canadian who is dedicated to forwarding human rights through dialogue and translation. Obtaining her degree in human rights from the University of Winnipeg, Talia is devoting the next chapter of her education to legal education and training. Talia began working with MARL through her human rights practicum. She had the privilege of working under the supervision of Dr. Sandra Krahn and Michelle Falk. Talia has served on several community initiatives including the Manitoba Youth Ethics Committee, MARL’s BIPOC committee, and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg’s human rights advocacy training. As the chair of the Manitoba Post-Secondary Ethics Committee, Talia worked to organize post-secondary student membership across Manitoba. The committee is devoted to local communities with an aim to emphasize current human rights topics and concerns, engage community members, student bodies, field experts and foster an ethical dialogue across campuses. Talia is currently working with Dr. Krahn on documenting discrimination experienced by Winnipeg BIPOC communities. 

Elizabeth Andrea(Board Member)


Elizabeth Aluk Andrea lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where she co-founded Manitoba Women for Women of South Sudan (MW4WSS) and serves as its current president. She holds a degree from the University of Winnipeg in Urban Inner-City Studies and Conflict Resolution Studies. Using her Conflict Resolution education, she and a group of diaspora women and men initiated local peace dialogue among the ethnic communities in Rumbek, South Sudan. Supported by UNMISS, the dialogue had good participation by politicians, youth, men, women and religious leaders from Lakes State. It has had the positive benefit of reducing violence. In November 2016, MW4WSS hosted a Women’s Peace Table Campaign on South Sudan in Winnipeg. In October of 2016, she made a presentation to the Sudan/South Sudan Mission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on the status of women in the conflict in South Sudan. She is a member of Dialogue for South Sudan, a volunteer organization based in Winnipeg which promotes dialogue among South Sudanese and is a former representative of women in the Winnipeg Chapter of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement.

Avinash Singh(Board Member)

Avinash Singh (he/him) is a second-year student at the University of Manitoba intending to pursue a career in medicine. He is a Youth Liaison for the Office of the Honourable Marilou McPhedran. Avinash is passionate about nuclear disarmament activism, human rights, and advocating for youth to become more engaged in their communities - especially in thinking globally and acting locally. He first connected with MARL as a participant at the Provincial Ethics Bowl and Ethics Cafes. Avinash has since been involved in helping plan Ethics Cafes and Ethics Across Our Borders forums. He is eager to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work of MARL and facilitate the profoundly positive impact it has in Manitoba. 

Mia Bastien(Board Director) 

Amy Robertson(Board Director)

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