CPJ’s New Board Members

The Board of Directors of Citizens for Public Justice (from left): Leah Watkiss, Martha Wiebe, Jim Dekker, Trixie Ling, Naomi Kabugi, Mike Bos, Adrian Helleman, Rick Manual, Rene Adams, Wayne Groot, Harold Roscher, Monique Verhoef, Tiffany Talen, and Cherilyn Spraakman.

CPJ is excited to welcome four new Board members. As our Board, staff, and supporters gathered in Toronto, CPJ elected Rene Adams, Harold Roscher, Cherilyn Spraakman, and Tiffany Talen. We are excited about the contributions they will bring to our work! Read on to learn more about these new additions to CPJ’s Board of Directors.

Rene Adams, Brampton, ON

Born under apartheid in South Africa, my journey into activism began at age 5, when I questioned why I was not allowed to play in an area of a park designated for white children. I have worn many hats over the past 25 years including: Naval reservist (Ret.), being a single mom, grandmother, caregiver to a terminally ill parent, Sunday School teacher, community organizer, Maytree Leader for Change, homeless advocate, community advocate, community leader, board member, public speaker, producer, award winner, advisor, disabled, change agent. I have been a member of the United Church of Canada congregation at Davenport Perth Community Church since 2003. I have been part of the Journey of Black peoples in the United church, a parent activist with Campaign 2000, a former board member of the Income Security Advocacy Centre, the 25 in 5 Network on Poverty Reduction, and a member of the Minister’s General Advisor Council on social assistance reform. I was the Community Advocate for the Toronto Christian Resource Centre/ Fairlawn Avenue United Church social justice partnership. I was a board member of the St. Clair West Affordable Housing Group, which created deeply affordable housing in Toronto. After a 5-year accident recovery period, I recently returned to school to pursue my Community Worker Diploma from George Brown college. I identify as a Cis woman of colour with multiple hidden disabilities.

What in your view is the value, purpose or role of CPJ?

To be the Christian voice that challenges public policy that does not promote the health, dignity and empowerment of Canadian Citizenship, which may include, health, environmental concerns, and the rights-based approach to addressing poverty in our society.

How can you contribute to CPJ as a Board Member?

Inspired by the words of Louise Arbour that “poverty is not only a matter of income but also, more fundamentally, a matter of being able to live a life in dignity and enjoy basic human rights and freedoms. It describes a complex of interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations, which impact people’s ability to claim and access their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In a fundamental way, therefore, the denial of human rights forms part of the definition of what it is to be poor.” I can utilize my strategic planning skills to ensure that the organization is not only meeting its mandate but also ensure that more Christians are included in the conversation around the rights-based approach to issues of ecology, refugee rights and poverty. I have networking skills that can help to connect more people to the work of CPJ.

Harold Roscher, Edmonton, AB

I am the chaplain and director for the Edmonton Native Healing Centre after a career as an electrician and received a degree in Religion and Theology at Taylor university in Edmonton. I started full-time work in 2002 after the Creator challenged me to go back to school and prepare my heart to work with aboriginal people. At age thirty-five I became a registered Indian with the government; talk about a transition from being a little dark-haired Dutch boy! In recognizing myself as a Cree man, God launched me on this fantastic journey of discovery about self, culture and the Gospel. I have a wonderfully supportive wife and three daughters and one son, all of them are out of the house. I have four grandsons and love being a grandpa.

What, in your view, is the value, purpose or role of CPJ?

I feel the role, value and purpose of CPJ is to take the many voices of its membership and other circles and bring them together into a coherent unified response. For me, it is the image of a drum group with its ten members singing and drumming as one voice and playing the drum not as ten individuals but one drum stick. When we have a harmonized voice, the message is easier to hear.

How can you contribute to CPJ as a Board Member?

I am a Cree man, so I hope to bring the strengths of my culture, the wisdom of the elders and my skills as an executive director of a not-for profit organization. When I approach a situation, I try to see things in a holistic way using these four parts of a human being: The Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual. So, my faith in Jesus is important in how I interact with the broader circle of community.

Cherilyn Spraakman, Newmarket, ON

I was born and raised on a farm at Olds, Alberta. After marrying my husband Gary we lived in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, and for the past 25 years Newmarket, Ontario. I graduated with a B.Sc. in Physiotherapy from the University of Toronto in 1974 and worked as a physiotherapist for 38 years, mainly in geriatrics, oncology and palliative care. I am now retired. In January 2018 I travelled to Jordan and the Holy Land visiting a refugee camp, a hospital and schools supported by Canadian Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran World Federation. My prides and joys are my husband, my three children, their spouses, and four grandchildren. My interests are reading, gardening, social justice and our two cats.

What in your view is the value, purpose or role of CPJ?

Citizens for Public Justice is a Christian organization living out faith by presence in the world, advocating care and opportunity for all people and promoting stewardship of the earth.

How can you contribute to CPJ as a Board Member?

a) Advocating to end homelessness – after meeting a number of people without a home at Holy Cross Lutheran, I applied to become a member of the York Region Homelessness Community Advisory Board and started in 2015.

b) Exploring right relations with Indigenous people – in leading the Global Justice Team at Holy Cross Lutheran for 13 years – we have hosted the Blanket Exercise, read Indigenous books, watched documentaries, attended Pow Wows and journeyed on a cultural trip to the Chippewas of Georgina Island. I am also involved in the local KAIROS group. We planned “In the Shadow of the Treaties” in October 2016.

c) Caring for our planet Earth – I am the membership secretary for the Carden Field Naturalists, a member group of Ontario Nature. The club has monthly meetings with invited speakers, teaching about the natural world. The club has stewardship for properties which are owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Tiffany Talen, Redwood Meadows, AB

I grew up in a big family on a farm in Nova Scotia. When young, I shared stories, giggles, and tears with foster sisters and gained an understanding of inequality. I did my undergraduate degree at Calvin College in Grand Rapids MI, studying biology with a concentration in public health. My experiences working and volunteering in low-income communities in the US as well as working in both slum and village settings in Uganda challenged my perspectives and lead me to understand the systemic barriers that many individuals face in living life to its fullest (John 10:10). I earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Calgary. I have been actively involved in a basic income advocacy group, have participated in justice rallies and campaigns, and am an active member of Calgary’s Social Workers for Social Justice. At my church, I organize Justice Café meet-ups and am currently working at Enviros Wilderness School supporting and advocating for caregivers of youth with disabilities, mainly Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. My husband and I are expecting a baby in August.

What, in your view, is the value, purpose or role of CPJ?

CPJ provides an avenue for people of faith to follow Christ in challenging political, economic and social forces of oppression in our world. The organization plays an important role in engaging and supporting faith communities to think deeper about poverty and other justice issues while offering tangible opportunities to engage in movements of change. In my own advocacy work, I have utilized helpful resources provided by CPJ such as the advocacy toolkit, campaign materials, books, and more. CPJ has played a role in my personal life as it has given me tools to engage and support my community of faith in following Christ in his pursuit of justice.

How can you contribute to CPJ as a Board Member?

I can offer my insights from working on the front lines with individuals living in poverty, with communities directly impacted by climate change, and with individuals experiencing challenges relating to immigration to Canada under refugee status. I can also offer insights from engaging in policy advocacy and research at local, provincial, and federal levels. In addition, I believe that my feminist and anti-oppressive lenses will be helpful to the organization in maintaining a critical perspective on poverty and inequality. On a practical level, I am skilled in planning and facilitating events, am very comfortable with public speaking, and am experienced in facilitating difficult conversations within faith communities on topics of social, political, and environmental justice.

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