As the Network Coordinator at the Mental Health Commission of Canada, my role is to oversee the MHCC's two advisory networks of people with lived and living experience with mental health and substance use issues. The networks are engaged by program teams across the Commission to incorporate the perspective of those with lived and living experience, acknowledging that this lived experience is just as valuable as professional or academic experience. Thus, my focus is on engagement of people with lived experience specifically in the context of the Canadian mental health landscape. To streamline and improve the process of engagement of our core networks, I am opting to adapt the IAP2 Framework for Public Participation to suit our purposes at the Commission. I am championing the framework as I believe it will inspire more meaningful engagement of our networks and amplify the voices of those whose lives are most impacted by the work of the Commission.
To me, meaningful engagement is a dynamic process. It is a commitment to flexibility and openness to a diversity of thought and opinion. Barriers to honest and open communication between the public and those seeking its engagement should be targeted and mitigated. This means that we must consider the different ways in which marginalized communities are implicitly silenced or less frequently sought out for engagement opportunities. For example, inaccessible language will render engagement meaningless if the population doesn't speak the language of instruction or does not possess the academic or professional background to provideappropriate feedback. As such, engagement itself should be a process open to feedback and critical analysis by its target population. I do not believe in a top-down approach to engagement; rather a collaborative relationship between two stakeholders.
Statement of Qualifications
As one of two mental health commissioners serving the undergraduate population at McGill University, as well as in my supervisory roles at the Peer Support Centre, the largest and most well-established student-run peer support service across the nation, I have a plethora of leadership experience under my belt. Now in the nonprofit field, I am well versed in organizational structure, corporate affairs and the bureaucracy that often hinders or impedes progress. This, coupled with my intersectional lived experience, equips me with the necessary skills and expertise to work alongside Board members on enhancing the process of engagement of core populations nationwide. Prior to my employment at the MHCC, my role as Youth Council co-chair (the YC is one of the two MHCC networks of people with lived and living experience), in which I was being solicited for engagement, provided me the opportunity to advocate for more extensive and frequent engagement of the Council. I have thus been privileged enough to have experience on both sides of the spectrum. I am keenly aware of the frustrations that exist within the current system of public engagement and as such, I believe I possess the unique ability to provide the Board with very nuanced perspectives.
My interest and expertise lies in the engagement of diverse populations in the field of mental health and substance use, particularly in a large nonprofit setting. I believe I could contribute greatly to the Board's mission of championing the IAP2 mission statement across the country, as I am currently in the process of doing at the MHCC. With my personal, volunteer and professional experience on both sides of the equation, I am confident in my ability to positively impact the status quo of public engagement and participation.
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