Board & Staff

NADA Board of Directors, September 27, 2016 (L-R) Dr. Agnes Coutinho, Alisher Kabildjanov, Leon Simard, Troy Paul, Melita Paul, Kerry Spence, Virgil Nathaniel, Catherine Turner, Wendy Fontaine, Jeff LaPlante, Roslynn Baird (missing: Yvan Michon)

NADA Board of Directors, September 27, 2016
(L-R) Dr. Agnes Coutinho, Alisher Kabildjanov, Leon Simard, Troy Paul, Melita Paul, Kerry Spence, Virgil Nathaniel, Catherine Turner, Wendy Fontaine, Jeff LaPlante, Roslynn Baird
(missing: Yvan Michon, Cat Ross)


Board Director

I am a mother and a proud woman of mixed heritage, Mohawk, wolf clan from Six Nations and English.  I began working in Diabetes prevention in 1996 at the Niagara Regional Native Centre, facilitating a talking circle.  In 1997 I began working for the Southern Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative as a Regional Diabetes Worker.  For the past 17 years I have been the Executive Director with the organization (SOADI) and continue to fight the epidemic in our communities.  I have been the chair of the National Aboriginal Diabetes Association and sat on many health and diabetes related committees and boards and currently am chair of the Indigenous Health Network in the HNHB LHIN region.  SOADI has expanded throughout the years to provide innovative services that are responsive to the needs of our people, respect autonomy and incorporate our teachings wherever possible.  I also enjoy being in nature, off the grid, fishing, hiking, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.



Dr. Coutinho has always been fascinated by the health benefits of physical activity, particularly prevention and management of chronic metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and CVD. She completed her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and Health Science, followed by MSc degree specializing in exercise physiology and metabolism at York University (Toronto). At York she obtained the Fitness Assessment & Exercise Counseling Certificate, as well as the Certified Fitness Consultant (CFC) and Professional Fitness & Lifestyle Consultant (PFLC) certificates through the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. She then moved to the UK to complete a PhD in medical sciences (specializing in Endocrinology) at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Coutinho stayed for an additional 4-year Postdoctoral position funded by the Medical Research Council, UK. Currently, she is an Asst. Program Head of Kinesiology at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and the Director of Health Communications for Urban Poling Inc. These complementary and exciting roles fit incredibly well with her personal and professional goals around fitness and health promotion.


Board Director

Wendy McNab is a Cree/Salteaux woman from the Treaty 4 Area (Gordons First Nation, Cowessess First Nation and Peepeekisis First Nation) in Saskatchewan. She is the mother of son Justice, who is an avid lacrosse player. For over ten years Wendy has worked collaboratively to create spaces for learning and sharing stories about Indian Residential Schools in Canada including community forums, panel discussions, conference presentations, and digital storytelling projects featuring survivors and their families. This work has been featured in two publications: “nimâmâsak: The Legacy of First Nations Women Honouring Mothers and Motherhood” in Mothers of the Nations: Indigenous Mothering as Global Resistance, Reclaiming and Recovery (2014); and “Authentic Connections Among Daughters of Residential School Survivors Reconciliation and the Way Forward: Collected Essays and Personal Reflections,” in Reconciliation and the Way Forward: Collected Essays and Personal Reflections (2014). Wendy also has over ten years’ experience working closely with post-secondary students, faculty and staff, and First Nations communities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Winnipeg in Conflict Resolution Studies and a certificate in Aboriginal Focusing-Oriented Therapy and Complex Trauma from the Justice Institute of British Columbia. She is currently completing a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Winnipeg. Since 2014, Wendy has been the Coordinator for the Partners for Engagement and Knowledge Exchange (PEKE) project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and housed at the Nanaandawewigamig First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba.


Board Director

Yvan Michon has over 35 years of experience in the engineering and high tech field and a track record as an executive/general manager in large multi-national companies as well as his own business in IT consulting and engineering for 17 years. He is presently responsible for partnership and major initiatives for a Quebec based organization that is specialized in imaging and artificial intelligence software used in the detection of diabetic retinopathy and other eye related pathologies. He has a successful track record in business development, team building , sales, and product development. He has also been national president of APP AC which represented the search and consulting industry in Canada.



Virgil is currently an Associate Professor at the University College of the North in Thompson, Manitoba, and has taught Anatomy, Physiology, and Chemistry and other courses in the northern Nursing program for over 20 years. He holds a Ph.D in physiology from the University of Manitoba. His doctoral research pertained to the study of diabetic neuropathy, a complication seen in longstanding diabetes in both Type 1 and Type 2 forms. His research involved examining specific structural, biochemical, and physiological changes that occur in distal symmetric polyneuropathy, and what could be done to prevent or reverse its progression. He continues to be interested in diabetes and what can be done to reduce its incidence, especially in the north. He believes that close monitoring and early detection may be essential in preventing diabetic complications. Although trained in the medical sciences, Virgil also considers himself to be a “closet musician” and plays piano, organ, some guitar and with interest in blues, southern rock, gospel, classical, and movie score music production.


Board Director

Melita Paul is a community health worker for NunatuKavut Community Council in Labrador. She has worked in this position for more than 10 years. Melita have spent most of this time working on the Learning For Life ~ Preventing Diabetes project teaching people in her communities about the prevention of type 2 diabetes by promoting a healthy active lifestyle. Melita works predominantly in the communities on the South East coast of Labrador where there are little resources available to residents in the communities. Melita is also very active in providing aboriginal representation on many issues both regionally and provincially. Some of her involvement has been: The Canadian Diabetes Association and their advocacy team for which she received volunteer of the year award a few years ago, the provincial planning committee for the Aboriginal Women’s conferences in NL, Chairperson / board member of the Southern Labrador Family Resource Centres for the past 10 years. In her personal life, Melita lives in Charlottetown, Labrador with her husband Wayde and is a Mom to her son MacKay and daughter Alyssa and a Grandmother to her 5 year old grandson Kobe.



Troy is a Mi’kmaq, originally from the Nova Scotia community of Membertou. He is currently employed with Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia as the Director of Human Resources. He has had over 10 years experience working with and for Aboriginal communities and organizations across Canada. He believes the effect of diabetes is a national problem of eminent proportions, requiring immediate actions to lessen harmful effects to grassroots people both on and off reserve. His personal concern is direct, with family members, friends and relatives suffering the dreadful effects of such an insidious disease. Amputations, blindness, insulin dependence, and even death are but a few examples of situations he has encountered first hand. Therefore, it is of great personal satisfaction to him to help address potential solutions and answers to this plague affecting Aboriginal people.


Board Director

Leon was raised a free range organic kid in the small Metis community of Manigotogan, Manitoba and is a member of the Hollow Water Ojibway Band. He earned his Bachelor of Education degree from Brandon University and subsequently taught school in remote First Nation communities as well as in the inner city of Winnipeg at Children of The Earth High School. While earning his Master’s Degree from the University of Manitoba he became acutely aware of the health disparities between First Nations people and the rest of Canadians. His interest in curriculum development led him to work with the Kidney Foundation of Canada to research, write and implement a K-6 Curriculum on the prevention of kidney disease, it is currently being piloted in several schools in northern Manitoba. For the past two years, Leon has worked as the Manitoba First Nations Food Security Coordinator with the Four Arrows Regional Health Authority office in Winnipeg. The complex issues involved in food security, nutrition, education and community development combine to make his job very interesting and challenging. He lives in Winnipeg where he is actively involved in his neighbourhood community gardening program and crime prevention activities.


Board Director – Youth Representative

Kerry Spence is an Ojibway-Métis woman, originally from Eddystone, Manitoba, and a member of Lake Manitoba First Nation. In 2015, she completed a Master of Science (Human Nutritional Sciences) degree, and she recently completed training (a dietetic internship) in Manitoba to be a Registered Dietitian. Her passions lie in indigenous health and indigenous foods. She will be returning to the University of Manitoba for her PhD Studies in Fall 2017, in which she will assess the indigenous cultural safety training of dietitians in Canada. Her overall goal is to utilize her knowledge, skills, and cultural humility to assist Indigenous people in attaining optimal nutritional health and healing through food.


Past Chairperson

Catherine Turner is Métis, originally from Manitoba, residing in Courtenay, BC, since 1991. She has been involved in health promotion programs for Aboriginal people at the community and national levels. She brings many years of experience related to diabetes and Aboriginal people. In addition to studying at the University of Manitoba and North Island College, Catherine completed her Bachelor’s degree in Professional Communication, Royal Roads University in 2009. She is committed to reducing health disparities experienced by Aboriginal people.

Currently Catherine is involved in First Nations/Aboriginal kidney awareness & education activities, under contract with the Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC Branch.



Executive Director

Jeff LaPlante is Métis (Saulteaux and French) from the Red River Valley, Red Lake Minnesota, Woodridge, Manitoba, and Winnipeg. Jeff has worked in the fields of human rights, First Nations self-government, First Nations community-based research and advocacy, program development and delivery, and Indigenous health and wellness since graduating from the University of Manitoba in 2001. Jeff envisions an expanded reach and network for NADA, based on existing connections and relationships, and looking to extensive partnerships and collaborations with diabetes-related health researchers; programs and services; and community-based practitioners, knowledge-keepers and healers.


Community Engagement Coordinator

Cat Ross has been dubbed the “philanthropic guru” by her friends, family, and colleagues; a character trait entrenched at a very young age. Through working with a number of charities throughout the years, Cat has demonstrated her relentless willingness to give back to the community. Cat had decided at the young age of twenty-two to take her humanitarian efforts global and travelled to Kenya to work in the HIV/AIDS Clinics. She had described this experience as “a life-altering experience that ignites the passion to support those in need whenever and however you can.” Upon her return she worked tirelessly over the years to develop her own charitable organization, K.I.D.S. Kenya Initiative for Development & Sustainability Inc., which works towards finding sustainable solutions for its partners in Kenya. For as long as Cat lives, she will continue to build relationships with beneficiaries and partner agencies, and she will continue to inspire her family, friends, staff, and community to improve the lives of those in need. Why? Because she can.


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National Aboriginal Diabetes Association Inc.
103-90 Garry Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
R3C 4H1

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