Board & Staff

Board & Staff

NIDA Board of Directors and Staff, December 2018



Robert (Bob) Fenton is Anishnaabe from Animakee Wa Zhing No. 37 First Nation, Treaty 3.  He has two sons and three grandsons.  He has worked for the Ontario Native Women’s Association as the Aboriginal Diabetes Education Coordinator for the past sixteen years.

Diabetes has ravaged his family for three generations and now the fourth and fifth generations are here.  Bob was diagnosed in 2007 with Type 2 diabetes.  Therefore, he is very honoured to be a part of the National Indigenous Diabetes Association in the effort to end diabetes.

Bob believes in his favourite acronym “TEAM” (Together Everyone Achieves More).  Researchers, doctors & nurses, the medical profession, Diabetes Canada, chiefs and councils, teachers, diabetes educators, community members, grandfathers, grandmothers,  Elders and youth  need to come together to end diabetes.



ooklas, Yakup 

My name is Yakup.  I was given that name because Yakup was a very sharing woman.
In 1994, my husband and I adopted two young boys into our family in the Mowachaht/Muchalaht tradition of the nuu-chah-nulth-aht.
My English name is Margaretta James. My mother was L’il Wat and my father was Filipino. I live at Tsaxana near Gold River on Vancouver Island in Mowachaht/Muchalaht territory.
Each indigenous nation defines an Elder by several factors and qualities.  Me?  We share what we know. I am honoured to have been asked to share as an Elder for the National Indigenous Diabetes Association. The Language?  Cultural Beliefs?  The Heritage?  The History?  I am not ashamed to say that I don’t know everything. I am still learning, too. In the Language, essock is respect. In this new role, I will attempt to share what I know, with respect. Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the fall when 9/11 occurred, there was a shift in my life choices of living healthier. Last year 2020 reawakened in all of us the importance of our wellness, the quality of our being. We have been nudged to accept the science, adapt our lifestyle and appreciate our lives.
kleco kleco for allowing me to share my journey.  cuu.


Board Director

Mike Alexander is an emerging artist and writer, a member of Swan Lake First Nation in Treaty#1 Territory, now living in Squamish, BC. Mike was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2015 which proved to be a life-transforming wake-up call.

A sixties scoop survivor, Mike has overcome trauma, massive depression, decades of addiction and an unhealthy lifestyle to become an endurance athlete, having now participated in four triathlons in BC. Having undergone a recovery from addiction and a weight loss journey, Mike has come to understand the relationship between the physical, mental and spiritual, and seeks balance in these areas without diabetes medication.

In an effort to raise awareness of diabetes prevention, he has devoted time and art towards the message of living well, nutrition, movement and healing. With the help of NIDA, Mike was introduced to and has since become a Patient Partner with Diabetes Action Canada. He is a grassroots rider for Easton Cycling and is honoured to lend his voice towards changing the trajectory of diabetes in Indigenous communities while dispelling stereotypes about who we are and what we can accomplish in life.


Past Chairperson

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 (IDHC) and continue to fight the epidemic in our communities.  I have been the Chair of the National Indigenous Diabetes Association and sat on many health and diabetes related committees and boards and am the Past Chair of the Indigenous Health Network in the HNHB LHIN region.  IDHC 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.


Board Director

Mary Beaucage is Anishnaabekwe from Nipissing First Nation, outside of North Bay ON. Mary has type-2 diabetes and developed end-stage kidney disease in 2013, for which she received dialysis. In March 2015, Mary received a kidney from her cousin. She cochairs

several provincial and national patient councils, including the Ontario Renal Network’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, and the Can-SOLVE CKD Network’s Patient Governance Circle and Indigenous Peoples Engagement Research Council (IPERC). Mary

is also a member of the CDTRP. She has been a keynote speaker, panel member and presenter at provincial, national and international nephrology conferences. She brings a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and passion to her work. Mary is interested in educating and advocating in matters of Indigenous health, patient partnership, chronic kidney disease research, and organ donation and transplantation awareness.



Marisa is a member of Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta and works as a Nutrition and Fitness Advisor to her community. Marisa has a Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Science along with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and she is also a certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor. In February 2018 Marisa presented on a NIDA/IDHC webinar in which she spoke about her life with diabetes, herself having Type 2 and experienced gestational diabetes, and her daughter has Type 1. Marisa will bring to the NIDA Board a wealth of experience in navigating the challenges of living healthy but being able to manage diabetes through diet and exercise.



Lyle W Daniels is from the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan but a lifelong resident of the City of Regina. He is a second generation residential school survivor that saw him struggle with addiction throughout his life. He currently works for the Saskatchewan Building Trades Council and the First Nations Employment Center where he works at developing labour and partnerships with the Indigenous community. Lyle has had a lifelong commitment to helping his community, especially the Indigenous young people that has guided him through many different fields of work throughout his life. His latest fight is as a person with type 2 Diabetes where he was diagnosed in 2008. Through a lifestyle change, Lyle has committed to fighting Diabetes and losing over 50 lbs with a plan to eat healthy, eat less and be active. This change allowed him to be taken off insulin and now only requires medication. A trained facilitator, Lyle enjoys providing Indigenous Awareness training and speaking to young people on careers, personal development and balance. He enjoys sharing stories of his life and learnings he has gained to help other people.


Co-Chairperson / Secretary

Robynne has worked in the area of Indigenous health for over 18 years and is currently the Director of Healthy Living for I·SPARC. She is a firm believer that physical activity is the key to obtaining balance and strong mental and physical health, and learned at an early age how sport contributes to positive self-es- teem. As an athlete, her most notable sporting accomplishment was competing at both the national and international levels in professional beach volleyball where she achieved two National titles and qualified for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Robynne has embraced her passion for the traditional and medicinal uses for plants and fungi and can often be found in the mountains gathering medicine. She has completed 2 apprenticeships in Herbal Medicine and Human Physiology, and the nutritional and medicinal benefits of Northwest plants, and has been gathering wild foods since she was 6. She shares her knowledge with her son and they have recently embarked on their teaching journey, providing workshops and presentations to Indigenous communities. Her future goal is to work together with traditional knowledge keepers in indigenous communities to protect and revitalize these practices for future generations.
Robynne is extremely proud of her Cree and Japanese heritage and her greatest joy is raising her two sons on Van-couver Island. She feels extremely grateful to be able to work, play and learn together with our communities, and healthy living leaders across BC!


Board Director

Dr. Barry Lavallee is a member of the First Nation and Métis communities of Manitoba. His ancestral territories are located at St. Laurent, Duck Bay and Lake Manitoba First Nation. He is a member of the Bear Clan. He practices Family Medicine in Winnipeg. He is currently senior physician with Ongomiizwin-Education and leads the Indigenous health longitudinal course in undergraduate medicine at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. He serves as medical advisor to the Diabetes Integration Project of the First Nation Health Services and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, Nanaandawewigamig. The continuing impact of racism, oppression and colonisation on the health and healing of Indigenous communities and their relationship to chronic diseases centers in his work with Diabetes and Chronic Kidney disease. Fostering an anti-racist and anti-colonial framework through a non-deficit model of engagement in the patient-provider relationship permits the humanization of Indigenous peoples. His research focuses on chronic diseases among First Nation communities. He was co-investigator for a project that intends to reduce the burden of dialysis among First Nations, employing a population based intervention of screening, location of disease and appropriate matching to clinical services. He and his colleagues were successful in winning a grant from the Canadian Institute of Heath Research to provide definitive evidence that point of care testing is superior to health education in reducing the burden of chronic kidney disease among First Nations and other Indigenous communities in Canada.


Board Director

Lorraine McLeod is a wife, mother, grandmother, a sister, auntie, and a Registered Nurse.  She is a member of Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake) and was raised in the small northern community of Wabowden, Manitoba.

Lorraine has 39 years of nursing experience.  She currently works as the Associate Director of Diabetes Care and Research within the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba.  This includes the Diabetes Integration Project, which provides mobile Diabetes Care and Treatment services in 19 First Nation communities.  Her involvement in research has been specific to diabetes and kidney health to improve early detection and care.

The first 17 years of her nursing career she worked in acute care (hospital), palliative care, home care, behavior management, and public health settings. The last 22 years she has committed to working directly with First Nations organizations in various capacities to work towards improving health outcomes.

Lorraine has worked at the Tribal Council level; as a Tribal Nursing Officer, Home & Community Care Program Coordinator, and Diabetes Program Coordinator supporting community health programs and services.  She has also worked with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Secretariat as a health policy analyst, coordinator for the Manitoba First Nation Health Blueprint and the Intergovernmental Committee on Manitoba First Nations Health.  These opportunities have involved administration, program development, implementation and evaluation, program and policy analysis, meeting/group facilitation, research projects and networking with First Nations, federal and provincial government departments, and Regional Health Authorities.

Lorraine understands how the history of Canada and how policies have placed First Nations populations at risk.  She is committed to working towards improving health outcomes for underserved populations. She currently serves as a board member for the Manitoba Indigenous Nurses Incorporated.


Board Director

Laurie Ann Nicholas, RD, is the co-founder of the Aboriginal Nutrition Network. She is a proud Maliseet woman from Tobique First Nation and is currently the Indian Day School Class Action Coordinator for Neqotkuk First Nation. Laurie is a registered dietitian with the NB Association of Dietitians and has been working in health field since 1991. Laurie has worked in Diabetes Education as a Diabetes Coordinator and Community Dietitian for several organizations and communities and has been a Certified First Nations Health Manager since 2015. Laurie is a cultural specialist, pipe carrier and conductor of water and Full Moon Ceremonies which is a great asset. She is knowledgeable and participates in the Wolastoqey language and songs as well in traditional dancing and beadwork.



Executive Director

Jeff LaPlante is of Métis ancestry from 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 NIDA, 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.


Administrative Coordinator

Sylvia Sentner was raised and currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  She is of Cree and Scottish heritage. Sylvia is a mother of two and has worked within the administrative/customer service industry for over 12 years.  She is passionate about end of life care and has obtained her Applied Counselling Certificate through Red River College and completed training within the Interlake Eastern Regional Health Authority to aid as a palliative care volunteer.  Sylvia has always been drawn towards a helping profession and is excited to work within and learn from the National Indigenous Diabetes Association.

NIDA Past Board of Directors 

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National Indigenous Diabetes Association Inc.
202-160 Provencher Blvd
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
R2H 0G3

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