Speakers

Sibel Ataogul

Sibel Ataogul is a partner at the law firm of Melançon Marceau Grenier and Sciortino and a member of the Quebec Bar since 2004.

She represents trade unions, workers, professionals, and artists  in both the public and private sectors. Her labour law practice covers federal and provincial jurisdictions and includes union certification, arbitration and litigation before specialized boards and civil tribunals.  Ms. Ataogul also teaches collective labour relations at the Université de Montréal since 2010 and has given numerous conferences on labour rights and freedom of association. She is also counsel in numerous class actions and constitutional challenges involving the right to protest.

Ms. Ataogul was one of the lawyers involved in the constitutional challenge of the Quebec Labour Code concerning agricultural migrant workers’ right to unionize, which led to a change in the relevant provisions. She is also the president of the Association des juristes progressistes, a non-profit legal organization that aims to provide a progressive voice within the legal community.

Yessy Byl

Since graduating from the Calgary Faculty of Law School  in 1980, Yessy Byl has worked primarily in the field of labour law in private practice as well as on staff with unions in Alberta.  

Volunteer work with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre led to Yessy’s  involvement with temporary foreign workers and immigration issues in mid-2006 and to becoming the “Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate” with the Alberta Federation of Labour from 2007 to 2010 where she co-authored two reports published by the AFL.  She served on the Board of the Edmonton Community Legal Centre and was instrumental in setting up the TFW legal clinic and the Immigration law department at the Centre.   She continues to advocate on behalf of foreign workers.

Currently, she is the Northern Alberta Educator in Human Rights Education for the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center, and is also an instructor for Athabasca University in Labour Studies.

Yessy continues to be active on TFW and immigration issues through her volunteer work with community groups and in providing ongoing education programs for TFWs and new immigrants on immigration law and programs. 

Kaity Cooper

Kaity Cooper graduated from UBC Law in 2010, where she received the Law Society Gold Medal and Prize.  After clerking at the Court of Appeal, Kaity joined the Community Legal Assistance Society where she worked in the areas of human rights, workers’ rights and housing, with a particular focus on migrant worker rights. 

Kaity has represented migrant workers before the Workers’ Compensation Board and Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal, Employment Standards Branch, Human Rights Tribunal and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.  Through this work, she has learned the unique challenges faced by migrant workers who try to enforce their legal rights.  To address these challenges, she has partnered with grassroots migrant worker organizations to provide legal education to migrant workers across British Columbia.  She is also a member of the Employment Standards Coalition which works to build public support for strong progressive employment standards legislation.    

In January 2015, Kaity joined the legal department of the Hospital Employees’ Union where she continues to advocate for the rights of workers.

Natalie Drolet

Natalie Drolet joined the West Coast Domestic Workers Association as Staff Lawyer/ Executive Director in November 2014. Natalie received her L.L.B and B.C.L law degrees from McGill University in 2009, and her M.A. in Immigration and Settlement Studies from Ryerson University in 2005. Natalie has worked with caregivers in both Canada and abroad. After graduating from law school, she was based in Cambodia, where she managed an advocacy project for the protection of the rights of domestic workers and supervised the legal team's labour migration and human trafficking casework. Natalie moved to BC from Ottawa, where she served as the Staff Lawyer for Connecting Ottawa, a multilingual access to justice project, with a community legal clinic. She also founded a working group on labour trafficking as a volunteer with PACT-Ottawa. She is a member of the Law Society of British Columbia and the Law Society of Upper Canada.

David Fairey

David Fairey was a Labour Economist and Labour Relations Consultant with Trade Union Research Bureau in Vancouver for nearly 40 years. He is a graduate of York University (Honours B.A. 1972) and the University of British Columbia (M.A. 1973), and was Director of Trade Union Research Bureau from 1989 to 2013. He is now an independent Labour Relations Consultant and workers advocate. Throughout his career he has provided consulting economic, labour policy, pension plan, collective bargaining, labour relations, pay equity and organizational research and advocacy for public and private sector unions in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. David has collaborated in publishing research papers and submissions on a wide variety of labour and employment law issues such as labour standards, labour relations, pay equity, construction safety, and migrant labour. He is co-chair of the BC Employment Standards Coalition, a Research Associate of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and currently acts as an advisor to Union trustees of a jointly trusteed pension plan.

Lynne Fernandez

Lynne Fernandez did a Master’s degree in economics with heterodox economists at the University of Manitoba, and so has a non-mainstream understanding of how power, politics, business and labour are negotiated in our society. Working for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives allows her to apply that understanding daily and to interact with like-minded colleagues. She is also a member of the Migrant Workers Solidarity Network, a group of volunteers who advocate for Manitoba’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers. She holds the Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues at the CCPA and interacts closely with Manitoba’s labour community to produce research for workers.

Jodie Gauthier

Jodie Gauthier is a Vancouver lawyer who primarily practices in the areas of labour, human rights, disability and workers’ compensation law. She has represented numerous workers employed in Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program through a variety of legal actions and complaints.

As well, while at Koskie Glavin Gordon, she has assisted with a number of cases on behalf of workers employed through the TFWP, including CUSW, Local 1611 v. SELI Canada(a human rights complaint on behalf of workers involved in the construction of the Canada Line in Vancouver) and a class action against Denny's Restaurants.

Prior to entering practice in the private labour bar, Jodie articled at a not-for-profit law firm where she assisted workers who experienced discrimination and mistreatment in the treeplanting industry, and as a law student she completed a summer placement with a community organization that provides legal advice and assistance to farmworkers working in the Fraser Valley. In her practice, Jodie is most interested in the ways that employment, immigration and human rights law intersect.

Min Sook Lee

Min Sook Lee is an Assistant Professor of Art & Social Change at the Ontario College of Art and Design University.  Her research and teaching focus on the intersections of labour, border politics, migration, art and social change. She is an award winning Canadian filmmaker with a diverse and prolific portfolio of multimedia work. Her doc filmography includes: the Gemini nominated El Contrato which looked at the lives of Mexican migrant workers in Ontario; Tiger Spirit, a personal reflection on reunification between North and South Korea, garnered the Donald Brittain Gemini for Best Social/Political Documentary; and Hogtown -a dissection of the politics of policing in Toronto’s city hall which was awarded the Best Canadian Documentary prize at the Hot Docs Festival.  Min Sook’s latest documentary The Real Inglorious Bastards was honoured with the Canadian Screen Award for Best History Documentary in 2013.  Her latest documentary, Migrant Dreams, a portrait of resistance amongst migrant women workers, will be released in 2016.

Min Sook is a recipient of the Cesar E. Chavez Black Eagle Award for El Contrato’s impact on the rights of migrant workers.  Canada’s oldest labour arts festival, Mayworks Festival, has named the Min Sook Lee Labour Arts Award in her honour.  The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the arts and labour movement.

Brett Matthews

Brett Matthews has represented trade unions and working people since being called to the BC bar in 2007.  He joined Hastings Labour Law Office in 2008 as an associate and joined the partnership in 2013. He provides advice, assistance and conducts litigation for clients in a variety of work related areas of law, including federal and provincial labour law, employment law, human rights, administrative and constitutional law. Brett has appeared before a wide range of administrative boards, arbitration panels, courts, and commissions of inquiry. Brett has served on the boards of a number of not-for-profit and charitable organizations, and currently serves on the executive of the BC Canadian Bar Association Labour Law Subsection.

Leo McGrady

Leo McGrady works with James Baugh, Maria Koroneos, Michael Prokosh, and Sonya Sabet-Rasekh at McGrady and Company. The firm specializes in labour law, human rights, class actions, and libel law, all on behalf of unions, employees, media, and journalists.

Leo has argued cases at all levels of Court in British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.  He has been counsel on a number of leading labour and Charter cases in the Supreme Court of Canada.  He taught for several years at the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia.  He currently teaches for the profession through the British Columbia Continuing Legal Education Society, and the Labour Studies Program at SFU.

Leo has spoken and published on labour law, human rights, as well as international trade law in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Europe.  He is the author of the Guide to the Law of Protest in British Columbia 2014, widely used by protesters throughout B.C., as well as in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec for many years.

Leo is a member of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, the U.S. National Lawyers Guild, and the American Association for Justice.  He is also a Director of the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada.

Naveen P. Mehta

As General Counsel to one of Canada’s largest private sector unions, Naveen P. Mehta provides a diverse range of preemptive and strategic legal advice for UFCW Canada's often complex and high profile legal and legislative issues, including litigation at the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. 


In the area of Human Rights, Equity and Diversity (HRED), he guides national strategies on Diversity and Inclusion, Temporary Foreign Workers (migrant workers), Racialized, Aboriginal, Immigrant, LGBT, and other equity seeking communities, with a view to qualitative and quantitative organizational growth.  Naveen also designs and implements strategic workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives, and supports such growth and capacity building initiatives.

Naveen is regularly invited to speak to diverse audiences such as Government,  Law Schools, Universities, NGOs, Unions, and other organizations across Canada and the US and is often quoted in regional and national media.

Claude G. Melançon

Claude G. Melançon has been a member of the Bar of Québec since 1971. As a partner at the firm Melançon, Marceau, Grenier et Sciortino, Claude represents trade unions, workers, professionals, and artists  in both the public and private sectors. His labour law practice covers federal and provincial jurisdictions and includes union certification, arbitration and litigation before specialized boards and tribunals.

Mr. Melançon has acted as spokesperson and strategic counsel in numerous collective agreement negotiations in the public and private sectors.  He actively participates in industrial relations workshops and is a frequent panelist in conferences on a variety of related subjects.

Over the years, Claude became active in international labour law matters. He has been involved in cooperation and/or solidarity activities in both North and South American countries. In this context, he organized several international conferences on labour law, economic integration, and international agreements relating to workplace legislation. He is also co-president of the International Labour Rights Committee of the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers (CALL). Claude has worked on issues pertaining to the rights of migrant workers. In particular, he has been involved in the unionization of agricultural migrant workers in Quebec.

Patricia O'Hagan

Dr. Patricia O’Hagan is a medical sociologist and social demographer. Since 2010, Dr. O’Hagan has been serving as Dean of the Health Care Professional Programs, at the University of Hawaii’s only health sciences community college in Honolulu.  She oversees 10 nationally/state accredited programs and has focused on developing career pathways for low paid workers. She has had a long term practical and academic interest in the social determinant of health disparities experienced by those suffering from preventable illness and high mortality rates.

Gerardo Otero

Dr. Gerardo Otero is Professor of International Studies and Sociology at Simon Fraser University. He received his B.A. in Business Administration at the Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM, 1975), an M.A. in Latin American Studies, with a major in Economics, at the University of Texas at Austin (1977), and a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1986. Dr. Otero has held a faculty appointment at SFU since 1990.

In Mexico, where he was born and raised, Dr. Otero taught economics at ITESM and sociology at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León in 1977, social anthropology at the Autonomous University of Puebla from 1980 to 1983, and sociology at the University of Guadalajara from 1987 to 1990. He was a postdoctoral visiting fellow at the Center for U.S. – Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego in 1986-1987, and a visiting faculty in Rural Sociology at the University of Wisconsin in 1989-1990. In 2001, he was an associate professor of sociology at Tulane University.

Adriana Paz Ramirez

Adriana Paz Ramirez (M.A., University of British Columbia) is a Bolivian community organizer and popular educator with over 10 years of experience working in social justice issues. She is co-founder and organizer of Justicia for Migrant Workers in British Columbia, a national grassroots organization advocating for migrant farm workers’ social, economic and labour rights. Adriana has participated in research studies and written about migrant farm workers plight in the border of Bolivia and Argentina, and in British Columbia, Canada. Her M.A. thesis “Embodying and Resisting Labour Apartheid: Racism and Mexican Farm Workers under Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program” focuses on the racial logics of economic exploitation, workers’ politics and expressions of resistance that emerge from displacement and disenfranchisement in the context of racial labour apartheid regimes. She currently lives in Mexico and works with the Solidarity Center AFL-CIO where she organizes with maquila female workers in the US/Mexico border and with farmworkers in Baja California.

Arthur Read

Arthur N. Read has been the General Counsel of Friends of Farmworkers, Inc.  in Pennsylvania (U.S.) since 1982 and has been practicing labor and employment law since 1976.  He has represented a farmworker membership organization – Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA) – since its founding in 1979.  He participated in litigation that established the rights of agricultural workers in New Jersey to organize under the New Jersey constitution and the rights of mushroom workers to organize under the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act (PLRA).  Since 2005 much of his litigation and advocacy has focused on the U.S. non-agricultural temporary worker program (H-2B) which at one point in 2008 had grown to approximately 250,000 workers a year despite a general statutory limitation of 66,000 visas per year.  Since the beginning of 2009 much of that advocacy has focused on challenges to the federal government’s regulation of that program and in particular the setting of wage rates for H-2B workers. For more information, see http://www.friendsfw.org/home/who-we-are/staff/

Mia Reimers

Mia Reimers trained as a Historian, achieving her PhD from the University of Victoria. She taught for a decade at Northwest Community College in Terrace, B.C., where she also was a community activist and a leader in her faculty association. These experiences prompted her to retrain for a career in law.  She is in her third year of law school at the University of Alberta. Her studies have focussed on labour, human rights and social justice.  She has worked at the Centre of Constitutional Studies at the University of Alberta and McGrady & Company in Vancouver.

Kendra Strauss

Kendra Strauss is an Assistant Professor in the Labour Studies Program at Simon Fraser University, and an Associate Member in the Department of Geography. She is a labour geographer and feminist political economist, with research interests in the areas of migration, unfree labour, precarious work and occupational pensions.

Gary Teeple

Gary Teeple, Professor of Sociology, teaches in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Simon Fraser University, where he is also the Director of the Labour Studies Program. His research interests lie in the global division of labour, human rights, the sociology of art, and labour relations. Currently, he is working on a book-length ‘Introduction to Labour Studies.’  He assumed Directorship of the Labour Studies Program in 2010.