Commissioners are appointed by an Executive Order of Executive Council. Commissioner responsibilities are described within the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. They include responsibility for the strategic direction of the Commission as well as for making decisions on human rights issues including referrals of complaints to Boards of Inquiry.
Commissioners meet six times annually. Often these meetings take place at the Halifax office of the Commission. However, Commissioners meet in a community outside of the Halifax Regional Municipality at least twice a year.
- Cheryl Knockwood, Chair
- Joseph Fraser Director & CEO (ex-officio/non-voting)
- Deepak Prasad, Vice-Chair
- Wanda MacDonald
- Monica Paris
- Savannah DeWolfe
- Robin Thompson
- Cynthia Dorrington
- Diana Brothers
- Dr. Fola Adeleke
- Jenifer Tsang
- Julien Matte
- Sharon Ross
Cheryl Knockwood (Chair)
Cheryl Knockwood, Sydney, was first appointed to the Board of Commissioners in 2015, sitting as Commissioner until she was appointed Chair in 2019. She was called to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society Bar in 2009 and currently serves as the governance co-ordinator for Membertou First Nation, working alongside the community in developing laws on lands and citizenship.
She previously worked as a senior policy analyst with the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs. She has also worked as a part-time instructor at Cape Breton University lecturing on Aboriginal and treaty rights, Mi’kmaw governance and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Mr. Prasad was first appointed to the Commission in 2015. Deepak has studied at various post-secondary institutions such as Kwantlen University College, Justice Institute of BC, Dalhousie University, Laurier University, and is currently attending the London Metropolitan University's doctoral studies in policing, security, and community safety program. He has an extensive background in law enforcement and is currently employed as a police officer in Nova Scotia. Deepak sits on various charitable and non-profit boards such as the St. John Ambulance NS/PEI Council, Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo Foundation, and the Canadian Mental Health Association (NS).
Ms. MacDonald is the Executive Director of the CBDC Guysborough County and has worked in the fields of community, economic and business development for more than 20 years. Her educational achievements include a Bachelor Degree in Small Business & Entrepreneurship and Finance, NSCC Community Economic Development Certificate, APEC Certified Business Counselor Certificate Program, and Masters of Business Administration in Community Economic Development. Ms. MacDonald has served as a board member on for the ESIA Assistance Appeal Board and the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Woman.
She lives in Guysborough County.
Monica Paris was appointed to the commission in 2019. She is an active member and advocate for visible minorities in the federal public service. A career public servant, Ms. Paris has served as a member of the PIPSC national human rights committee and has also served as Deputy Director of the National Council of Visible Minorities, Atlantic Region. She resides in Halifax.
Ms. Dewolfe works at the law firm McInnes Cooper. Savannah holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Ottawa, a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management with a specialization in human rights and a minor in law, along with a Masters Degree in Political Management, both from Carleton University. Prior to joining McInnes Cooper, Savannah held various positions on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, working for both the Ministers of Justice and Environment, as well as a Nova Scotian Member of Parliament. During her undergraduate studies, she interned at the United Nations Office in Vienna. Savannah has volunteered with various organizations, including: Start Proud, Meals on Wheels, and the Canadian Cancer Society. Most recently, Savannah has been coaching youth basketball for the Cole Harbour Rockets. Savannah lives in Halifax with her wife, Emily.
Ms. Thompson is Cree Métis and a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation. Robin holds a business diploma, an Advanced major in Social and Criminal Justice from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Juris Doctor from the Schulich School of Law. She is a practicing member of the Nova Scotia Barrister Society. In 2015, she was one of the ten participants chosen world-wide for the Indigenous Fellow Progamme with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. Robin has over 15 years of senior management experience developing governance capacity and economic development with Indigenous communities. Robin is the Governance Manager for the Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq, and currently serves on the non-profit board of the Centre for First Nations Governance. Robin lives in Dartmouth.
Cynthia Dorrington, Halifax, is the President of Vale & Associates Human Resource Management and Consulting Inc. She was first appointed to the Board of Commissioners in 2018. Her work specializes in areas such as organizational strategy, people strategy, equity, diversity and inclusion, supplier diversity, change management, governance, performance management, as well as HR advisory services.
She is a member of the Board of Governors of St. Francis Xavier University, Chair of the Black Business Enterprise and is a board member with the Canadian Urban Institute, VON Canada and Halifax Hospice. Cynthia is a Life-Time Member of the Board of Governors for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.
Diana Brothers is originally from Greenwood, Nova Scotia in the Annapolis Valley and has extensive experience in Race Relations. Throughout her career she has worked closely with the general public, all levels of government and a wide variety of organizations across the country. She served on the first fully elected school board in Kings County and was later elected as a councillor, deputy warden and eventually as the first female warden of the Municipality of the County of Kings.
While Diana was Warden the Kings County Council joined the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism. This was the beginning of the Race Relations and Anti-Discrimination Committee in the Annapolis Valley. On December 10, 2014, under her leadership a proclamation was approved by the Municipality of the County of Kings to declare December 10th Human Rights Day in Kings County.
Diana worked with the Department of Education to ensure that 185 copies of the “The Journey Continues – An Atlantic Canadian Black Experience” was distributed to all Grade 8 and 11 classrooms throughout Annapolis Valley. The book was used in association with the provincial curriculum for Social Studies and African Canadian Studies.
Diana describes herself as a problem solver and is proud to have united seven villages and three towns in a committee to adopt an action plan to end racism in the Annapolis Valley.
Diana currently lives in Bedford.
Dr. Fola Adeleke is a privacy lawyer and member of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society. He is currently a data privacy subject matter expert at CGI having previously worked in Nova Scotia Health as a freedom of information and privacy specialist. Fola’s human rights experience spans across multiple jurisdictions. In South Africa, he was the Head of Research of the South African Human Rights Commission where he led the monitoring and report on South Africa's compliance with its human rights obligations at various UN bodies. He holds a PhD in International Law and is currently a Global Atlantic Fellow on social and economic equity at the London School of Economics. He conducted his post doctoral work as a Fellow in the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University. Fola has published widely in the area of corporate accountability, open government and human rights in the marketplace. He is based within Halifax Regional Municipality.
Jenifer Tsang, Halifax, was appointed to the commission in 2022. She has a degree in Land Use Planning which is a multidisciplinary profession that seeks to improve the quality of life for people and communities in an efficient manner with respect for the natural environment. She has extensive experience in public outreach and consultation as both a public servant and a private consultant. Her planning work ranges from balancing the rights and needs of indigenous farmers with development pressures in the State of Hawaii to volunteering for an Acadian community. She recognizes the importance of writing policies and laws to be inclusive and having them be interpreted and administered fairly. She has volunteered with the Atlantic Conference of Independent Schools (ACIS), Big Brothers Big Sisters and has a background in martial arts. She is a professional member of the Canadian Institute of Planners, the Atlantic Planners Institute and the Licensed Professional Planners Association of Nova Scotia. Having grown up in both the United States and Canada, Jenifer became a Canadian citizen on Human Rights Day in 1994.
Julien S. Matte is a resident of Head of St. Margarets Bay and an experienced litigator and adjudicator, with longstanding interest in assisting self-represented individuals. He possesses more than 15 years of diverse legal experience as counsel for the Federal Department of Justice and more recently as a sole practitioner and workplace investigator. In his role as workplace investigator, Mr. Matte investigates allegations of discrimination and harassment. Mr. Matte also has experience as an adjudicator on the Income Assistance Appeal Board, the Motor Vehicle Appeal Board and the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court. In 2014, he drafted a guide to assisted self-represented individuals and through the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia, turned the guide into short videos. More recently he helped LISNS, in conjunction with the Commission, develop bystander training for workplace sexual harassment. His efforts toward increasing access to justice were recognized in 2018 when he received the Canadian National Pro Bono Distinguished Service Award.
Sharon Ross retired from the Federal Public Service as senior manager and subsequently relocated to Nova Scotia in 2010. Her lifetime services touched Canadians in all walks of life in Nova Scotia, Ontario and across Canada either through her chosen career path or voluntary services to numerous non-governmental organizations. Her contributions as a public servant with the Public Service was at regional and national levels in a number of portfolios in several departments and central agencies, as well hosting and coordinating community television for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and serving as Executive Assistant at the Halifax Infirmary. Many of Sharon’s career endeavours and voluntary efforts demonstrate her commitment in connection to championing social advocacy for a more representative and inclusive Canadian Society including enabling racial minorities to gain their rightful place of integrity and wholeness in Canadian Society for which she has received a number of community recognitions. For example, Sharon is recipient of the 2002 Queen Elizabeth 11 Golden Jubilee Award Metal for voluntary community services and the 2012 Queen Elizabeth 11 Diamond Jubilee Award Medal for public service. She earned a Business Administration Degree in 1980 from Mount Saint Vincent University and a Graduate Diploma in Christian Studies in 2020 from Acadia University and serves on the Advancement and External Relations Committee of the Board of Governors Mount Saint Vincent University. Sharon resides in Halifax.