Our Team

Executive Team

  • Headshot of Dr. Jonathan Lai

    Dr. Jonathan Lai

    Executive Director

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    Dr Jonathan Lai is the Executive Director at Autism Alliance of Canada. He also holds an Adjunct Faculty position in Health Services Research at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

    At Autism Alliance of Canada, Jonathan’s work involves responding to emerging national policy gaps in the autism and disability sector. Through his career, he has experience working at the interface of research, community and policy to affect systems change in the health and social services sector across Canada and internationally. From designing surveys and analyzing data on service use for people with developmental disabilities to facilitating policy dialogues on autism and disability, he champions the use of data and community perspectives to inform decision making.

    Jonathan has bee appointed to serve as the Vice Co-chair of the Minister of National Revenue’s Disability Advisory Committee to improve how the Disability Tax Credit and other federal disability tax measures are delivered. He is also a former Maytree Policy School fellow.

    His graduate research training was in Neuroscience at the University of Guelph and McMaster University focused on gene-environment influences on the developing brain, funded by Ontario Mental Health Foundation and subsequently, as a CIHR Vanier Scholar. This was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at York University in knowledge mobilization and a CIHR Health System Impact Fellowship at McGill University.

  • Headshot of Dr. Deepa Singal

    Dr. Deepa Singal

    Scientific Director

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    Deepa Singal (PhD) is the Scientific Director of Autism Alliance of Canada where she provides strategic and scientific leadership, working at the intersection of research and policy. Dr. Singal has a Ph.D. in Community Health Sciences from the University of Manitoba and Executive Education in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a decade of experience in academia, government, and the not-for-profit landscape. Her expertise in quantitative child and maternal health research and public policy drives her leadership in pan-Canadian, multidisciplinary initiatives.

    Dr. Singal’s mission focuses on generating community-driven evidence to shape national-level policy, advocating for the full inclusion of neurodivergent people in Canadian society. Her work is supported by numerous national grants, and has been widely disseminated to policymakers and the media. Dr. Singal has testified at the Canadian Senate to support legislation for the creation of Canada’s first National Autism strategy and presented at the United Nations, and various national and international conferences. Additionally, she is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta and an Adjunct Research Scientist at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. Dr. Singal is an alumna of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Health System Impact Post-Doctoral Fellowship, a recipient of the CIHR Rising Star Award and was recently awarded Canada’s first CIHR Health System Impact Embedded Researcher Award.

  • Headshot of Franziska Morin

    Franziska Morin

    Executive Coordinator

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    Franziska Morin (M. Sc) is the Executive Coordinator at Autism Alliance of Canada. Franziska completed her post-graduate studies in Marketing Management at La Trobe University Melbourne (Australia) and her graduate studies in Business Administration at the University of Applied Sciences in Worms (Germany).

    Franziska has several years of experience working as an Executive Assistant for various multinational companies. During this time she gained extensive knowledge into developing and implementing successful strategic and marketing projects. As a newcomer to Autism Alliance of Canada who joined the team in November 2021 she is thrilled to help form the future of the organization.

    In her free time Franziska loves doing all kinds of outdoor activities with her family, such as hiking, running and biking.

  • April MacAleese-Jay

    April MacAleese-Jay

    Operations Manager

    April MacAleese-Jay is a dedicated and results-driven professional based in Moncton, NB, with a robust background in operations management, financial oversight, and leadership. Fluent in both English and French, April has demonstrated expertise in managing human and financial resources, overseeing project operations, and driving organizational success.

    Over the past decade, April has been a trailblazer in student accommodations and adjustments within post-secondary education, advocating for students with disabilities. Her journey continued in the supportive employment sector, where she championed inclusivity nationwide. Her commitment to fostering inclusive employment shines through her impactful leadership roles. Passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion, April is eager to leverage her skills and experience to contribute to the mission of the Autism Alliance of Canada in the role of Operations Manager.

    In her spare time, April can often be found drawn to the ocean, enjoying moments with her husband and two children. With a heart dedicated to both family and fostering a more inclusive world, April embodies a commitment to balance, harmony, and the pursuit of joy in every aspect of her life

Core Team

  • Headshot of Urwa Ghazi

    Urwa Ghazi

    Communications & Membership Specialist

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    Urwa Ghazi started at Autism Alliance of Canada in the beginning of 2021 as a student assisting in the initial stages of the Canadian Autism Data Network project. Currently, she holds the position of Communications and Membership Specialist working to assist in Autism Alliance of Canada’s communication strategies and membership engagement.

    In her free time, you can find her camping in a forest, biking up trails or watching UFC.

  • Headshot of Simone Daniels

    Simone Daniels

    Research Assistant

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    Simone Daniels (M.Sc.) is a research intern at Autism Alliance of Canada She recently obtained her Master’s degree in Kinesiology from York University.

    She previously worked for Autism Alliance of Canada in 2018 as a communications coordinator, where she reviewed autism advocacy- and policy-related materials. She looks forward to working for Autism Alliance of Canada again and conducting research to help persons on the autism spectrum reach their full potential.

    In her spare time, you could find Simone reading, listening to music, exercising, walking her dog or enjoying the biggest and fastest roller coasters at Canada’s Wonderland.

  • Headshot of Marina Schor

    Marina Schor

    Research Coordinator

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    Marina Schor, MSPH, is the Research Coordinator at Autism Alliance of Canada. Marina was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, before moving to Vancouver to complete their Bachelor of Science in Applied Biology at the University of British Columbia. They then continued on to pursue their graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where they completed their Master of Science in Public Health.

    Marina has an extensive research background, primarily focusing on qualitative methods. She is passionate about health equity and justice and aims to continually push for structural change in her practice, which is what brought her to the Alliance. She is thrilled to continue to help make a difference for Autistic Canadians and their families and is excited to do so alongside such a kind and powerful team.

  • Headshot of Paola Ipanaque

    Paola Ipanaque

    Finance Officer

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    Paola Ipanaque is the Finance Officer at Autism Alliance of Canada.  She completed her bachelor’s in Accounting and finance, as well as an honours degree in business commerce.  Paola has several years working as an accountant in the not-for-profit sector as well as the insurance industry.  During this time she gained knowledge in compliance and audit requirements, as well as methods of implementing business systems for better internal control and transparency.

    She also has her own firm, where she manages the financial health and resources of her clients in the not-for-profit and construction industry, as well as prepares them for year-end audits.  She loves her time with her family, which includes her little Maltese named Bella.  She also enjoys travelling, summer walks and international movies.  She is very passionate about community work for single mothers and families in need, and as a board member in her home church, she leads these community activities throughout the year.

  • Headshot of Paige Newton

    Paige Newton

    Website Maintenance Specialist

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    Paige Newton is the Website Maintenance Specialist at Autism Alliance of Canada. Paige was born and raised in Bellingham, Washington, before moving to Vancouver to complete their Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts at the University of British Columbia. They have worked in communications and development roles for the last six years with organizations that seek to directly impact and provide support that corresponds to the individual needs of their community.

    In managing our website, Paige supports updates for new programs and campaigns, identifies gaps in user experience, and reports on performance to ensure growth and security. They are thrilled to join the team and hope to have a meaningful impact on the accessibility and amplification of the Alliance’s work.

  • Vanessa Sophie

    Communications Coordinator (Bilingual)

    LinkedIn

    Meet Vanessa Sophie, the Bilingual Communications and Social Media Specialist at Autism Alliance of Canada. Born and raised in France, Vanessa embarked on a new chapter in Canada. With a robust background in communications, graphic design, and project management, she excels in crafting compelling content strategies.

    In her downtime, Vanessa can be found practicing yoga and diving into video games. She savors matcha lattes and robust dark coffee blends.

Fellowships

  • Headshot of Dr. Mackenzie Salt

    Dr. Mackenzie Salt

    Postdoctoral Fellow

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    Mackenzie Salt (PhD) is an Autistic autism researcher and a postdoctoral fellow with Autism Alliance of Canada and McMaster University Autism Research Team (MacART). He is also a CIHR Health System Impact Fellowship Program alumnus. His current project, the Canadian Autistic Adult Needs Assessment, as multi-phase project to understand the needs of Autistic adults in Canada and apply the findings to policy. The first phase was a survey, co-developed with other Autistics, to determine the needs of the community, along with information about quality of life. The current phase involves focus groups to prioritize and generate policy recommendations based on specific results from the survey. This project will directly inform the development of a National Autism Strategy.
    Previously, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship working with the Pathways in ASD study via MacART. He completed his PhD in Cognitive Science of Language in 2019 at McMaster University and has a background in qualitative linguistic research as well as research and study design involving autistic participants. He recently completed the Certificate course in Family Engagement in Research offered by the KBHN and CanChild and has been advocating for and working to improve research engagement with the autism community since. He has designed a number of research engagement projects and also service evaluation projects for autism service providers incorporating research engagement principles. He is also currently the Editor-in-Chief of the all-autistic editorial board of the Canadian Journal of Autism Equity. 

  • Dr. Alexia Ostrolenk

    CIHR Postdoctoral Health System Impact Fellow

    LinkedIn

    Alexia Ostrolenk (PhD) holds a Bachelor’s degree in Life Science from Sorbonne Université in Paris, and two Master’s degrees in Cognitive Neuroscience from University College London and École Normale Supérieure. She completed her PhD in Psychiatric Science at Université de Montréal.

    Her research is focused on reading and language development in autistic children, and she advocates an approach to autism based on its strengths rather than its deficits. She is also a passionate science communicator and co-founder of ComSciCon-QC, a free science communication training workshop for grad students. Alexia is the recipient of a Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Health System Impact Fellowship award that supports her postdoctoral training.

Focused Projects Team

  • Analpa

    Analpa Vishwanath

    Practicum Student

    LinkedIn

    Analpa Vishwanath is a practicum student at Autism Alliance of Canada. She is currently pursuing her honours bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences at McMaster University, with a specialization in Child Health.

    With a background in participatory-action research, technical writing, and community-building efforts, Analpa is passionate about advancing equity, diversity and inclusion. Through these experiences, Analpa has honed her ability to engage communities actively, ensuring that their voices are not only heard but also central to the decision-making process. Furthermore, her community involvements underscore her commitment to building environments that are inclusive, supportive, and reflective of diverse perspectives. Analpa is excited to apply these skills to her work with Autism Alliance of Canada.

    In her free time, you could find Analpa going on runs, reading philosophy, cooking, or playing the piano.

  • Headshot of Dr. Stephen Gentles

    Dr. Stephen Gentles

    Research and Policy Consultant

    LinkedIn

    Stephen Gentles (MSc, PhD) is a Research and Policy Consultant at Autism Alliance of Canada with a health information background. His work at the Alliance is diverse and has included moderating policy development working groups, coordinating summit sessions, and writing and editing policy- and research-related documents. He has also developed several large provincial and national autism surveys for various organizations.

    Stephen completed a CIHR Health System Impact Postdoctoral Fellowship with Autism Ontario and Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University. He holds a PhD in Health Research Methodology from McMaster University, and a MSc in Neuroscience from McGill University. He has research training in clinical epidemiology, knowledge translation, and stakeholder-engagement in research, and has authored papers on qualitative research and systematic review methods.

Apply to work with us

Autism Alliance of Canada is an equal opportunity employer committed to maximizing the diversity of our organization. We strive towards building an Autistic-inclusive space. We actively encourage applications from Autistic persons and from all equity-deserving groups.

We invite you to become a member of Autism Alliance of Canada. As a member, you will become aligned with a coalition of organizations, groups and individuals that has come together to provide a strong collective voice toward a national shared leadership movement.