Board of Directors
Born and raised in Montreal, Richard Dagenais’ 10-year dance career with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has led him to travel the world and work with some of the best choreographers where he developed his artistic skills. His tenure with Canadian Actors’ Equity Associations as a business representative brought him to the forefront of the fight for the rights of Canadian Artists and gave him some invaluable insight in the business side of the industry. After 18 years with Cirque du Soleil as Head of Auditions, Senior Artistic Director and Senior Director of Creation, back from a year in Dubai working on Franco Dragone’s La Perle, and now as at the Director of Creation for Eloize Entertainment, his journey in the Live Entertainment world keeps bringing him in contact with amazing creators and performers. Richard is honored to be the new Chair of Sur Place.
Chair - Richard Dagenais
Vice Chair -Melissa Toussaint
Melissa Toussaint is a Haitian-Canadian Actress who has appeared in several film and television projects, including; Rustic Oracle , X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Hallmark’s Love Locks (2017), and the Netflix series Bad Blood. Her journey at Sur Place began in 2018 with a strong desire to learn the craft of Storytelling. Since then, with the encouragement and support from Sur Place, Melissa entered and became one of four finalists of the pilot residency program co-sponsored by Conseil des Arts de Montréal and Black on Black Films Collective called Je Me Vois a Lècran.
Melissa is a strong believer that we actualize what we visualize and wants her presence on the board to encourage other visible minorities to take part in sharing their passions in order to shape our community to come.
Carolyne Van Der Meer is a Montreal-based journalist, public relations professional and university lecturer who has published articles, essays, short stories and poems internationally. She is the author of Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experience (WLUP, 2014), Journeywoman (Inanna, 2017) and Heart of Goodness: The Life of Marguerite Bourgeoys in 30 Poems | Du coeur à l’âme : La vie de Marguerite Bourgeoys en 30 poèmes (Guernica Editions, 2020). This book, for which she translated her own poems into French, was awarded second prize in the Poetry Category of the Catholic Media Association’s 2021 Annual Book Awards and was shortlisted in the Specialty Books category of The Word Guild’s 2021 annual Word Awards. A full-length poetry collection, Sensorial, is forthcoming from Inanna in 2022.
Carolyne Van Der Meer
Secretary - Sherine Elbanhawy
Sherine Elbanhawy has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She’s the founder of Rowayat, a literary magazine showcasing Egyptian writers. Her writing has been published in The Malahat Review, and Room Magazine. She loves to travel, read and spend time with family, and friends.
With the aim of improving people’s lives, Toby Moore brings a compassionate and open approach to all his endeavours. Most recently, Toby has launched an online organization, T1K Media, to bring people together during the pandemic in a sustainable and future-oriented mindset, which you can check out at toby1ketobi.com. Toby believes that everyone has a voice and that they should be given a platform to share that voice, in a safe environment that fosters knowledge-sharing and healthy discussion. Toby’s multi-faceted projects mirror his diverse passions for the environment/spatial world, creativity, cities/communities, well-being, education and digital arts/media.
Hasnaa Mokhtar is a writer, Fulbright alumna, Ph.D. candidate at Clark University, and the special program director at Peaceful Families Project. After graduating in 2015 with a M.A. in International Development and Social Change, Hasnaa developed a passion for transdisciplinary approaches to addressing gender-based violence in Muslim communities. Her research, writings, and activism focus on amplifying the voices of Muslim women and tackling the injustices of gendered violence. Hasnaa is a storyteller at heart. In 2006, she worked as a journalist in Arab News, and later her articles appeared in several publications including Fortune, Yahoo, Bustle, and Muslim Girl. You can read her work at www.hasnaamokhtar.com. Previously, Hasnaa served as the executive director of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions in Worcester, MA. Hasnaa is passionate about life, personal growth, spirituality, and everything in between.
Colleen Kimmett is a Montreal-based writer and journalist. Colleen’s work has been published in The Walrus, The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, Bright Magazine, In These Times, StatNews, Arctic Deeply, and beyond. Previously, she was a senior editor at The Tyee and a founding editor of The Discourse. Currently, she teaches a science communication course at McGill and is the community outreach coordinator for the Institute for Investigative Journalism.
Natasha Sher is a hard-working photographer ready for a wide range of shooting scenarios. She is also developing a documentary on the culinary history of Bangladesh.
Leslie Amminson is a freelance journalist from St. John’s, Newfoundland. In 2019, she left her home province to pursue a journalism degree at the University of King’s College in Halifax. Based in Nova Scotia, Leslie has spent the past few months working on documentary radio stories for CBC’s Atlantic Voice. Before entering the field of journalism, she studied English and Creative Writing at Memorial University, where she wrote her honours thesis under the supervision of author Lisa Moore.
Rachel Wallace is a researcher, analyst, and most of all an “ideas person.” With a background in fields including philosophy, policy, dance, and publishing, Rachel approaches projects with creativity and care. Born in Guelph, Rachel has lived and worked in Montreal since 2016, most recently at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly managing the comics section and hosting a variety of literary events.
Past board members include: Ted Strauss, Marianne Lorthiois, and Dae Courtney.