CRRF is beginning 2022 with a bang by adding two new members to its ever-expanding team. This week we welcome our new Chief of Staff, Saswati Deb, and Quebec Regional Director, Neal Santamaria. Here's a little bit more about them:
Saswati Deb, Chief of Staff
Saswati Deb is an Indo-Canadian woman of Bengali heritage. Born in Kolkata, India, she moved with her family to Canada at a young age. Throughout the trials and tribulations faced during their journey of settlement in Toronto, her Mom, Dad and Brother taught her the importance of serving the community and achieving the public good. These teachings coupled with her experiences of discrimination in society as a racialized woman, developed in her an unwavering commitment to progressing human rights and mobilizing to address systemic barriers in a meaningful way.
As a relationship builder, strategist, and public policy professional, Saswati believes that meaningful partnerships are the key to shifting or enhancing the public policy landscape. Saswati has worked alongside several Indigenous, community, intra-inter governmental, justice sector partners and senior government officials, government ministers, and political staff to make transformational policy, program, and legislative change across several provincial government sectors such as social services, community safety, correctional services, and justice.
Highlights from Saswati’s career include working with the aforementioned partners and very skilled provincial colleagues to launch the first division dedicated to Indigenous Justice in Canada (in Ontario); in the context of policing oversight, develop the Street Checks regulation (also known as carding); implement the first free of cost, confidential and professional, post-trial juror support counselling program in Ontario; implement a new, single source of data – OHIP’s Registered Persons Database to identify potential jurors. She also led a team to develop the first online juror pre-screen and check-in tool which modernized the jury process in response to the pandemic. These initiatives helped to enhance accessibility and inclusivity of and the administration of justice in Ontario.
Saswati has received an Amethyst Award for Outstanding Achievement by Ontario Public Servants (team), Prix Excelsior awards for excellence and outstanding achievement (team), and Court Service Division awards for Staff and Team Excellence from the Ministry of the Attorney General. She has also received the Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation in Inclusiveness (a part of the first team to be awarded outside of the United States). She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in criminology, law, ethics, and society. She also completed a senior course in conjunction with Oxford University. In addition, Saswati holds a Masters in Public Policy and Governance degree from the University of Toronto.
Neal Santamaria, Quebec Regional Director
Neal Santamaria has a Master's degree in Anthropology and did doctoral studies in Sociology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France. Prior to moving to Canada Neal Santamaria worked on immigration issues in France and in the Dominican Republic. Since settling in Canada 13 years ago, he has worked as a project manager with numerous community organizations, research centers, and institutions serving immigrants, as well as refugees in Quebec.
Neal Santamaria worked as the Associate Director of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) at Concordia University. As such, he was involved in COHDS’main research, a 5-year long CURA project (funded by the SSHRC), the Montréal Life Stories Project. He supervised the sometimes difficult interviews with Montrealers of Rwandan descent, who escaped the 1994 genocide of Tutsis, as well as with Montrealers from Haitian origin who had to flee the Duvalier’s harsh dictatorship. This project was exhibited for a year at Le Centre d’Histoire de Montreal. Neal subsequently co-founded the Toronto Ward Museum with two colleagues he had met during the Lifestories project.
Neal Santamaria also has strong experience in research, especially in workplace diversity and equity. When at L'Institut de recherche pour l’intégration socio-professionnelle des immigrants (IRIPI), he conducted research on immigrant employment from the perspective of employers as well as immigrant job seekers. As such, he did joint research with HEC Montreal on the different perceptions of employers throughout Quebec, regarding immigrant employees.
Neal Santamaria finally worked with refugees at The Concertation Roundtable for Organizations Serving Refugees and Immigrants (TCRI in French), an umbrella organization for migrant-serving organizations. He developed projects with sponsored refugees, organizations, and groups of sponsors. Neal also advocated raising awareness on the private sponsorship program and the policies regarding refugees.
Join us in welcoming Neal and Saswati to the CRRF team!