Community Action Initiative represents a varied cross-section of interest and experience in mental health/illness and substance use.

Our collective expertise stems from lived experience, research, advocacy, volunteer and work practice. Our members represent community social services, Aboriginal, First Nations and Métis nations and organizations, government, and labour.

Click any staff photo below to access their contact information.


Emily Wagner – She/Her

Interim Executive Director

Emily’s current portfolio includes coordination of two mid-sized projects: a province-wide training bursary program and community of practice for the supportive recovery home sector and a harm reduction granting stream for BC municipalities. She holds a Master of Science degree from SFU and has over 15 years experience working in various health research, education, and advocacy roles in the academic and non-profit sectors. She is passionate about information equity as a path to transformative individual, family, and community health and wellness and grateful to be a part of the CAI team.

Janine Stevenson – She/Her

Director of Strategic Initiatives & Special Projects

Janine’s heritage is of Orkney and English descent. She has raised her daughter, worked and played in the unceded and occupied territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) people for the past 29 years.

Janine was with the BCCDC as a street nurse for 16 years throughout BC and in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside during which she worked with street youth, sex workers and people who struggle with addiction. She has been involved in creating and teaching workshops for public health nurses and healthcare professionals and peers regarding sexual health, harm reduction and addiction throughout BC including First Nation communities for over 2 decades. Most recently, Janine was at the First Nations Health Authority in the role of the STBBI and Harm Reduction CDC Nurse Specialist, manager of the Indigenous Wellness Team and Lead for the Compassion, Inclusion and Engagement Team (CIE), a FNHA & BCCDC initiative. The teams were part of the FNHA response to the overdose crisis throughout the province.

These days when not at work, during Covid times she and her partner enjoy biking, gardening and spoiling their cat, Tom.

Mira Abou Farrage – (she/her)

Program Manager - Grants & Community Funding

Mira is responsible for supporting the coordination, management and implementation of CAI’s grant funding, training, and capacity building initiatives to ensure quality and efficiency in the granting process. Mira holds a Bachelor of Science and is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health degree at Simon Fraser University. She is keen on better understanding and reporting on the needs of individuals and families experiencing mental health and substance use challenges and is inspired by the innovative work happening in local communities across the province that address them. She believes continued support for community leadership is essential to building an equitable, community informed health system of care.

Andrea Derban – She/Her

Clinical Lead, Episodic Overdose Prevention Sites (e-OPS)

Andrea Derban is a seasoned Public Health Nurse with over 30 years of experience in 3 of BC’s 5 Regional Health Authorities, BCCDC, FNHA and the Ministry of Health. Driven by a passion for social justice, Andrea is a dedicated team member striving for systemic changes required to better serve people who use substances. Andrea is a graduate of the University of British Columbia with a baccalaureate degree in nursing and has been working towards a Masters degree in Theology at Regent College. When not at home in Coal Harbour, Andrea is walking the seawall with her partner or hiking with her puppy in the mountains.

Zavi Swain – He/Him

Manager, Community Grants

Zavi is responsible for a province-wide capacity-building grant program and a provincial community of practice for the supportive recovery sector. He is a queer and trans community educator and a white settler living and working on the traditional, unceded and occupied lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Zavi holds a Master of Arts degree from UBC in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice. He has worked in community development for over 12 years in the non-profit and public sector and his own lived experience with mental health and disability informs his work in the community. In addition he loves connecting with people about gardening, pets, video games, cooking shows and other passions.

Prairie Chiu – She/Her He/Him

Manager, Provincial Peer Partnerships and Community Development

Prairie is responsible for the management and support of special CAI granting initiatives activating community-based organizations across BC to tackle mental health/substance use issues through collaborative and innovative projects. Prairie earned her Masters of Social Work degree from Smith College in Northampton, MA, and spent 7 plus years providing psychotherapy to diverse clients in community mental health settings. Most recently, Prairie worked in Seattle, WA as Equity and Inclusion Project Manager for a non-profit mental health agency. Prairie is excited to be back in her native Vancouver, and to contribute to local change efforts.

Noah Chalifoux – He/Him

Project Manager - Community Development/Local Leadership United

Noah holds a bachelor’s degree from Queen’s University in Human Geography. He is passionate about community development and has worked on a diversity of community health projects, including research, community programming, outreach and engagement activities with queer communities, Indigenous communities, and other oppressed groups.

He believes that change is a collective process and that it should be led by communities themselves. Grounded in queer ethics of solidarity, Noah is committed to supporting community-led harm reduction across BC. Outside of work, Noah enjoys hiking, camping and gardening.

Peter Hoong – He/Him

Project Manager - Community Action Teams

Peter has a Master of Public Health from Simon Fraser University. His background in public health research has given him the opportunity to work with diverse stakeholders living with HIV, mental health issues, and/or substance use issues. He is especially passionate about LGBTQ/2S health and capacity building. Equity is the guiding principle behind his work, and he hopes to aid and facilitate communities in driving change.

Debbie Li – She/Her


Debbie is responsible for ensuring effective and efficient working of accounting functions in CAI.  She holds the Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified General Accountant (CPA, CGA) designation and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Adelaide, Australia.  She has experience in auditing and corporate accounting.   When not at work, she enjoys gardening and is a volunteer gardener of the green streets program in Vancouver.

Marnie Scow – She/Her (On Leave)

Peer Project Lead (e-OPS and Municipal Harm Reduction Education)

Marnie Scow is from the traditional territories of the Kwakiutl and Namgis First Nations that are a part of the Kwakwaka’wakw Peoples on Vancouver Island. She currently resides on the unceded territories of the Katzies First Nations.

Marnie has a Post Secondary Education in Criminology/Restorative Justice. She is returning to University to pursue a Masters in Public Health Science. Marnie identifies as a person with lived experience with substance use and the Criminal Justice system. She has worked in Public & Indigenous Health in a variety of capacities including being the first Peer hire with the Indigenous Wellness Team (IWT) at First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and the first Indigenous woman to work with the grassroots organization Culture Saves Lives bringing personal connections, stories, with low barrier access to culture for both residents of Vancouver’s downtown east side and BC First Nations Communities. While working with FNHA’s Indigenous Wellness Team Marnie facilitated many dialogues about Indigenous Harm Reduction & Decolonizing Addiction throughout First Nations Communities in British Columbia. Marnie has a passion and often specializes in Indigenizing harm reduction, Housing First, alcohol harm reduction, advocacy for changes in the health care system for Indigenous People & low barrier access to safe supply. Marnie has a love for sports and tacos! One of her true passions is slow pitch and when Marnie isn’t working you can often find her playing baseball or golfing with her boyfriend & spending time with their rescue dog Amelia

Adrienne Yeung – They/Them

Community Grants Manager - Community Counselling

Adrienne manages a portfolio that increases access to quality, publicly funded, community-based counselling across BC. They come to CAI with a MPH in Social Inequities and Health from SFU and a BSc. in Neuroscience from the University of Winnipeg. Their diverse background of experiences includes counselling, project management, qualitative research, workshop facilitation, education, entrepreneurship and the arts. Adrienne is excited to do work that highlights the importance of mental health and the inseparability of health equity and social justice.

Anna Harcourt – She/Her

Manager, Grants & Community Initiatives

Anna manages CAI initiatives that offer grant, training, and capacity-building opportunities to community-based organizations in BC. Her role is to support community-led interventions that protect and promote mental health and wellness. Anna’s Master of Public Health gave her an acute awareness of the important and often complex interactions between the social, biological, economic, and environmental determinants of health, and her studies also fostered an interest in community development. She appreciates having the opportunity in her work at CAI to address mental health and substance use challenges experienced by people across the province.

Dakota Fayant-McLeod – She/Her

Communications Coordinator

Dakota is responsible for CAI’s internal and external communications, including website and social media administration, identity systems and implementing administrative systems and policies. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, her home communities are Peepeekisis First Nation and the Qu’Appelle Métis community. Dakota holds Bachelor of Arts in Women and Gender Studies, and has over a decade of experience working and volunteering in community based non-profits across Canada.

Board of Directors

Dawn Dunlop

Board member

Executive Director – CMHA Shuswap/Revelstoke

Vanessa Wideski

Board Member

Executive Director, The Low Entropy Foundation

Vanessa Wideski is the executive director of The Low Entropy Foundation, a non-profit organization that is making personal development accessible to all by providing people with tools to change themselves and their surroundings.

Vanessa is a neurodivergent individual who has struggled with mental health and substance use. From high school dropout and homeless, meth addict to world traveler and successful business owner, Vanessa has overcome many of life’s adversities. Her diverse life experiences have helped her gain a significant amount of empathy and understanding of which she shares through volunteerism and advocacy work.

Vanessa is deeply aligned with CAI’s mission and is greatful to help the team actualize our vision of ensuring community-based agencies are essential partners in addressing mental health and substance use in BC.

Jill Fikowski

Board Member

Founder/CEO, Changemark Research + Evaluation

Jill is a Settler of Norwegian and Polish ancestry who lives and works with gratitude on the traditional unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Jill has over 15 years of experience working in the area of mental health and substance use across health authorities, research centres, and non-profit organizations across Turtle Island (now known as Canada). Jill is a graduate of UBC School of Population and Public Health and believes in promoting health equity and ensuring inclusive meaningful engagement of community members in research, program, and policy initiatives. Jill is deeply committed to creating meaningful change for people experiencing mental health challenges, people who use substances, and the people and communities who love them.

View the profile ofKamaldeep Parmar

Kamaldeep Parmar

Board Member

Program Manager – Community Transition Teams Program, BCMHSUS

Kam has over 17 years experience working with marginalized and vulnerable populations struggling with substance use and mental health issues.  She brings a unique perspective as she has experience in working at the local community level, health authority/regional level and at the provincial level within government to support and expand much needed mental health and substance use services and programs across the province. She is currently the Program Manager for the Community Transition Teams Program with BCMHSUS. Her own personal experiences and background, allow her to approach her work and life with a lens centered on equity, justice, inclusion, and diversity.