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Home2023 T&T Courts Conference Speaker Biographies


The Hon. Justice Kofi N. Barnes is a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. He is a former judge of the Ontario Court of Justice. Justice Barnes was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1993. Before his judicial career, he was a Deputy Director of the Federal Prosecution Service, Ontario Region (Public Prosecution Service of Canada).

Justice Barnes is known as a pioneer and innovator in therapeutic jurisprudence and a champion of social justice. Justice Barnes came to Canada from Ghana and attended Trent University and then Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

Justice Barnes is the founder of the Metro West Youth Community Restoration Court; the Durham Mental Health and Drug Treatment Court and co-founder of Canada’s first Drug Treatment Court. For more information click this link:

Justice Barnes is the founding president of the not-for-profit organizations Association of Justice and Treatment Professionals and Canadian Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals and president of the International Association of Drug Treatment Courts. In addition, to his regular judicial duties, Justice Barnes has provided training sessions, in Canada and internationally, on solution focused strategies and innovative approaches to justice. He is a co-author of People Places and Things – Inspirational Voices from Canada’s Drug Treatment Courts – published by Friesen Press.

Justice Barnes is the recipient of many awards including the Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Commemorative medal, the Trent University Distinguished Alumni Award, the Bryden Awards and the African-Canadian Achievement Awards for Excellence in Law.


Aminah Chambers is a PhD candidate in the Youth Justice Lab under the supervision of Dr. Michele Peterson-Badali at the University of Toronto/OISE. Her research interests are in the area of adolescent mental health and improving outcomes for justice-involved youth. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, her research focuses on examining court processes for youth and their families who encounter the justice system, and ways that courts can identify and address the complex needs of youth with mental health issues. She is also interested in identifying factors that contribute to justice system outcome disparities for marginalized youth and identifying risk and strength factors for criminal offending in justice-involved girls and women.

Valerie Corcoran serves as the Coordinator for the Newfoundland and Labrador Drug Treatment Court, a role in which she was seconded by the Department of Justice and Public Safety to develop and implement the pilot program in St. John's. Prior to her role with the DTC, she worked with the NL Legal Aid Commission as a Risk Assessment Officer with the Family Violence Intervention Court and as a Federal Prison Liaison with the John Howard Society of NL.

Brian Cooper. Brian is a program manager with St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and holds responsibility for Acute Mental Health Inpatient Care, the Cleghorn Early Intervention in Psychosis Clinic and SCIS Inpatient Rehab Team. Brian is the co-chair of Early Psychosis Intervention Ontario Network (EPION), and Director at Large with Canadian Consortium for Early Intervention in Psychosis. As an occupational therapist, Brian has worked in a number in primarily mental health settings including inpatient care, assertive community treatment and early intervention in psychosis in Ontario, Nova Scotia as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. Brian has led various community development projects and funded research initiatives that range from setting national standards for transition for youth in mental health care to economic evaluation of early psychosis services and cross-sectoral support in employment and mental health care for youth and young adults

Laura Day has been a social worker at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for 13 years. She has spent most of her career advocating for alternatives to incarceration for people with mental health and addictions in the Toronto Drug Treatment Court. She runs a specialized stream for women in the Toronto Drug Treatment Court. She is a passionate believer in the principles of harm reduction. She holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto. 


Kate Johnson is the Director, Clinical Services, Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres. Kate spent her early career working in the federal correctional system. From there, she spent time working with youth involved in the criminal justice system. After seeing the link between traumatic experiences, mental health, substance use and incarceration, Kate retrained to become an addiction counselor, primarily working in Eastern Ontario.

Kate joined Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres in 2015 in a leadership role and moved to the Director position in 2018. She is responsible for clinical services and operations in 74 Treatment Centres in the Province of Ontario that deliver addiction care to nearly 15,000 patients a month. Driven by a personal passion for improving access to high-quality, cost-effective opioid agonist treatment, particularly in rural communities, Kate is committed to changing the trajectory of the opioid/fentanyl epidemic in Canada.

Sharon Lockhart is recently retired. Sharon was the Director of Integrated Programs with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, for the Downtown Community Court (DCC), the Drug Treatment Court of Vancouver (DTCV), and the Vancouver Integrated Supervision Unit (VISU). She was a board member of the Canadian Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals (CADTCP), an active member of the Restorative Collective of Vancouver (Peace of the Circle), and the Vice President of Soroptimist International, North and West Vancouver (SINWV).


Norma Fay Nicholson, MA, BA, Retired RN. Norma is a four-time published author, speaker, educator, youth, and adult mental health advocate. Ms. Nicholson is a retired RN with a BA in Sociology and Psychology and an MA in Adult Education.

As a recognized public speaker, she addresses the needs of vulnerable and at-risk teens and their families. With over 30 years of public service experience, she has spent most of her time motivating and mentoring families and youth to transform their mindsets to see the world in positive ways.

Due to her vibrant voice and catalyst for community growth, she has been recognized on many occasions for her mentorship and advocacy. Most recently as one of the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women 2018.

She is highly engaged in community volunteer work such as the immediate past Chair of the Region of Peel Police Services Board and past President of the Alzheimer Society of Peel. She is presently a member of the Mississauga Arts Council, Secretary of the Board of Directors, St. Luke’s Seniors Residence, an advisor to the Free For All Foundation Board and an ardent volunteer at Associated Youth Services of Peel.


Young Lives on the Line, You can make a difference

Walking Miles in Sensible Shoes, A nurse looks back at her vocation

Codi’s Adventures, Canada my ‘forever’ home (2 series)


Aileen McGinty. Aileen is a Senior Crown Attorney working with the Dartmouth Wellness Court in Nova Scotia. She trained as both a lawyer and a psychologist in the UK and spent three years working in acute psychiatry.

​She has been involved in mental health advocacy for over twenty years. She is currently Chair of the National Council for Persons with Lived Experience and sits on the National Board of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

​ Her work in the mental health field has led to many speaking opportunities around the world including Australia and New Zealand. She also teaches in the Criminology Department at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

Megan Oliver

Drug Treatment Court Coordinator

Mental Health and Justice Support Coordinator

Canadian Mental Health Association

Waterloo Wellington

Carol O'Neil. Carol is a Restorative Justice Program Associate with Mennonite Central Committee for over 5 years working with their CoSA (Circle of Support and Accountability for Individuals who have harmed sexually) and FCRI (Faith Community Reintegration Initiative for women just released from incarceration). She is married to Mark, and they have 2 children, and 5 grandchildren. She is excited about a new project she has developed entitled Guiding Good Choices (GGC). The goal of the project is to prevent individuals at risk of harming others sexually to get them help before they do – in doing so we prevent the cost and trauma of the growing number of criminal offences related to sexual assault and less victims.

Dr. Michele Peterson-Badali is a professor in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She has taught in the areas of professional psychology ethics, child psychological assessment, and children, psychology and the law. Her research examines issues in youth criminal justice psychology. Current projects focus on effective assessment and intervention for justice system-involved youth mental health. In addition to scholarly dissemination of her work, Dr. Peterson-Badali is actively engaged in bringing her research findings into the spheres of public policy and practice; she has conducted research and provided policy consultation for Canada's Department of Justice, provided consultation and training to various youth courts and probation offices, and served as an expert witness for the Ontario Advocate for Children and Youth.

Sarah Pichut has worked as a Counselor/Therapist at CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) for nearly 2 decades in a variety of programs. For the past 4 years, she has been with Toronto’s DTC (Drug Treatment Court), which feels like home. As a Registered Social Worker and Registered Psychotherapist, Sarah is passionate about supporting people through their struggles with addiction, mental health, and the justice system, with the understanding that a trauma-informed, client-centred, holistic approach is necessary to help this population meet their goals and define success.

Carole Sinclair, BSW, MSW, RSW (she/her/elle) is the Director of Addictions and Mental Health at Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services, which has been providing community-based counselling for individuals struggling with substance use, gambling and gaming and their loved ones for over 40 years, including Ottawa’s Drug Treatment Court and Youth Justice addiction counselling programs. Carole is an experienced clinical leader with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital, health care and social services industries in community-based, outpatient and inpatient milieus.


Sandy Thomas  B.A. (Hons), J.D. recently retired from a distinguished career with the federal civil service having built a reputation for excellence, equity and fairness as a criminal prosecutor. She was Senior Counsel with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) in Toronto, where she practised criminal and constitutional law for 30 years. 

Sandy received a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Music from York University and her J.D. from Rutgers University, School of Law (Camden). She was called to the bar in Ontario in 1992 and is a former member of the Bars of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Throughout her career, Sandy specialized in prosecutions under the Income Tax Act, Excise Tax Act, Excise Act, Customs Act, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Criminal Code, conducting trials and arguing appeals. Beyond her significant legal expertise, Sandy is known as trusted colleague, an empathetic leader and, most importantly, a valued mentor to many lawyers and students inside and outside of the PPSC. Prior to joining the federal government, she was Assistant Counsel to Governor Thomas  H. Kean of New Jersey.

Equal to Sandy’s love and respect for the law, is her personal commitment to the legal community and community at large. She is the founding president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) and has been a member of the Black Female Lawyers Network (BFLN) since its inception.

Much of her volunteerism has also been focused on students. Sandy was the Federal Crown (PPSC) representative on the Toronto Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) Committee from 2009-2017. She has volunteered with OJEN since its inception, speaking to students for Law Day, Career Day or other OJEN events. In addition to devoting her time to speaking engagements in elementary and high schools in the GTA, Sandy has organized and participated in mock criminal trials at various schools. In collaboration with the members of her family, Sandy co-founded the Dr. Ferdinand Alexander Thomas Award at Brookview Middle School in 2007, which annually awards qualified Grade 8 graduates of that school.

In 2012, Sandy and her sister Beverley Thomas-Barnes established the Dr. Ferdinand and Mrs. Emelda Thomas Entrance Award at York University in honour of their parents. The Award is given annually to a qualified student entering first year at York University in any discipline. They must be a graduate of a school that has participated in the York University Westview Partnership (Westview Centennial Secondary School, C.W. Jeffrey's Collegiate Institute, Emery Collegiate Institute, James Cardinal McGuigan and North Albion Collegiate).

Sandy is an accomplished musician. She feeds her musical soul through her membership on the board of the Jazz Performance and Education Centre (JPEC), where she is currently chair of the Outreach committee. She has applied her fundraising expertise to numerous important causes including organizing “Jazz at the Drake,” to  raise funds for the York University-Westview Partnership and the Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education (Y.A.A.A.C.E.). In addition, for three years, Sandy organized Rock for LIFE (Lawyers International Food Enterprise). LIFE raises awareness and funds supporting programs focused upon with child poverty in Africa, namely World Vision and the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Sandy’s role as a trailblazer in law and community has been continuously recognized: the Department of Justice’s Deputy Minister’s Award (1996-1997); Visions of Justice Award, Black Law Students Association of Canada (2000); Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), Department of Justice Merit Award (2003);  the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) Award of Excellence (2006);  the Law Society of Upper Canada ( Lincoln Alexander Award (2009); the Sickle Cell Miracle Network’s 2010 Humanitarian Award; the Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Heads of Prosecutions Committee’s 2010 Humanitarian Award and,  the African Canadian Achievement Award (Law) 2016.


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