Micheal Pietrus
Micheal Pietrus
Director, MHFA & Opening Minds
  • Director of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s international award winning anti-stigma initiative Opening Minds. In February 2015, Opening Minds receive the Innovator Award from the organizers of the 7th Together Against Stigma Conference in San Francisco as the “…program which creates a major impact through new approaches that inspire new possibilities and/or disrupts prevailing views.”
  • Under Micheal’s leadership, the Commission launched Opening Minds, its 10-year anti-stigma/anti-discrimination initiative which is the largest systematic effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Canadian history.
  • Opening Minds is an important priority for the MHCC because many people living with mental health issues say that the stigma associated with mental illness is often worse than the illness itself. It is a significant barrier keeping individuals dealing with mental health illness from seeking help.
  • Micheal is a founder and co-chair of the Global Anti-stigma Alliance, which is composed of more than 20 organizations from around the world working to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness
  • He sits on the Board of the Alberta Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addictions and is a member of the advisory committee for the Centre for Dignity, Recovery and Empowerment, San Francisco, CA.
  • Micheal was also a Director with the Alberta Mental Health Board.
Nicholas Watters
Nicholas Watters
Director, Access to Quality Mental Health Services
  • Nicholas has significant experience working for not-for-profit organizations at both the national and provincial level with a focus on knowledge exchange, communications, capacity building, and network development and facilitation.
  • Nicholas has served on, and currently sits on multiple pan-Canadian networks aimed at increasing interorganizational/inter-disciplinary collaboration, mobilizing best and promising practices, increasing the use of effective knowledge exchange principles and practices, while aiming to reduce silos and redundancy within the system.
  • Nicholas also has pioneered training and development courses across the health sector aimed at increasing capacity.
  • Prior to joining the MHCC Nicholas served as the Senior Advisor Communications and Knowledge Transfer at the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada.
Karla Thorpe
Karla Thorpe
Director, Prevention and Promotion Initiatives
  • After working with the Commission for nearly a year in workplace mental health promotion, Karla is now the Director of Prevention and Promotion Initiatives. In this role, she leads the development and execution of projects to promote Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada. The initial focus of this team will include driving uptake of the Guidelines for Recovery-Oriented Practice in Canada and providing Housing First technical support, training, and evaluation. Her team will also support activities within the Mental Health Action Plan for Canada which is currently under development using extensive stakeholder consultation.
  • Prior to joining the Commission, Karla was a Director with the Leadership and Human Resources Research Division of The Conference Board of Canada, leading the organization’s Workplace Health and Wellness practice.
  • Karla has earned a Master of Science in Statistics from Queen’s University as well as a Bachelor of Commerce from Carleton University. 
Vicky Walker
Vicky Walker
Director, Organizational Performance
  • Passionate about evidence informed quality improvement and service excellence, Vicky has led numerous projects to measure performance and maximize organizational effectiveness.
  • In her current role, Vicky leads organization-wide efforts to ensure that performance management and quality improvement programs are developed and managed using a data driven focus. She provides the strategic and tactical direction for the performance management system and ensures alignment of operations with the Five-year Strategic Plan.
  • Prior to joining the MHCC Vicky had a proven track record at the national and regional level developing and managing balanced scorecards, evaluating and reporting on performance, managing projects, and collaborating with stakeholders.
  • Vicky has earned a Master of Health Administration from the University of Ottawa and is a Project Management Professional.
Christopher Canning, PhD
Christopher Canning, PhD
Director (Acting), Programs and Priorities, Mental Health and Substance Use

Christopher Canning a health leader, researcher, and progressive policy expert. Trained as a sociologist of mental health, he holds a doctorate from Queen's University and was twice a post-doctoral fellow in McGill's Department of Social Studies of Medicine. Since joining the MHCC in 2012, Christopher has contributed to policy development in several areas related to mental health and substance use in Canada, including cannabis; substance use and mental health integration; child and youth mental health; recovery; expanding access to services; dedicated mental health care funding; and performance measurement. Christopher brings his own lived experience perspectives to his work and advocacy in the mental health field.

Sandra Koppert
Sandra Koppert
Director (Acting), Mental Health Advancement

Sandra has extensive experience in strategic planning, outreach and promotion, and stakeholder relations within the national non-profit health sector. For more than five years at the MHCC, Sandra has developed strategies and led projects to promote awareness and facilitate action for psychological health and safety in workplaces across Canada. This includes leading the national By Health for Health Collaborative of health leaders to advance workplace mental health in health care settings and now overseeing the MHCC’s leadership in the development and promotion of a National Standard of Psychological Health and Safety for Post-Secondary Students. Areas of child and youth, justice and chronic disease as they relate to mental health are also being explored under Sandra’s leadership.

Phil Upshall
Phil Upshall
Advisor, Stakeholder Relations (Part-Time)
  • Phil is the National Executive Director of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC), a virtual national NGO with a mandate to represent the interests of consumers and families dealing with mood disorders.
  • Immediate past National Executive Director of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH).
  • Managing Director of Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada.
  • Holds national board positions with the Canada Post Foundation on Mental Illness and Mental Health; Advisory Board to the Canada Research Chair - National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia.
  • Adjunct professor, Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University.
  • Past member of the Institute Advisory Board of the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction; past member of expert panels for Statistics Canada, Health Canada, Canadian Institute for Health Information and others.
  • Phil holds a commerce degree from Dalhousie University and a law degree from the University of Toronto. He was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1969.