Board nominees for 2013 AGM


November 25, 2013

On Sunday, December 1st members will meet for the Toronto Vegetarian Association Annual General Meeting (AGM). At the AGM,  members will review our work in 2013, discuss our new strategic plan, and elect our 2014 board of directors. If you’re a member, please join us starting at 3:30pm at the Miles Nadal JCC located at 750 Spadina Ave.

Here are the candidates for this year’s TVA Board of Directors:

Michael Abramson
Diane Burgin
Maria Filifer
Fraser Gibson
Sara Harrel
Alan Jaffee
Sangeeta Kumar
Dominic Wong

Serving until 2014Peter McQueen & Marcella Tomas

Michael Abramson

What I believe I bring to the TVA Board is a duo of skills and experience gained through 27 years of owning and running a Toronto marketing and advertising agency (theadlibgroup) along with an in-depth knowledge of the vegetarian food world gained through Natural Foods Culinary Certification and a Professional Chef Diploma in Vegetarian Cuisine (Cordon Vert Academy). When it comes to marketing and advertising my experience covers the gamut from business-to-business and business-to-consumer along with a healthy dose of marketing for charitable and non-profit associations. When it comes to the food world, my goal has never been to “prove” meat eaters wrong. I simply want to prove to them that vegetarian cuisine is way more delicious, equally satisfying and infinitely better for our planet.

In 2012 I sold theadlibgroup to pursue YamChops – Vegetarian Butcher & Prepared Foods Shop. YamChops will be opening in Toronto early in 2014.

For me, sitting as an Association member is akin to actively running a business – with the added bonus of the creativity and expertise brought by other Board members, Committee leads, Volunteers and the Membership. The TVA is a great organization and I’m certainly proud to be a member of the team.

Fortunately though – “great” is a floating target. To get to greatness we’ve got to keep getting better all the time. We’ve got to not be satisfied with the status quo. We’ve got to not be satisfied with the “we’ve always done it that way” attitude that many businesses and organizations rest upon.

In over 40 years as a vegetarian I have never seen a marketplace that is more open and receptive to adopting a flexitarian, vegetarian and/or vegan lifestyle. And, as such, there has never been a better time for the TVA to deliver its message.

Diane Burgin 

diane2012Diane Burgin has been a volunteer and member of the Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) for almost 10 years. She is a long-time vegan and loyal advocate for organic food. She is also committed to many animal and environmental causes.

Diane has an undergraduate university degree in Accounting and accreditation as a Certified Management Accountant. She worked for many years as an accountant and most recently for a hospital, which is run similar to a not-for-profit organization. In 2012, Diane embarked on a new journey and began a course at an accredited coach training school. Currently, Diane is a Holistic Health Coach who helps people create success in their lives.

Diane has enjoyed serving on the TVA Board for the last 4 years, including her work on various committees. Diane is looking forward to starting work on the new strategic plan and is excited about assisting with the preparation for the upcoming 30th Vegetarian Food Festival.


Maria Filifer

I have a postgraduate degree in anthropology and further professional development in instructional skills, grant application writing, and intercultural communication.  The specific skills that would be relevant to the TVA’s Board of Directors include: design and execution of basic and applied research; strong analytical skills; development and presentation of educational material; project management skills; familiarity with cultural diversity and intercultural communication; and a degree of exposure to the media and public relations.

Having served on the TVA’s Programs Review Committee for more than three years, I have a thorough understanding of TVA’s current programs, their efforts and successes, and also the challenges they encounter in their work.

I have been a vegetarian for more than ten years.  I started volunteering for the Toronto Vegetarian Association out of desire to see more people learn about and, hopefully, choose vegetarian lifestyle.  I am excited about the focus of our new strategic plan, and I feel that the board’s most important immediate goal would be to ensure that we meet or exceed our strategic objectives.

Fraser Gibson

fraserI have been a member of TVA’s Board of Directors for almost seven years and President for a full five year term.  As a Board member I spent five years on the Nominating & Governance Committee and have been leading our strategic planning efforts since 2007. I have volunteered for the Vegetarian Food Festival for about 14 years and have been actively involved in various Outreach events for TVA. I have also been a coordinator for Veggies of Halton & Peel (a TVA social group) although I now reside in Toronto.

I have previous board experience with non-profit arts organizations. In the workplace I’m a Vice-President at a national distributor of industrial fire, safety and environmental monitoring equipment and my responsibilities include facilitation of project teams and strategic planning. My specialty is supply chain management and I’m a professional member of the Logistics Institute.

My journey to become a vegetarian started more than 30 years ago and approximately 12 years ago I adopted a vegan diet. Early inspiration was from an environmental/political perspective, then health, and I finally awoke to the ethical perspective about 14 years ago, assisted significantly by presentations at the TVA Food Fair that highlighted the importance of compassion for animals. TVA programs have had a significant positive impact on my approach to food. It is an honour to be able to give back and help support the organisation.

In 2014 we start implementing a new strategic plan and I look forward to working on those initiatives and helping build on the success of TVA. I will work hard at further strengthening the organisation and enhancing the effectiveness of our programs and the message we deliver.


Sara Harrel

Sara Harrel

Sara Harrel is an expert vegetarian chef and consumer packaged goods marketer with over 20 years experience with both small and large international organizations. Sara spearheaded the development and launch of Canada’s first ever Certificate in Vegetarian Cuisine – now in its 10th year – at George Brown’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Toronto, which she still teaches (most of the content is vegan). A passionate and compassionate person by nature, Sara was recognized by UNICEF Canada for her contributions over the years, including chairing the Marketing Committee and as a National Board Member. She was an active member and chaired the Industry Advisory Committee for Chefs and Cooks in Ontario for five years.

A vegetarian since University, she has been a chef spokesperson for several organizations on media tours and as the Food Network Canada’s online “Ask a Vegetarian Chef Expert”. She has a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University, the Food and the Media Certificate from George Brown and the Interprovincial Culinary Red Seal.

Sara runs The Veg Company, which develops and implements culinary and marketing programs for consumer packaged goods and foodservice organizations. Sara’s dual expertise in both the culinary and marketing areas brings a unique perspective which is greatly valued by clients. She would like to offer this  expertise in helping the Toronto Vegetarian Association evaluate and possibly implement new ways to grow and expand with a positive, welcoming approach.

Alan Jaffee

I look forward to continuing as a TVA Board member. I offer the Board the following skills and experience:

  • Experience as government health/privacy lawyer, and private sector legal experience
  • Extensive policy development, stakeholder management and advisory experience
  • Communications and public relations experience, including writing material for media release as well as liaising with media, various levels of government, and NGOs
  • Excellent writing, editing, and proofreading skills
  • Strong problem-solving, consensus building, teamwork, and computer skills
  • Project management experience; chaired numerous teams and committees
  • Formal education and experience as a healthcare professional
  • Completed courses in nutrition and its effect upon health and disease, as well as courses in facilitation, conflict resolution, stakeholder management and web-based research
  • Graduate business education including finance and some accounting
  • Operated a small business

My motivation for serving again on the Board:

I have been a member of TVA’s Board for five years, Secretary for three years, and have served on the Nominating & Governance Committee for five years. I have been vegetarian and a TVA member continuously since 1991, and have followed a vegan diet for 19 years. I remain passionate about promoting the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle as well as furthering the goals and growth of TVA. I hope to be able to work with the other Directors towards this end.

I bring a balanced approach and viewpoint to the Board – one that espouses the strategic areas important to TVA – compassion for animals, healthy lifestyle and environmental sustainability. I believe that TVA should continue as a “mainstream” organization, so that it can reach out to the widest possible audience interested in the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, regardless of motivation.

My Board experience has significantly enhanced my understanding of the many issues facing the TVA, and has provided me with the insight and skills needed to better address the issues and challenges that may arise in the future.


Sangeeta Kumar

I am honoured to be considered for the TVA board of directors. Over 2 decades ago the TVA played a vital role in my life in inspiring me to make ethical choices. It helped me align my education and personal choices which resulted in me earning a Bachelor’s in Environmental Leadership & a Master Degree in Human Education.

My career as an activist has taken me across the continent with engaging roles. I started my career organizing one of the largest vegetarian festivals in the USA. Organizing 5 events in California which drew celebrities, media, and over 10,000 people annually where I learned the unique skill of event management. After this I was employed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as their Educational Coordinator. In this role, I traveled all over North America speaking at schools such as Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley about Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism. This challenged me both mentally and emotionally, and through it I gained an incredible knowledge of community outreach.

I feel Toronto has become one of the global leaders in plant-based movement and an exciting and engaging place to be right now. Through collaboration and experienced leadership I am sure we can continue to build upon the TVA’s three decades of incredible success.

Dominic Wong

Dominic WongDominic has been a vegetarian for over a decade and vegan for most of that. He served on the founding executives of several grassroots animal rights organizations, such as UTCARE, Wild at Heart, and the University of Nottingham Animal Ethics Society, where his campaign successfully removed eggs laid by caged hens from the campus stores and cafeterias.


Dominic has a degree in Philosophy, a certificate in TESL, and is on his final class of a Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Management certificate. After a few years teaching English, he switched career paths to work exclusively in the non-profit sector. He gained most of his management experience as the President of his students’ union, serving on other Boards of Directors, and in his current job managing a small nonprofit organization. He has also volunteered for many other environmental, human rights, and human development organizations, such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, and Not Far From the Tree. Dominic has also been involved in many grassroots movements, such as the successful Stop the Mega Quarry campaign, and the less successful anti-war movement.


Dominic has been a volunteer and member of TVA for several years. Most recently Dominic has become the Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors.


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