Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine announces expanded Advisory Council of 22 experienced Canadians

The Ottawa Forum on Israel Palestine announces a newly expanded membership of its Advisory Council consisting of 22 Canadians with a wealth of experience and contacts in many sectors of Canadian society. Read more...

The mission of the Ottawa Forum on Israel Palestine (OFIP) is “to encourage the development of a Canadian foreign policy in the middle east based on democracy, equality, justice and respect for international law.”

In pursuit of this mission, we promote thoughtful conversation among Canadians from all walks of life about the history and current situation in Israel/Palestine and encourage discussion on current Canadian policy with regard to that conflict.

To help us do this, we are assisted by a 22 person Advisory Council composed of Canadians with a diversity of backgrounds and a variety of experience in many areas of endeavour, including diplomacy, science, military and religious affairs and journalism.

The council’s dean and Honorary Chair is Joseph Debanné, whose family was forced to flee from Haifa, Palestine (now Haifa, Israel) in 1948.

Role of the Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is purely advisory. It has no governance responsibilities. By joining the council, individual members are indicating their general support for the mission and objectives of OFIP. They remain free, of course, to have their own ideas and positions on possible solutions or actions to be taken.

Beyond adding their names to OFIP, Advisory Council members contribute to the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine in several important ways:

  1.  ADVICE and COMMENT (including warnings or critical suggestions) on activities, blog posts, etc.
  2. OCCASIONAL HELP when OFIP undertakes activities like writing to the Prime Minister on a specific issue, or when organizing educational webinars.
  3. HELP IN DISSEMINATING OFIP/CTIP information including CTIP news letters and information about OFIP events to any Canadian contacts who might be interested.
  4. PARTICIPATION in occasional meetings of the Advisory Council whether by zoom or in person in Ottawa. (In 2019 we held 2 AC meetings, only one in 2020 so far.)

Advisory Council membership

2020 – 2021

Dean and Honorary Chair

Dr. Joseph Debanné was born in 1927 in Cairo, Egypt. His father was an official with the British Government-owned Palestine Railways. His family lived through the tumultuous events leading up to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1947/48. Joseph started his professional career in Canada in 1950 as a petroleum engineer. In 1969, he was the first Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences of the University of Ottawa. For over 20 years, he was Chair of the Ottawa-based Middle East Discussion Group, a forerunner of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine.

Members 2020 – 2021

(Alphabetical by first name)

Anita MacLean is a retired Chartered Accountant. She is Chair of the Global Justice Working Group at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa where she has organized many educational sessions on social/humanitarian issues, including human rights for Palestinians and Indigenous issues inviting leading indigenous leaders and thinkers.  She is also an active member of Amnesty International and Chair of the Community Services at Kiwanis Club of Ottawa West that assists disadvantaged children and youth.

Anna Vogt is the Director of the Ottawa Office of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). She grew up in Dawson City, Yukon. She has previous experience working with MCC in Colombia where she accompanied displaced communities advocating for their rights as victims of Colombia’s armed conflict. She currently oversees all the work of the MCC Ottawa office, including its advocacy and education work around Palestine and Israel.

Arthur Milner is a Canadian author and playwright. His Polish parents lost almost their entire family in Poland and spent several years in a refugee camp in Frankfurt, Germany before coming to Canada. Arthur has been continually active in the Canadian theatre community, has written many plays and was Artistic Director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. His play, Facts, toured Palestine and Israel in Arabic in 2013. He currently lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Barbara Dumont-Hill, a First Nation Algonquin, was born on the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Reserve and has resided in her traditional territory ever since. She is Turtle Clan and has served as a grandmother with the 2015 Walking With Our Sisters memorial installation in Ottawa.

Bruce Gregersen (Rev. Dr. retired) is a retired senior staff leader of The United Church of Canada responsible for the oversight of national and international programs. He has been involved in Middle East issues for several decades, travelling to the region numerous times and was lead staff in the development of the UCC Israel/Palestine report.  

David Halton is a retired Canadian journalist, having served as a foreign affairs correspondent in many places including Paris, Moscow, London and Washington. He was stationed in Jerusalem during the 1967 “Six Day War”. Before moving to Washington, Halton was the chief political correspondent in Ottawa for the CBC.

Dr. David Lorge Parnas is a software engineer with a global reputation. Both his parents (both doctors) barely escaped the Holocaust by coming to the USA just prior to WWII. He has been invited to speak and teach at many universities around the world (including German, Israeli and Palestinian). He retired in 2008 and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and a former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Best known for her work as a legal adviser and a participant in peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian organizations. She currently lives with her family in Ramallah, Palestine.

Dr. Diana Ralph MSW, Ph.D. is a retired Associate Professor of Social Work and author of two books.  She was a co-founder of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Doug Dempster is a retired Major-General in the Canadian Armed Forces.  He served as NATO Assistant Secretary General for Executive Management in Brussels and subsequently as head of the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Executive Leadership.

Eman Ayyoub is a Canadian citizen of Palestinian origin. Her family was forced to flee Palestine in 1947/48. She has a degree in Engineering Physics from a Canadian university and works with a consulting firm in Canada. She is currently completing her M.Sc.

Faisal Bhabha is an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and is the Faculty Director of the Canadian Common Law LLM degree program. He has published in the areas of constitutional law, multiculturalism, law and religion, disability rights, national security and access to justice. Previously, he sat as Vice-chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (2008-2011). 

Dr. Gerald Wright is currently Senior Fellow, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University and a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian International Council. He has a Ph.D. from the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.

Haig Sarafian is a retired Canadian senior diplomat. He had had several overseas postings in different capacities, including Bagdad, Tunis, Damascus as well two postings as Ambassador to Lebanon and Libya; in addition to different assignments in Canada his last position was Director of Diplomatic Protocol.

Karen Walker is a retired consultant who worked in the areas of quantitative analysis, benefit cost analysis, regulatory impact analysis and program evaluation.  She visited Israel and Palestine on a “Come and See” tour.

Lia Tarachansky is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker. Born in the Soviet Union, she calls Israel/Palestine and Canada home. Her work can be seen on

Marina Kun is President of Kun Shoulder Rest, a global supplier of musical equipment. Marina is active in the local arts community supporting many arts and music events including Suzuki, the Ottawa Chamber Music Society, the Ottawa Symphony and the NAC. Marina was designated one of Canada’s top 100 Women Entrepreneurs in 2006 by PROFIT.

Michel de Salaberry is a retired Canadian senior diplomat with many postings in the Middle East. He was ambassador to Iran, Egypt, and Jordan. He has also held diplomatic posts in Israel and Nigeria. He was a director of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations.

Mohammed Abokasem is a businessman and restauranteur in Ottawa. He was born in Gaza and grew up in Saudi Arabia and came to Canada in late 1990. He is a graduate of the University of Ottawa in 2007 (Master of Business Administration). He has served in multiple community projects such as mosques, schools, humanitarian organizations and of course, human rights for Palestinians.

Peggy Mason is a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the UN and an expert on the political/diplomatic aspects of UN peacekeeping. She served on the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament and Chaired two UN Expert Groups on arms control verification and regulation. From 2002-2012 Peggy Mason was a Senior Fellow at The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) at Carleton University. She is currently the President of the Rideau Institute.

Richard Kohler is a retired Canadian senior diplomat. Among other posts he was Consul General of Canada at Sydney, Australia and Ambassador to the Federative Republic of Brazil. He later served in Ottawa as Chief of Protocol of Canada.  Subsequently, as part of the Province of Ontario Cabinet Office, he was Assistant Deputy Minister, International Affairs and Chief of Protocol.

Robert Massoud is a Palestinian-Canadian born in Jerusalem. In 2004, he founded Zatoun Fair Trade to import and sell fair trade olive oil from Palestine as a way to connect Canadians and Americans to Palestine.  Zatoun helps to provide farmers with a livelihood and to stay on their land.  It has donated over $500,000 from proceeds to plant olive trees and support recreational and educational program to youth living in refugee camps.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to


  1. What a stellar group, and what a resource the forum will be to advocates across Canada! I’m seeing here a worthy counterpart to other groups bent on keeping the conversation one-sided in favour of the state of Israel.

    1. So you see this group as bent on keeping the conversation one-sided in favour of the Palestinain Authority and Hamas. I thought I was the only one to see that possibiity.

      1. Hey Mr. Sigman, Thank you for your thoughtful note. I think it must be a bit discouraging if you see the whole world as anti-Semitic. I’m sorry if we have caused you stress. You have nothing to fear. We aren’t anti-Semitic and don’t want any harm to come to Jews either in Canada or in Israel.

  2. Wonderful and very impressive group of experts and advocates to advance the important work of the Ottawa Forum for Israel Palestine. Good luck

  3. Some of these people I know, others I know by reputation. All good. Hope to hear more from them.

  4. Yes a very impressive group indeed with, as you say Peter, very diverse backgrounds and lots of experience in a variety of fields. I have no doubt that they will help promote the mission of the OFIP in a thoughtful and fair manner.

  5. Hello Diana. Good to see your name here, working with a fine organization for a just cause.
    Michael Murphy

  6. It is so refreshing to see this notable group, (which I also know a few of them), to have a very small voice of advocacy for the Palestinians, compare to the pro Israel organizations, who use propaganda, lies, cover ups, monetary means and intimidation.
    I hope that our government will be open listen to them.

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