The SLSC team is a group of self-proclaimed data nerds who are frequently joined in our dog-friendly Ottawa office by Anita’s dog, Mask and Danielle’s dog, Pepper. Each of us has been drawn in our own way to the amazing SLSC network and are inspired by its strength and determination to improve the lives of their community members across Canada.
Executive Director: Anita Desai
Year Started at SLSC: 2009
Anita became Executive Director of SLSC in 2017, after joining in 2009 in a project management capacity that eventually transitioned into the role of Research and Policy Advisor.
Through her various roles, Anita has come to appreciate the breadth and value of the St. Leonard’s network as a collective entity, and the way each affiliate enriches the community it belongs to. As Executive Director, she is committed to supporting SLSC’s affiliates and members, and advancing collaborative relationships and communication among individuals and organizations dedicated to social and criminal justice. Her enthusiasm for community-informed research and project management skills help drive SLSC’s mandate to endorse evidence-based approaches. She is the SLSC delegate to the National Associations Active in Criminal Justice (NAACJ) and is currently serving in the role of NAACJ’s President.
Anita has provided leadership on research initiatives related to integrated and cooperative approaches for successful community integration of people exiting prison with mental health problems and illnesses, second-stage housing for the ‘hard to house’, social enterprises, developing a national strategy for life-sentenced people in Canada, examining trajectories towards homelessness for youth and adults in conflict with the law, and the value of peer mentoring.
In addition to being a proud mom of her two young children, Anita is passionate about issues related to the intersection of homelessness and criminal justice. She holds a B.A. in Criminology and an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Windsor and wrote her thesis on homelessness in mid-sized cities.
Languages spoken: English, Marathi
Director of Operations: David Whiteley
Year Started at SLSC: 1999
David started at St. Leonard’s Society of Canada in 1999, based on the strength of his writing, editing and communicating skills. Though without a background in corrections, working for SLSC for over two decades has taught David to appreciate the contributions of NGOs, and the importance of research and evidence-based practices to community corrections.
David leads a double life as a theatre artist, holding a MA in dramatic arts and serving as Co-Artistic Director of Ottawa’s Plosive Productions. He is pleased and thankful that SLSC has given him the opportunity to balance contributing to community corrections while pursuing a career in the theatre.
Languages spoken: English, French
Outreach Coordinator: Danielle Kouri
Year Started at SLSC: 2017
Danielle first joined St. Leonard’s Society of Canada in the spring of 2017 as a volunteer, before starting her field placement at SLSC through the University of Ottawa later that fall. She officially joined as an SLSC staff member in January 2018.
After laying the groundwork for the Life(r)’s Work project series (2017-2022), in which she still plays a vital role, Danielle provided critical project support on the Beyond Custody: Positive Pathways to Housing for Youth in Conflict with the Law in 2018. In 2021, she served as the Project Lead for Infrastructure, Intersections, and Innovation: Understanding Community-based Residential Facilities Within a Shifting COVID-19 Landscape and was the lead author of an article entitled, Challenges and Promising Practices in Correctional Healthcare During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Perspective from Community-based Residential Facility Operators in Canada, published in the 12th edition of the ICPA's Advancing Corrections journal. Since 2017, Danielle's various experiences have expanded the scope of her knowledge of SLSC and its members, and have fine-tuned her role into one that coordinates our key objectives and activities in a meaningful way.
As Outreach Coordinator, Danielle ensures that SLSC’s engagement within and beyond its network is impactful. This means playing a vital role in consultations, Board committee activities, research, policy development, fundraising, volunteer and student supervision, day-to-day office administration, and the development of SLSC’s social media, marketing, and outreach strategies.
Danielle completed her Honours Bachelor of Social Science in Criminology with a Minor in Psychology in 2019. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Millhaven Lifers’ Liaison Group, which meets with people serving life sentences in Millhaven Institution in Kingston, ON on a monthly basis.
Languages spoken: English, French, Spanish
SLSC greatly benefits from partnerships with various post-secondary schools through their placement student programs. Many students take on the challenges of administrative duties, research, and policy work each semester and help with keeping SLSC on top of day-to-day operations. SLSC is extremely thankful to the students and volunteers who truly make a difference to our organization throughout the year.
To learn more, visit our Become a Volunteer or Placement Student page