Our participants

Cohort Two

Ashley Bedard

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Ashley joined XFN and the policy world to explore new challenges after more than ten years in Government of Canada communications. She is a strategic thinker and problem solver with a courageous voice and a golden pen.

She is currently posted as a Senior Policy Analyst at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, leading on OECD migration policy, a Deputy Minister committee, and reporting for Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and supporting the Budget process and capacity building for Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+). She began her XFN journey at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in strategic policy, supporting the Deputy Minister, the medium-term policy planning process, and the COVID-19 response.

Ashley’s diverse experience also includes roles in strategic, corporate, employee, and digital communications, and she has been a valued advisor at senior management tables for her guidance on employee engagement and organizational change. She has supported areas including information technology, minerals and mining, missing children, human resources, mental health, and almost every internal service in the government. She has also written for the United Nations in Pakistan, volunteered as the Director of Marketing for a non-profit choir, worked for a leadership training and consulting firm, and performed as a classical singer. This broad background speaks to her flexibility and developmental mindset.  

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Jean-Philippe Cayouette

Available to be deployed: June 2021


"Call me JP" will be his first reaction when you meet him. Curious and thoughtful, this native Montrealer is more interested in people than government processes. With a Bachelor's degree in Communication, Politics and Society from UQAM and a Master's degree in International Studies from UdeM, JP has had the opportunity to combine his professional background with his interests in politics and public affairs. He has been employed in the federal public service since 2017 and is already in his third department after experiences at Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada and Transport Canada.

Jean-Philippe practices every day to become a positive vector of change and social progress. Colleagues describe him as a calm, a good listener, insightful and a good team player. The best professional advice he has received is to have the confidence to build on your strengths and the humility to work on your weaknesses. His first assignment with the XFN program was with the Intergovernmental Affairs team at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

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Lesley Craig

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Lesley joined XFN with a passion for storytelling and building community. With eleven years of experience in government communications, she comes to policy able to quickly understand the heart of an issue, and how people might perceive and respond to it.

She is currently working on procurement policy at the Treasury Board Secretariat, where she is developing policy to meet the government’s mandate commitment to increase procurement with Indigenous businesses to 5% of all federal contracting. She is also supporting the implementation of the Nunavut Directive, including data analysis and reporting, and planning for its first Review Committee meeting. Lesley completed her first XFN placement with the Consultations and Accommodation Unit at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, where she provided advice on consultation and engagement with Indigenous communities.

Before joining XFN, Lesley’s work in communications honed her ability to communicate complex policy issues. She worked in the Deputy Minister’s Office at National Defence as the DM’s speechwriter and later managed the speechwriting team providing support to the Minister, DM and the Chief of the Defence Staff. Lesley also has expertise in outreach and stakeholder relations; internal communications; and video production. 

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Sylvain Dion

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Sylvain joined XFN and the policy world to explore new challenges after more than twenty-five years in Government of Canada Grants and Contributions program delivery. He is an experienced down-to-earth problem solver with a knack for creative thinking and plenty of courage to influence leadership.

He is currently in a one-year assignment with the Digital Academy of the Canada School of Public Service as Director, Policy, Partnerships and Events, leading a team on the development of partnerships with other government departments, the renewal of the Digital Fellows Program and a variety of events that inform public servants and promote the use of new technologies in today’s challenged public service environment.

Sylvain’s diverse experience also includes leadership roles in Finance, IM/IT, internal communications, and administration from his time as Director of corporate services, as well as Director of Grants and Contributions and Integrated Systems for flagship programs in ISED; a role for which he has earned the Public Service Award of Excellence. This broad background speaks to his vast experience and intimate knowledge of the Government of Canada.

Sylvain wants to be a leader for executives in the adoption of new ways of working, thinking and problem-solving that are more iterative, collaborative, and responsive to emerging needs. 

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Samira Manfon

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Samira is currently completing her first 12 month assignment with the Strategic Planning Division at PCH where she worked on the integration of the UN Sustainable Development Goals into the department’s policies and reporting mechanisms.She was also the lead on the Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy. Through this experience, she has enjoyed working in collaboration with internal stakeholders to highlight PCH’s commitment to the objective of greening the Government of Canada.

Prior to joining XFN, Samira was a policy analyst at ESDC where she started her career as a public servant after graduating with a Master’s in Public Policy and Public Administration. Her passion for public service started prior to that, through her volunteer work with different non-profit organizations working for individuals’ socioeconomic well-being.

She considers herself a life-long student and appreciates every opportunity for personal and professional growth. 

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Lianne Merkur

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Lianne’s endeavours are diverse in discipline, while directed by continuity of curiosity.

Fascinated by concepts of collective belonging as threads that bind Canadians together, she found a natural first fit in the federal landscape at IRCC. Lianne contributed to the department’s geospatial storytelling, explored the emergence of digital identity and its accompanying ethical dilemmas, and successfully completed the competitive Short-term Operational Assignment Training program.

Her initial XFN immersion was with the Strategic Policy team at Shared Services, where she developed an awareness of broad government functions and appreciation for the supporting infrastructure. Next, Lianne plunged into the Youth Digital Gateway team at ESDC, where she is currently responsible for the research component of creating an online platform in an iterative environment.

Prior to joining the public service, her academic journey was paved with a foundation in Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, specializing in Conflict Resolution, followed by Biblical Archaeology to comprehend the ancient origins of contemporary intractability, both conducted in Israel. Lianne’s path then led to Germany, culminating in an innovative PhD study of migration and mobility, recently published by Brill under the title “Pillars of Salt”.

She eagerly anticipates the intellectual challenges along the learning curve ahead.

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Vinayini Murty

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Vinayini is currently working with the Procurement Policy Division of Treasury Board Secretariat. She is finding this a great opportunity to learn about policy development and the role of the Treasury Board. This builds upon her previous XFN assignment at Global Affairs Canada, where she worked on foreign policy planning.

As a Senior Policy Analyst with over 20 years of experience in policy analysis and program management, Vinayini’s career has spanned challenging social policy files in a wide range of federal departments. These include Indigenous Services Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Health Canada, and Canadian Heritage. She has a degree in Sociology from Queen's University, with a focus on race relations and women's studies, and is currently pursuing her M.A. in Sociology at the University of Ottawa.

Vinayini values the bilingual nature of the public service and has worked hard to improve her French skills. Doing most of her M.A. courses in French helped with this immensely.

In her free time, she likes to read post-colonial literature and about Indian textiles. An avid traveler, in the coming years she hopes to take her children to the Taj Mahal and to the jungles of Borneo, retracing trips she took when younger.       

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Dylan Saunders

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Dylan sought the XFN program eager to have the opportunity to return to his academic roots and seek out new challenges. In previous roles, he has been praised for being autonomous and efficient in his work. In XFN, he is stepping out of his comfort zone, exploring innovation in government, experimenting with design thinking with an emphasis on problem framing.

Dylan’s first assignment with the Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio was extended to one year as he was asked to join the branch’s COVID International Policy surge team for three months to help lead the development of a COVID international comparison tracker. In his current role as a Policy Analyst on the Strategic Integration team, he is leading the planning and development of a long-term investment proposal to advance Canadian leadership on global public health, while developing outreach strategies and building collaborative relationships with stakeholders.

Before joining the XFN program, Dylan worked for over three years as an Analyst at Statistics Canada. Predominantly working in the Centre for Labour Market Information, Dylan wrote monthly and quarterly analytical reports with the Centre’s labour market data, including the Labour Force Survey. Additionally, he produced several research projects on Canada’s labour market and its demographic situation. Dylan holds a Bachelors of Commerce and Minor in Statistics, as well as a Master of Arts in Public Administration, both from Carleton University.  

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Anu Shukla-Jones

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Bridging the gap between new frontiers and business-as-usual within the Government of Canada requires creativity, knowledge, and a skilled communicator - that’s Anu. She brings curiosity, passion, and a desire to help solve problems to her teams. She credits her best learning experiences to facilitation and UX training, experimenting with taking smart risks, and conducting herself with humility and honesty. Her XFN colleagues describe her as “disruption at its best”.

Anu is a seasoned public servant. Prior to joining XFN, she spent 14 years at Health Canada supporting scientific, regulatory, and policy programs as a researcher and analyst. Her work and interests have always related to emerging science, technology, and ideas.

Anu’s first assignment was dedicated to learning about the history and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples at Indigenous Services Canada. Her second assignment is focussed on learning about fiscal policy and how intellectual property fits into the economic and innovation landscape at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

While some believe that knowledge is power, Anu believes that the power lies in sharing knowledge so that everyone, particularly underrepresented voices, has the opportunity to contribute to progress.       

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Laurent Viot

Available to be deployed: June 2021


Laurent is a new Canadian whose first government job, interestingly, led him to join Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada in 2017.

This serendipitous introduction to government with the Refugee Affairs Branch was a meaningful way to build on his extensive experience in humanitarian aid and development, working with vulnerable populations post-disaster. His role with International NGOs led him to work on both program and policy capacities in the field and at head office. He has also operated as a first responder and managed multi-disciplinary teams in Asia, Africa, Central America, Europe and Canada.

Laurent has a keen interest in climate change, food security and global migrations. He is also fascinated by the societal impact of information technologies and artificial intelligence.

He sees the XFN program as a path to expand his perspectives on governance in a fast-changing world. After a rich and exciting start working on self-government negotiations with Crown-Indigenous Relations & Northern Affairs (CIRNAC), he is now looking to pursue new challenges working on impactful, forward-looking and people-oriented projects. 

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Cohort One

Salman Dostmohammad


Salman Dostmohammad is an award-winning policy professional with experience in the public and private sector.

Salman is currently a Strategic Advisor at Treasury Board Secretariat, providing advice to management on the operations of the GC’s digital suite of tools and supporting the OneGC vision.

His previous assignment was at Crown-Indigenous Relations Northern Affairs Canada where he led a policy review of the existing grants and contributions programs to reimagine a better way forward.

In his previous and current role, Salman has played a key role in developing plans and policy, contributing to departmental and reporting plans, collaborating heavily with program, policy and corporate partners on shared objectives, building and presenting dashboards to communicate findings at governance committees and providing input into cabinet documents. Before government, Salman worked as a consultant and an account manager in the transportation and supply chain sector.

Salman’s quest for learning led him to visit senior leaders at the European Central Bank, EU Parliament, EU Council and others while on the European Union Study Tour. Salman also lived and studied in France. These experiences have augmented his understanding of policy making from an international context.

Salman also finds it important to give back. Over the years, Salman has played leadership roles with TEDxUTSC, the Aga Khan Park and the Aga Khan Health Board, served as a Board of Director for the Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia, and volunteered for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), Habitat for Humanity, Enactus and more.

His mission is to bring excellence to service. He believes, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

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Keren Gottfried


Keren is on a transformational journey, learning how to contribute in a way that honours her skills and curiosities. She is a servant leader, is collaborative by default, and is happiest when flexing creativity in the face of complex challenges.

Last year she joined the XFN program to pivot from research to policy. She spent her first rotation at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Strategic Policy group and her second at the Privy Council Office’s Priorities and Planning team.

Keren comes to policy after nine years in program evaluation, research, and communications: first at Ipsos for five years as a pollster and researcher, then at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada as an evaluator and transformation analyst.

She is an avid cyclist, wannabe guitarist, and cat mom to a feisty feline. Originally from Israel-Palestine, Keren has lived and studied in Hong Kong and Tel Aviv.

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Marianne Poirier


Marianne is currently working in Digital Policy at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) for her final XFN rotation.

Marianne is excited about many things, but especially collaborating across government, prioritizing results, and advancing the practice of user-centric design. She takes pride in delivering under pressure, always with enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

Marianne has a range of experience working on social, economic, and international files, including supporting government responses to public health emergencies, coordinating departmental teams delivering Cabinet documents, and supporting program design and delivery.

Outside of work, Marianne loves to keep busy, whether with cycling, volunteering in her community, or learning about the many topics that pique her interest.

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Bradley Sykes


Bradley was a professional ballet and contemporary dancer and dance teacher before earning a Master of Arts in World Literatures and Cultures. He then worked in administration and communications before taking this jump into XFN and policy practice.

His first XFN assignment was for six months at Health Canada working on policy and program development for the organ donation and transplantation system. Now, he’s on a one-year assignment at the Canada Council for the Arts working on stakeholder engagement and policy research to inform the Council’s next strategic plan for 2021-2026. He’s also been working on various corporate reporting and senior management briefings.

All of the above took on a whole new significance as the Council worked and continues to work to support the arts sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following XFN, Bradley plans to continue working in a policy field to support the future and richness of culture.

Bradley was born and raised in Ottawa but also spent many very formative years in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and in Reykjavik, Iceland. He nerds out on language and is fluent in English, French, and Icelandic.

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