Dr. Mary Anne Chambers

Senior fellow at York University’s Glendon School of Public and International Affairs

Mary Anne Chambers

Mary Anne Chambers’ life experience has spanned the private, public and not-for-profit sectors through executive management level roles in Canada’s financial services sector, elected office as a Member of Provincial Parliament and Cabinet Minister in the Government of Ontario, corporate governance and governance of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to providing opportunities for youth, education, health, community building and international development.

Dr. Chambers is a member, since 2011, of the Board of Directors, the Group Audit Committee and the Corporate Governance and Nominations Committee of GraceKennedy Ltd., a group of companies comprised of food manufacturing and distribution subsidiaries around the world and financial services in the Caribbean region. Dr. Chambers is also a member of the Board of Directors for subsidiary GraceKennedy Financial Group Ltd. and Chair of its Risk and Capital Management Committee. She also serves as Chair of the Board of the Canadian subsidiary Grace Foods Canada Inc.

In December 2002, Mary Anne Chambers chose early retirement as a Senior Vice- President at Scotiabank, a position which she had held for 4 years.

Dr. Chambers joined Scotiabank as a Computer Programmer / Analyst in 1976, and held a number of management level positions before being promoted to Vice-President in 1988. Her responsibilities at the Vice-President level included computer systems development and maintenance for the bank’s Canadian and International operations, project management, and the provision of electronic banking services to individual, small business and large corporate customers.

At Scotiabank, Dr. Chambers was a member of task forces focused on the Advancement of Women and Equity in the Workplace. She was a founding leader and strong advocate of a program for the development of high potential managers. Dr. Chambers earned a reputation for superior performance, strategic and operational effectiveness and strong, responsible, ethics based leadership. She was also known for her commitment to both fiscal and corporate social responsibility.

Appointed in 2016 and re-appointed in 2019, Mary Anne Chambers is a member of the Board of Governors, as well as the Executive, Human Resources (HRC) and Finance and Audit (FAC) Committees of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a crown corporation created by the Government of Canada which “invests in knowledge, innovation and solutions to improve lives and livelihoods in the developing world”. She has served as Chair of both the HRC and the FAC.

In July 2020, the Mayor and Council of the City of Markham named Mary Anne to the role of Special Advisor for the City’s Anti-Black Racism Strategy.

Dr. Chambers served as Member of Provincial Parliament for Scarborough East from 2003 to 2007. She was sworn in as a member of the Executive Council of Ontario, and appointed Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities in October 2003. In June 2005, Dr. Chambers was appointed Minister of Children and Youth Services, and served in that capacity until October 2007. She did not seek re-election in 2007.

As Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Dr. Chambers’ responsibilities included improving access to, and the quality of, post-secondary education and training. She announced the establishment of income-based non-repayable tuition grants for first and second year college and university students, reduced the parental contributions required for financial assistance through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), increased the amount that students could borrow without increasing the maximum re-payable for each year of full-time study, and eliminated the 12 month wait period for new immigrants and protected persons to be able to apply for OSAP. Dr. Chambers also announced funding to increase the capacity of Ontario’s Medical Schools and introduced grants to assist Nurses to pursue graduate studies so that they could in turn train more Nurses for Ontario’s health care system.

Dr. Chambers took steps to strengthen the quality of education and accountability of the Private Career Colleges sector, thereby enabling better protection for students through legislative changes to the Private Career Colleges Act, which had not been subjected to a significant review in many years. During her term as Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, the government created an Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit to encourage employers to provide on-the-job training opportunities for individuals interested in becoming licensed to work in the skilled trades and substantially increased the number of high school students participating in the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Under her leadership, several ‘bridging’ programs were established to assist internationally trained individuals to meet the accreditation standards of their particular regulatory environment. Dr. Chambers also commissioned an independent review of the accreditation processes of Ontario’s regulatory colleges. That review subsequently led to new legislation, introduced by Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, for Fair Access to the Regulated Professions, and the appointment of Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner.

As Minister of Children and Youth Services, Dr. Chambers was responsible for early learning and child care, child protection, children’s mental health services, services for children with complex special needs, and youth justice programs and facilities.

As a result of legislation introduced and proclaimed under her leadership, Ontario established the first Regulatory College for Early Childhood Educators in Canada. Also under her leadership, Ontario passed legislation that removed the barriers that prevented a large percentage of crown wards from being able to grow up in caring, stable homes, through adoption or legal custody arrangements. As part of a transformation agenda for Ontario’s child protection system, a new complaints process was introduced, enabling families to take their concerns to an independent Board for review, and legislation for the establishment of an Independent Office of the Child Advocate was created and proclaimed.

Dr. Chambers led the establishment of a Youth Opportunities Strategy which included the hiring of youth outreach workers, and training and employment programs for youth from marginalized communities, including a first of its kind Youth in Policing Initiative which is currently in place in more than 20 police services in Ontario. The Strategy has enjoyed great success and positive endorsements from community organizations, police services, participating youth, their families and employers. Other partnerships and programs were established and expanded in an effort to deter dysfunctional behaviour and to reduce recidivism amongst youth in the justice system.

Under Dr. Chambers’ leadership, thousands of additional children with complex special needs and mental health challenges benefited from increased funding for the delivery of services. Dr. Chambers visited remote ‘fly-in’ Aboriginal communities in northern Ontario and secured funding to provide more mental health-related services for children and youth living both on-reserve and off-reserve. In the two and a half years that she served as Minister of Children and Youth Services, the number of children with autism receiving Intensive Behaviour Intervention (IBI) therapy was more than doubled, age restrictions for IBI were lifted, a new college program graduated more than 200 new therapists, and summer camps for children with autism and respite services for families of children with autism, were funded. Dr. Chambers was the only elected representative to accept an invitation to make a presentation to the Senate Committee on Social Services, Science and Technology, during their deliberations on the possible establishment of a National Autism Strategy.

Upon learning that Dr. Chambers would not be seeking re-election, Indigenous leaders wrote “the accomplishments of your ministry under your watch have been unprecedented”. A parent of children with autism wrote “After our group’s initial work in the litigation, the least of my expectations was that we could end up having such productive, mutually respectful interactions with you, and with so many exceptional members of your Ministry.” Senior bureaucrats in the Ministry of Children and Youth Services recognized her “unwavering support and commitment to children, youth and families”. The Leader of the Official Opposition issued a statement in which he said “I believe strongly that Ontario is a more inclusive place thanks to her efforts.”

In March 2018, Dr. Chambers was appointed to a three year term as a Mentor with the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, a non-partisan Canadian charity that supports doctoral research and leadership on social issues. She continues to serve the Foundation as Co-Chair of its Advisory Committee on Diversity.

Dr. Chambers is a Senior Fellow at York University’s Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. As Course Director, she developed and led the Master’s in Public and International Affairs Colloquium on Canada and Its Place in the World for the 2020- 2021 academic year.

Dr. Chambers also serves on the External Advisory Board of the Guelph Institute of Development Studies at the University of Guelph.

Dr. Chambers was a member of the Selection Committees for the 2018 and 2019 YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Awards.

From April 2017 to April 2018, Dr. Chambers served as Chair of the Minister’s Working Group on Child and Family Wellbeing in Ontario, on behalf of the Minister of Children and Youth Services.

For five years, from 2013 to 2018, Dr. Chambers served as the Ministry of Children and Youth Services’ representative on the Grant Review Committee for the Youth Opportunities Fund administered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

From 2014 to 2017, Dr. Chambers was a member of the Board of Directors of Cuso International, a non-government organization whose focus is the alleviation of poverty and the creation of sustainable development initiatives in developing nations around the world and in Canada. She served as Vice-Chair of the Board and as chair of the Fundraising and Resource Development Committee.

Dr. Chambers served (2010 to 2016) on the Board of Governors, the Audit and Risk Committee and the Physical Resources and Property Committee of the University of Guelph. She also chaired the Working Group on Responsible Investing (WGRI) on behalf of the Finance Committee of the Board of Governors. Recommendations made by the WGRI have been well received by the Board of Governors and implementation has been underway.

From 2008 to 2014, Dr. Chambers served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest academic health sciences centre in the field of mental health and addictions. Her roles included Clinical Quality Committee Vice-Chair and Governance Committee Chair which also involved leadership, on behalf of the Board, of a significant governance renewal initiative and establishment of a formal CEO performance review process.

From 2010 to 2014, Mary Anne Chambers served as Chair of the Board of Directors, and President of P.A.C.E. (Canada), the Project for Advancement of Childhood Education, a volunteer run charity that supports Basic Schools / Early Childhood Institutions for three to six year old children, primarily in Jamaica. Under her leadership. P.A.C.E. (Canada) substantially increased sponsorships for schools, and entered into a partnership with the HEART Trust - Jamaica’s National Training Agency, and Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission, for the training and certification of early childhood practitioners.

Dr. Chambers served as Founding Chair for the Advisory Council for York University's Centre for Education and Community (YCEC) from 2009 to 2012.

Dr. Chambers served as a Board Member from 2009 to 2012, and President from 2011 to 2012, of York Region Condominium Corporation No. 1020.

From 2010 to 2012, she also served as a member of the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement Canada.

Dr. Chambers is a Past Chair of the Board of the United Way of Canada – Centraide Canada. For the Rouge Valley Health System’s two hospitals, she was a Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors, and Chair of the Quality Management Committee. Dr. Chambers was a Governor at the University of Toronto, serving in that capacity from 1993 to 2002, including three years as Vice-Chair of the Governing Council;    a Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Way of Greater Toronto from 1994 to 2001; a Governor of the Air Cadet League of Canada from 1996 to 1999; President of the Canadian Club of Toronto from 1998 to 1999, a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation from 2000 to 2002, and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the YMCA of Greater Toronto from 2008 to 2010.

At the University of Toronto, Dr. Chambers was Vice-Chair of the Governing Council from 1998 to 2001. She chaired the University Affairs Board from 1997 to 1998, and was a Member of the Business Board. Dr. Chambers served on the Executive, Senior Salary, and Honorary Degrees Committees. Her work on a Task Force on Tuition and Student Financial Support contributed to the adoption of a policy whereby no student is denied the opportunity to study at the University of Toronto because of inadequate financial resources. Dr. Chambers chaired a Review Committee for the Office of the University’s Ombudsperson. She also chaired a Review of the University’s Governing Council Secretariat and the subsequent Advisory Committee on the Appointment of a new Secretary. Dr. Chambers served as a Member of two Executive Search Committees for the University and was Honorary Chair of the University’s Mentorship Program for Administrative Staff.

Dr. Chambers served for almost six years as a Member of the Board of the United Way of Canada-Centraide Canada, and is a Past Chair of the Board. She chaired the President’s Performance Review Committee, the Search Committee for a new President, and the Nominating Committee of the Board. As a Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Way of Greater Toronto from 1994 to 2001, she served on the Executive Committee, and was involved in Community Outreach, the annual Campaign, and in partnership negotiations with Labour Community Services of Metropolitan Toronto. Between 1997 and 1998, she co-chaired the Way Ahead, a comprehensive review and priority setting initiative, and in 2001, she chaired the Freedom from Violence Grants Review. Dr. Chambers also chaired Scotiabank’s employees’ United Way Campaign.

As President of the Canadian Club of Toronto, from 1998 to 1999, Dr. Chambers advanced the interests of youth, through corporate sponsorships of a program which enabled over 800 students, more than double that of any previous year, to attend the Club’s events. The Club received extensive media coverage for its events, which featured national and international speakers from business, government, the arts, education and social services. Dr. Chambers was a Director of the Club from 1995 to 2001.

A Co-Founder of The National Movement for Harmony in Canada, Dr. Chambers also co-chaired the organization from 1994 to 1997. From 1993 to 1994, she was a Member of the Board of Tropicana Community Services Organization. Dr. Chambers is a Past President of the Toronto Chapter of the Immaculate Conception High School Alumnae Association.

Since 1997, Dr. Chambers has personally funded more than 60 scholarships and bursaries for students in Canadian Universities and Colleges.

From 2007 to 2017, she sponsored and served as advisor for the IMANI Academic Mentorship Program for middle and high school students, in partnership with the University of Toronto Scarborough. The program has served several hundreds of students and was recognized in the 2015 Toronto Vital Signs Report, published by the Toronto Community Foundation, as one of the Ideas and innovations that point the way forward for Toronto.

Dr. Chambers has also been a benefactor of the Scarborough (formerly Rouge Valley) Centenary Hospital’s Birthing and Newborn Centre, in Scarborough, Ontario.

Dr. Chambers has received the following honours and awards

  • 2019: Lifetime Achievement Award – presented by The Transformation Institute
  • 2018: Meritorious Service Medal (M.S.M.) Civil Division– awarded by the Governor General of Canada for co-founding “Harmony Movement in 1994, an organization that was at the forefront in promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in Ontario. Today, Harmony Movement continues to offer youth leadership programs in schools, diversity training in offices, and an awards program that recognizes champions of social equality and inspires civic leaders of tomorrow”
  • 2017: Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa – awarded by the University of Guelph “in recognition of your long-standing commitment to the values of accessibility and inclusiveness in higher education, as well as a commitment to improving the circumstances of young women and racialized communities in Canada and around the world”
  • 2016: Order of Ontario (O.Ont.), the Province’s highest honour, for having “served the people of Ontario with a profound dedication”
  • 2015: Dr. Daniel G. Hill Award for Community Service – awarded by the Ontario Black History Society “in appreciation of your pioneering efforts in Business and Politics”
  • 2014: Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa – awarded by Lakehead University, Orillia, Ontario for having “served the people of Ontario in many ways, from government minister to volunteer, making significant contributions to education and social services”
  • 2013: Friend of Africa Award – presented by Casa Foundation for International Development
  • 2013: Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa – awarded by York University “to recognize your leadership in the fields of education, social services and health care in both the public and private sectors, as well as your service to humankind through your work increasing access to opportunity for marginalized people, which has had profound impact on communities throughout Ontario and abroad.”
  • 2013: University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor’s Award “for leadership in government and public service”
  • 2013: Inaugural Inductee to the Immaculate Conception High School (Jamaica) Hall of Fame for “Government and Public Service”
  • 2012: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal “in recognition of your contributions to Canada”
  • 2012: African Canadian Achievement Award – presented by Pride News Magazine “for lifetime achievement”
  • 2010: named one of Women’s Post Magazine’s Top 20 Women of 2010
  • 2010: Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa – awarded by the University of Toronto “in recognition of your exemplary roles in public and community service, and in particular your outstanding contributions to the University of Toronto over three decades”
  • 2010: YWCA Toronto Woman of Distinction Award for Community Service
  • 2009: Community Builder Award – presented by Telus and Tropicana Community Services “in appreciation of your many years of exemplary community and professional service”
  • 2009: Woman of Distinction Award – presented by Black Business and Professional Association
  • 2008: Lifetime Achievement Award – presented by Planet Africa
  • 2008: Margot Franssen Leadership Award – presented by MicroSkills (Community MicroSkills Development Centre) “for her extensive work with both communities and government to improve access and inclusion for women and immigrants”
  • 2008: “For your extraordinary leadership, contribution and partnership in building a better future for the young people in our community” – presented by the Toronto Police Services Board
  • 2008: International Women’s Day Tribute – presented by the Jamaican Canadian Association Women’s Committee “in recognition of your outstanding contribution to public service and for your invaluable support of the Committee, the Organization and Community”
  • 2008: Certificate of Appreciation – presented by the Black Ontario Public Service Employees Network “in recognition of your years of service as MPP for Scarborough East, Member of Ontario’s Executive Council, Minister in the Ontario Government and your outstanding contribution to the people of Ontario from 2003-2007”
  • 2008: Award presented by World Center for Mission Mobilization, Voice of the Last Days Ministry and Broad African Resource Center to “recognize and appreciate the unmatched contributions towards youth and community development”
  • 2007: “With Appreciation for Your Many Acts of Kindness and Care on Our Behalf” – presented by The Children, Youth, Families, Staff of Urban Promise Toronto
  • 2007: Jamaica 45 Award of Excellence - presented by the Jamaica High Commission and Consulate General of Jamaica in Canada
  • 2007: Certificate of Appreciation – awarded by The Council of Professional Engineers Ontario “for your support of the Engineering Profession”
  • 2007: ACCES Walk of Fame 2007 - presented by ACCES Employment Services “recognizing your remarkable achievements helping newcomers succeed in Ontario”
  • 2007: presented by Black Action Defense Committee, Midaynta Community Services & Jamaican-Canadian Association “On Behalf of Children, Youth and Parents of the Lawrence Heights Community, for Outstanding Support and Positive Guidance”
  • 2007:   Lifetime Achievement Award - presented by the Canadian Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis Toronto “for outstanding public service”
  • 2007: Community Service Award - presented by the Jamaican Canadian Association “for outstanding service to the Jamaican, Caribbean and African Canadian communities and in grateful appreciation for your many years of outstanding and dedicated service and support in the ‘up-building’ of our communities”
  • 2007: African Canadian Achievement Award - presented by Pride News Magazine for “excellence in Politics”
  • 2007: “In recognition of continued support for student-directed outreach initiatives” - presented by University of Toronto Medical Society
  • 2006: Black History Month Award - presented by the Community Unity Alliance, TNT Eagles and Operation Black Vote
  • 2004: Chair’s Award of Distinction - presented by the United Way
  • 2004: Alumni of the Year Award - presented by The Black Students and Alumni at The University of Toronto
  • 2004: Certificate of Appreciation “in recognition of her lifelong commitment to learning and skills development” - presented by the Ontario Association of Career Colleges
  • 2003: John Brooks Community Foundation and Scholarship Fund Award of Merit - “in recognition of outstanding dedication to community service and partnership with this Foundation by donation of an annual Scholarship to a University Student”
  • 2003: South African Women for Women Friendship Award
  • 2003: Canada Day Achievement Award - presented by the Toronto Canada Day Committee in recognition of “an outstanding contribution to the community” and “as a token of high regard in which you are held by this Committee, your community, and your fellow Canadians”
  • 2003: The Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Jamaica - awarded by the Prime Minister of Jamaica “in recognition of service to Jamaicans residing in Canada”
  • 2002: Golden Jubilee Medal of Queen Elizabeth the Second - “awarded to Canadians in recognition of significant achievement or distinguished service to their fellow citizens, their community or to Canada”
  • 2002: Variety Diamond Award - “for her remarkable contribution to our community” - presented by Variety - The Children’s Charity
  • 2002: named a “Great Mind” - University of Toronto’s 175th Anniversary Celebration of Great Minds
  • 2000: Black History Makers Award - presented by the United Achievers’ Club of Brampton, Ontario “in recognition of excellent service and for being an outstanding, positive role model for the community, in particular, those of Black and Caribbean heritage”
  • 1999: Certificate of Appreciation for “Patron of the Ontario Provincial Committee Air Cadet Effective Speaking Competitions” – presented by the Air Cadet League of Canada
  • 1999: Arbor Award - “for outstanding voluntary service to the University of Toronto”
  • 1998: Certificate of Excellence - presented by the Human Rights and Race Relations Centre “for outstanding contribution in the promotion of Race Relations”
  • 1997: African Canadian Achievement Award - presented by Pride News Magazine “for achievement in Business”
  • 1996: Woman on the Move Award - presented by the Toronto Sun newspaper “in recognition of Outstanding Achievement”
  • 1991: Service Leader Award of Excellence - presented by Scotiabank

Dr. Chambers obtained the Chartered Director (C.Dir.) designation from The Directors College (a joint venture of McMaster University and The Conference Board of Canada) in 2008. She is a Member of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD).

Dr. Chambers holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto where she majored in Commerce (1988) and Political Science (2003). She has also completed the Executive Management Program (1995) at Queen’s University School of Business. In 1979, she qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers (F.I.C.B.) with Honours.

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