Public policies are created to ensure that all members of society are feeling supported in their everyday lives. But what do they amount to when they marginalize the voices of the most affected?   

Join Yvette and Nayantara, two Max Bell School Master of Public Policy students, as they have candid conversations with policy experts, civil society leaders, and other professionals about creating policies that are compassionate, empowering, and address inequality.

Information and education are essential in ensuring informed participation in public policy. The Equalizer boldly tackles complex policies, making them clear and accessible.

Episode List

EPISODE ONE: People Before Politics with Balarama Holness 

The Equalizer is here! In this first episode we find out about what led Balarama Holness to jump into the game of politics, his fight against systemic discrimination, and his recent run to become Mayor of Montreal. 

Balarama delves into what makes his new political party, Movement Montreal, different from all others and how they intend on putting “people before politics”, truly giving voice to all Quebecers. 

His advice to young policymakers: “get out of your ivory tower, get off your computer, stop doing reviews of literature, and go meet people!” To learn more about Balarama, click here.

Access the transcript.

EPISODE TWO: Embracing a culture of learning and unlearning with Elli Dehnavi 

In this episode, Elli Dehnavi shares her work and experience tackling racism through education and community engagement with the Centre of Race and Culture in Edmonton, AB. 

Taking a more holistic approach to equity and inclusion and moving away from “checkbox” mentalities will be essential to bringing about meaningful change, according to Elli who emphasizes the importance of embracing a culture of learning and unlearning. 

“The work of policymakers should be rooted in the knowledge and experiences of the communities they serve.” To learn more about Elli, click here.

Access the transcript.

EPISODE THREE: A Human-Rights Based Approach to Policymaking with Alex Neve

In this episode, Alex Neve discusses his lifelong work advocating for human rights as a litigator, activist, and as the Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada. 

From the various international instruments used to inform his work, to refugee protection and data collection, Alex unpacks it all.  

What’s next in the fight for human rights? After decades-long work of drafting international covenants and declarations, pushing for their adoption at the UN and other bodies, civil society is key, says Alex. In fact, it may very well be THE key to making strides forward. To learn more about Alex, click here.

Access the transcript.

Meet your hosts:

Nayantara Sudhakar

Nayantara Melissa Sudhakar has been fortunate enough to grow up in various regions of the world, including Asia, the Middle East, and North America. Her experiences with different cultures and people have enabled her to build awareness of intersectionality and its importance in advancing equal opportunities for marginalized individuals. To further understand this, Nayantara completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of British Columbia, double majoring in Psychology and Sociology. 

Eager to apply her knowledge and uncover factors of marginalization at the grassroots level, Nayantara joined non-profit organizations aimed at empowering equity-seeking groups, including those with developmental disabilities and mental health illnesses. In her positions as Support Worker, Community Resource Worker, and Crisis Line Responder, Nayantara worked with individuals to understand their personal goals and consequently leveraged various provincial and federal policies and programs available to assist in their realization.  

She discovered early in her roles, however, that there remain significant gaps between policies and the realities of individuals. This motivated her to enroll in the Master’s of Public Policy program at Max Bell School of Public Policy so that she could learn the knowledge and skills required to create policies that empower individuals to live lives they envision and aspire for. Nayantara created the Equalizer with the hopes to converse with academics, advocates, and policy experts and learn about practical ways to make policies that are grounded in the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Come learn with her!  


Yvette Yakibonge

As the child of parents who immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yvette has always had a heart for helping immigrant communities in Canada, primarily through empowering youth and women. Yvette has been involved in her community as a volunteer from a young age, particularly for Alliance-Jeunesse-Famille de L’Alberta Society (AJFAS), an organization committed to empowering francophone immigrant families in Edmonton. Yvette was also selected as a member of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s (CCUNESCO) Youth Advisory Group. For over two years, she collaborated with other young Canadians on issues concerning youth in Canada, providing recommendations, and developing new initiatives. Yvette holds a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in International Studies. She has worked as a Public Servant for the Ministry of Economic and Social Development Canada and the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, where she is currently employed. 

Yvette believes that public policy is the thread that weaves the unique and colourfully patterned fabric of society together. More than ever before, creating and implementing effective public policy is essential. Yvette’s desire to work in this capacity is what drew her to Max Bell’s School of Public Policy. The school’s vision of ‘break[ing] down silos, disrupt[ing] the status quo and challeng[ing] powerful opinions to help students understand and solve problems that really matter” is one of the reasons she chose this program. 

In collaboration with Nayantara, and with the support of Max Bell School of Public Policy, Yvette co-created The Equalizer podcast to further discuss the complexities of inclusive and equitable real-world policymaking. By engaging the best emerging and most established voices of public policy in conversation, we will explore innovative approaches to problem-solving and discuss the best ways to continue building bridges, breaking down barriers and truly helping people. 


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