Board of Directors



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Mary Gordon


Mary Gordon is Founder, President, and the inspiration behind Roots of Empathy. She is recognized internationally as an award-winning social entrepreneur, educator, author, child advocate and parenting expert who has created programs informed by the power of empathy. She is a member of the Order of Canada,  the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador and the recipient of a number of awards, including a Public Education Advocacy Award from the Canadian Teachers Federation. In 2002 she became an Ashoka Fellow.




Scott Rutherford


Scott is Founding Partner, Rutherford Development Strategies and Principal, Mobius Executive Leadership. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business and Lecturer at Rotman’s Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking. His teaching areas includes Leadership Development, Business Problem-Solving, Strategic Consulting and offerings of Rotman’s distinctive Self-Development Laboratory.




Mario Nigro


Mario Nigro is a partner in the Toronto office of Stikeman Elliott and a member of the firm’s M&A/Private Equity Group. His practice focuses on business law, including mergers and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital, dispositions, and reorganizations. He has extensive experience working with private equity and venture capital clients on numerous acquisitions and dispositions.


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Lyle Viereck


Lyle is Founder of Lyle Viereck Consulting Services Inc, a private consulting company offering strategic planning for companies and First Nations and negotiation and development of corporate and First Nations mandates.

Lyle is the former Director, Aboriginal Relations & Negotiations, BC Hydro where for ten years he set new strategic directions for BC Hydro’s aboriginal relations and negotiations. He has extensive experience in overseeing negotiations in the treaty process with Canada and First Nations across the province.


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Mary Ito


Mary is the host of Fresh Air, a weekly program broadcast on CBC Radio 1. Before that, she was host of several programs – CBC’s “Living in Toronto”, TVO’s “Health Matters” and Global TV’s daily health report.

Mary is active in the community and has volunteered her services for many organizations including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Healthy Minds Canada, the MS Society of Ontario, the Hospital for Sick Children, the Toronto Public Library and the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.


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Chief Ian Campbell


Ian Campbell is the Hereditary Chief of the Squamish First Nation in North Vancouver and the Cultural Ambassador and Negotiator for the Intergovernmental Relations Natural Resources & Revenue Squamish Nation.

A strong advocate for children and youth, Chief Campbell has been speaking publicly since the age of 14, sharing the rich and vibrant culture of his people. He participates on many boards and advisory committees including the Fraser Basin Council and the North Vancouver Outdoor School Advisory.


International Advisory Board




Dr. Gwynne Dyer



Gwynne Dyer is an author, journalist, filmmaker, lecturer of international affairs and historian.


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Dr. Bruce Perry



Bruce Perry is Senior Fellow, The Child Trauma Academy, Houston and an author, lecturer and researcher.





Professor Sir Albert Aynsley-Green



Sir Albert Aynsley-Green is President, British Medical Association and former Children’s Commissioner of England.


Our Schools


“Education is the most effective peace-building institution in the land. Our schools serve as our Ministry of Peace.”

– Mary Gordon, Founder/President, Roots of Empathy


Roots of Empathy is delivered in school classrooms during regular school hours. The support of schools is fundamental to the success of the program. The program is offered to elementary school children from Kindergarten to Grade 8, using a specialized curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-6, and Grades 7-8.

Empathy is one of the characteristics of successful learners. According to one researcher (B.F. Jones, 1990) “successful students often recognize that much of their success involves their ability to communicate with others … they are also able to view themselves and the world through the eyes of others. This means … examining beliefs and circumstances of others, keeping in mind the goal of enhanced understanding and appreciation. Successful students value sharing experiences with persons of different backgrounds as enriching their lives.”

It is often overlooked that in 85% of school bullying episodes1 there are onlookers and bystanders. These witnesses, our children, are being adversely affected. Unlike other programs that address bullying by targeting the victim or bully, Roots of Empathy works universally with the whole class. The program teaches perspective taking skills which enable all students to gain insight into how others feel and develop a sense of social responsibility for each other. In the Roots of Empathy classroom, children are empowered to challenge cruelty whether it is in the form of bullying or meanness.


Fanstina drawing

For many children recess is a time of fear. In her Roots of Empathy class, Fanstina recalled a time when she was afraid and was not helped. The powerful image this little girl drew is reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. Roots of Empathy creates safe and caring schools where every child feels empowered to challenge cruelty and to help a friend in trouble.


For the long-term success of the program, it is important that the School Board be a strong and committed partner in the implementation of the Roots of Empathy program.

The involvement and support of the principal and classroom teacher are also key. The principal is frequently the person who sets the program in motion, although it may have been a teacher or parent who introduced the program to the school. The principal helps to ensure support for the program and plan its effective rollout in the school. Principals can champion the program, share its richness and make it a whole-school venture. Principals can share information about the program with community groups, other schools and school boards.

While the Roots of Empathy Instructor is responsible for preparing and delivering the lesson during the ROE visit, the classroom teacher is an active participant in the program. Teachers who see the need for the program, who have worked in consultation with the principal, the instructor and other school staff, and who are proactive, will see the program unfold most effectively.

Learn more about bringing Roots of Empathy to your school through the following resources:

1 Pepler, D.J., & Craig, W. (1995). A peek behind the fence: Naturalistic observations of aggressive children with remote audiovisual recording. Developmental Psychology, 3, 548-553.


Our Instructors


“The notion of respect is embedded in the ethic of care.”   – Mary Gordon, Founder/President, Roots of Empathy


To deliver the Roots of Empathy program in the school system, Instructors from the community are identified and certified through a Roots of Empathy training program. These Instructors plan and deliver all aspects of the Roots of Empathy lessons in the classroom and work closely with the participating volunteer family.

Roots of Empathy Instructors come from diverse professional backgrounds. Many have backgrounds in teaching, health, early childhood education, social work, guidance counselling, speech therapy and recreation. We also have principals, retired school board superintendents, and police officers delivering the program. Having classroom experience is a major asset, as is having knowledge of infant development.

A Roots of Empathy Instructor must:

  • Be professional in the classroom
  • Be respectful of classroom teachers and all people involved, and of their roles and ways of doing things
  • Respect the culture and routine in the classroom and school
  • Be sensitive to the privacy of the home and family culture
  • Be non-judgmental, empathetic, and comfortable with babies and children
  • Recognize the potential of Roots of Empathy to empower people

In order to obtain their certification as a Roots of Empathy Instructor, all Instructors receive four days of intensive training from certified trainers and complete a written test. All Instructors have Mentors who guide and coach them in best practice strategies. Ongoing mentoring provided by Roots of Empathy ensures Instructors are qualified, confident and supported.

If you’d like to know more about becoming a Roots of Empathy Instructor in your area, please go to our Contact Us page.


Our families


The heart of Roots of Empathy is the neighbourhood parent and infant who join the Instructor in the classroom for Family Visits. A Roots of Empathy Instructor visits the classroom 27 times over the school year and for nine of these visits (about every three weeks) the Roots of Empathy family joins the Instructor in the classroom – each Family Visit is about 30 minutes long.

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The Power of the Family

The Roots of Empathy family demonstrates the parent-child attachment and attunement relationship and the baby’s development over the year. Families representing diversity by race, language, culture or religion are invited to participate, demonstrating that a loving parent-infant relationship transcends differences and that there is no one right way to be a good parent.


Principles of social inclusion are fundamental to the Roots of Empathy program:

  • We encourage representation of all types of families; single parents are as welcome as dual-parent families.
  • Fathers and/or mothers are equally welcome to participate, since we focus on the parent-child bond.
  • We encourage participation of parents from marginalized populations.
  • Roots of Empathy welcomes babies who have a physical or developmental challenge and we will provide special support to the Instructor.

The Roots of Empathy Family Experience

At the start of the year, the Roots of Empathy Instructor visits the family’s home to talk about how the program works and will answer any questions. The Instructor will call before each of the 9 classroom visits to talk about the theme for the next visit and to discuss any questions the students have asked since the last Family Visit.

The Roots of Empathy classroom is a participatory democracy where all children are encouraged to contribute and ask questions and we will ask the parent(s) to share with the students how it feels to be a parent and to talk about how your baby is growing and learning.

Your baby will be loved by every student and be a star in the school and your family will be helping to build caring, peaceful, and civil societies.

Learn more about becoming a Roots of Empathy family through these resources:


To find out if the Roots of Empathy program is available in your area and to volunteer as a Roots of Empathy family, please go to our Contact Us page.