Cultivating & fostering healthier newcomer communities: CMHA Opening Doors Project’s best practice approach

Presenters: Everdene Francis, MSW, RSW, Program Coordinator and Shahrzad Shahriari, BSc., Psych., MSW, RSW, Curriculum Coordinator, CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) – Toronto branch
Date: Tue., Mar. 20, 2018, 12-1pm EST



Since 2009, the Opening Doors Project (ODP) at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)-Toronto has been successful, using a unique programmatic intervention approach of a peer-facilitated, province-wide, free workshop series on mental health, equity and diversity within the newcomer/settlement communities.

The ODP continues to have successful service outcomes and impact across Ontario, meeting its service goal of strengthening, fostering and cultivating healthier Ontario communities. Most of us will agree that racialized people, newcomers and people with mental health concerns experience discrimination and racism in Canada. So how does the ODP’s service model and implementation work to raise awareness of the experiences of those within the newcomer and mental health communities?


Presenter biographies

Everdene Francis

Everdene Francis, MSW, RSW, has had first-hand experience of the intersecting post-migration nuances following her journey to Canada at age 13; a journey which had profound and adverse psychosocial impact on how she experienced her acculturation processes. Consequently, from her lived experiences as a once-newcomer youth, she situates herself as a strong transformative advocate, ally and service navigator. She anchors herself within solid and user-friendly service intervention strategies in conjunction with philosophical values shaped by her inclusive, equity-based and humanistic way of being. Everdene strongly believes that user-friendly service intervention strategies will lead to positive outcomes on an individual, family, community and society level for those deemed as the “other” within our socially-constructed, social stratification and order. 

Her educational background is in social work and she currently holds a Social Service Worker diploma from Centennial College, a bachelor of social work from Ryerson University and a master’s degree from the University of Toronto.  She has been in the non-profit sector from 1999, working predominantly within the mental health sector. She has been at CMHA-Toronto from 2006, starting as a housing outreach worker and is now projector coordinator and supervisor.  Everdene is a critical and transformative social worker and leader who engages in service delivery through an inclusive, shared-power, equity-based and humanistic lens.

Shahrzad Shahriari

Shahrzad Shahriari, BSc., Psych., MSW, RSW, is originally from Iran. She is a first-generation immigrant and refugee to Canada, having migrated at age 20.

After repeating high school, she continued her education with obtaining a Hotel Management diploma from George Brown College, a Psychology degree from the University of Toronto and Masters of Social Work degree from Wilfred Laurier University. Shahrzad has been with CMHA Toronto since 2011, starting with the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team and continuing with ODP as the curriculum coordinator.

Everdene Francis photo

Everdene Francis

Shahrzad Shahriari photo

Shahrzad Shahriari