President and Research Director
Prior to the CIC, Ben served as Canada’s Ambassador to Venezuela from 2014 to 2017. This capped a 25 year career as a professional diplomat including assignments in Canada’s embassies to Egypt, to the United States, and in Canada’s Permanent Mission to the UN. He served Canada’s first diplomatic envoy to Baghdad, Iraq, after the fall of Saddam Hussein from 2003 to 2005, as Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan and as head of the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar between 2008 and 2010.
As a practitioner of international relations, Ben’s thematic interest has been in human rights and democracy. He founded the Democracy Unit at Global Affairs Canada, and worked closely with human rights activists in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Ambassador to Venezuela, Ben was an outspoken advocate of the restoration of the popular sovereignty of Venezuelans after the suspension of constitutional order in early 2017.
These experiences abroad awakened an interest in the role of citizens in our own democracy. In Ottawa, Ben supported the Cabinet process as a member of the Privy Council Office during the tenures of Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper, experiences that exposed him to the far-reaching impact that public opinion has on decision-making at the highest levels of government.
Ben brings that passion for the role of individual citizens to the CIC, a platform for everyday Canadians to participate in the national conversation about our nation’s role in the world.
As an educator, Catherine has taught for the Vancouver School Board, BC Environment’s Eco Education Program, the Canadian Opera Company, and Scientists in School.
Before becoming the Volunteer Coordinator at Bridgepoint Health (formerly The Riverdale Hospital), she served as Acting Manager of the Volunteer Resources Department.
Her experience in the production of corporate videos gave her the opportunity to interview many interesting people including former Deputy PM John Manley, Dr. Gabor Maté, and Deepak Chopra.
Researcher & Managing Editor of International Journal
Our Open Canada team
Kareem Shaheen is a journalist and editor based in Montreal. Previously, he was the Middle East and Turkey correspondent for the Guardian in Beirut and Istanbul. He also worked for English language newspapers in Lebanon and the UAE. Over the years, he has covered the war in Syria and its spillover into neighboring countries, the refugee crisis, the coup in Turkey, the prosecution of journalists in the country, and election campaigns. He was nominated for the Frontline Club award for print journalism for his coverage on the ground of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun, Syria, in 2017. In recent years, he has worked with independent media organisations focused on the Middle East, and was one of the founding members of New Lines Magazine, a longform publication focused on the region, and wrote for AlHudood, a popular satirical Arabic media outlet. He holds a master’s degree in war studies from King’s College London.