Meet Our Founder

Sister Elaine Macinnes
Founder (2004) & President of Freeing the Human Spirit

The founder of the organization, Sister Elaine MacInnes (CC), became a Zen master of the Sanbo Kyodan in 1980. That same year, in Manila, she began her lifelong work of bringing hope and healing to the incarcerated. Through weekly visits, she taught meditation to a group of tortured political prisoners of the Marcos regime. Seeing these men, who had experienced vicious trauma change from angry and stressed to relaxed, sociable, and energized, she became a devoted advocate of yoga and meditation as an effectual approach to restorative justice.

In 1993, Sr. Elaine was invited to Oxford, England to become the Executive Director of the Prison Phoenix Trust. From the time she began until the time she retired in 1999, she had increased the number of their programs from two to eighty-six. In 2001, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Upon her return to Canada in 2004, Sister Elaine founded Freeing the Human Spirit to bring hope, healing, and rehabilitation to inmates in correctional facilities in Canada. She designed the program together with Laurel Scott, a yoga teacher and founding member of Yoga Outreach, which operates in southwestern British Columbia to teach yoga to men and women in correctional facilities.


Honourary Patrons

jeremy_smJeremy Irons, Actor, Theatre and Film

Jeremy is a well-known English Actor, born in Cowes Isle of Wight, England. After graduating from drama school, and some time at the Old Vic Theatre, he went into filmmaking. He has received numerous awards including an Oscar for best actor in 1992 in ‘Reversal of Fortune’, a Tony on Broadway, a lifetime achievement award in 1998 by the European Film Academy for his special contributions to world cinema, and most recently, an Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG award for his supporting role in the TV mini-series, Elizabeth. One of his best known film roles is the voice of Scar in The Lion King. In 2005, he appeared in the films Casanova and Kingdom of Heaven. He is currently appearing on the West End theatre stage in the play Embers. Recognized as a true star without compromise, he brings this intensity to his passion for justice, evidenced in his frequent trips the Middle East during the Balkan war, his stage presentations as to its horror, his protest against the Iraq war and his efforts to take the play ‘Stravinsky’s ‘The Soldier’s Tale” to Bagdad. In 2005, he and Michael Douglas personally delivered a donation from Hollywood for Thailand’s tsunami victims to Prime Minister Thaksen Shinawatre.

enright_smMicheal Enright, CBC Anchor

Michael is an accomplished journalist and broadcaster. Since September 2000 he has been host of the CBC’s ‘The Sunday Edition’, one of Canada’s most popular and informative programs. His impressive journalist credits include 2 & 1/2 years as managing editor of CBC Radio News. He held a number of editorial positions with leading Canadian magazines and newspapers, assistant manager-editor of MacLeans, political writer for the Toronto Star, Washington correspondent for the Globe and Mail, and contributor to Time Magazine. Many of his programs are devoted to human rights abuses and injustices, most notable for us, his program ‘Justice Behind the Walls’, about M. Jackson’s work protecting human rights in Canadian prisons. His upbeat, honest, fearless but friendly style makes him a force to be reckoned with in the media world.

lesage_smThe Hon. Patrick J. LeSage, CM, QC

Justice Patrick LeSage captured Canadian hearts by his sensitive handling of the incredible horrors revealed to an unbelieving nation during the trial of Paul Bernardo. He was born in Tweed Ontario, receiving a Bachelor of Communication for the University of Ottawa and an LLB from Osgoode Law School. He has honourary degrees from Windsor and Laurentian Universities. Starting as an Assistant Crown Attorney in Toronto, he then became Director of Crown Attorneys in Ontario and later, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Justice in 1996. During more than 28 years on the Bench, Justice LeSage was active in educational programs and legal organizations including gender and racial equality issues. He is past-president of the John Howard Association, a member of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice and was recently appointed to York University’s Board of Governors.