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Board of Directors

Our members elect the ACWS Board of Directors. The Board approves all new members and associate members.  

A volunteer Board of Directors determines the strategic direction of ACWS. The Board includes public members and shelter members representing women’s shelters from across Alberta. Shelter members represent either shelter boards (board delegates) or staff (staff delegates, often the Executive Director). 

An Annual General Meeting (AGM) is held each year in accordance with relevant legal requirements. It is expected that every ACWS board director will attend the AGM.

For more information about the governance of ACWS, please contact voice@acws.ca.

Interested in joining the ACWS Board of Directors?

President

Gaye Warthe

Gaye is currently the Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Health, Community and Education at Mount Royal University. Her research expertise spans dating, domestic and sexual violence and she is currently working on projects that include a focus on the prevention of dating violence on post-secondary campuses. Bringing her academic expertise to the shelter world, Gaye served on the Board of Directors for Discovery House Family Violence Prevention Society, the steering committee for RESOLVE Alberta, and SHIFT: The Project to End Domestic Violence. She has served three terms as the Board Delegate representing Edmonton and Calgary and has completed one term as President of the Board.

Vice President

Jessica Chapman

Jessica is a family lawyer practicing at the Family Law Office in Edmonton, with a focus on representing women impacted by domestic violence. She has also practiced in the area of child welfare defense, and volunteers with the Rotary Club, the Lions, and Amnesty International.

Treasurer and Public Director

Debbie Ma

Debbie is a Senior Staff Auditor with the Alberta Auditor General who previously worked with PWC, where she gained experience with auditing companies within the oil and gas, utilities, and real estate industries, as well as the non-profit sector.

Secretary

Jeanette Sandstra

Jeanette Sandstra is the Board Delegate for Mountain Rose Women’s Shelter Association where she has been a Board member since 2012 and Board Chair since 2015. She was previously the Executive Director of Rocky Mountain House Primary Care Network, developing relationships across the community but with a special emphasis on service provision for First Nations Communities. She holds a BSc in Nursing and worked for many years in the health sector in the Rocky Mountain area. As an ACWS Board member, Jeanette wants to provide leadership in support of the range of strategic initiatives required to tackle family violence including dialogue, education, and research. Jeanette is the Board Delegate representative from “Small Towns and Rural”.

Public Directors

Janice Willier

Janice is from Sucker Creek First Nation in Treaty 8 territory and currently resides in Edmonton with her partner and two sons. Janice works for Indigenous Services Canada as a Program Liaison Officer, but was previously part of the Mental Wellness Unit where responsibilities included overseeing the Indian Residential School Support Program, the Elder’s Advisory Committee and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls’ Pre-inquiry process. She has always been a strong advocate for Indigenous people, particularly in the health field, and brings her expertise and knowledge to her role on the board.

Linda McLean

Linda is thrilled to officially join the outstanding team at ACWS and is very much looking forward to supporting leadership of the organization in their next phase of growth and evolution. She brings to the role more than twenty-five years of experience in the non-profit sector, where she has worked in leadership positions within a broad range of organizations including United Way of Calgary, The Calgary Homeless Foundation, Inn from the Cold and the City of Vancouver. Prior to entering the non-profit sector, Linda lived and worked in remote northern Indigenous communities with a focus on participatory action research and community development. She currently serves as the Executive Director of The Brenda Strafford Society for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. She has extensive experience in working with mental health, addictions and community-based health and housing programs.

Linda holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Social Anthropology and Education and has worked with widely diverse populations, particularly those who are vulnerable and marginalized. She is a firm believer that all challenges can be met through creativity, commitment, and dedication to an ethic of care. When not at work or volunteering Linda spends time with her five children, husband Tim, and a menagerie of pets.

Suleka Mustapha Moussa

Suleka is currently the Director of Programs and Services at the Somali Canadian Women and Children Association. As part of their Senior Leadership team, she endeavours to grow the organization through managing quality programs and services. This role has allowed her to create positive change, making decisions based on information, establishing measurable and repeatable performance to maximize effective use of resources, and to assist in meeting program and service requirements in a sustainable manner. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a minor in history. In addition to English, she also speaks French and Somali.

Directors

Wanda McGinnis

Wanda is the CEO of Wheatland Crisis Society. She is driven by the desire to support everyone who lives in fear of violence and abuse. Wheatland Shelter uses a woman-centered approach but also specializes in providing support to people of all genders. Wanda proudly accepted a 2017 Alberta Inspiration Award on behalf of the Wheatland Crisis Society in recognition of the organization’s commitment to inclusive practices. She brings 17 years of experience and qualifications as a social worker. Wanda has extensive training in risk assessment and is an expert in the application of tools including the Danger Assessment. She works collaboratively with the RCMP and Alberta Solicitor General to ensure safety is a persistent consideration in high-risk domestic violence situations. As an ACWS Board member, Wanda intends to support the organization as it builds capacity in the areas of Indigenous relations, supporting shelters to improve services to Indigenous families, as well as developing standardized frameworks for practice for shelters across the province. Wanda is the Staff Delegate for ‘Small Towns and Rural Shelters.’

Michele Taylor

Michele is the Executive Director of Waypoints Community Services Association, (previously Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society). Waypoints is an umbrella organization, which includes a 45-bed Emergency Women and Children’s Shelter, a 14-unit Second Stage Shelter, a Domestic Violence Outreach Program, a Provincial Family Violence Treatment Program: the Opportunities for Change Centre, a Sexual Assault and Abuse Healing Centre, a Child and Youth Advocacy Centre and a social enterprise – the Compass, which is a 78-unit affordable housing apartment building.

In 7 ½ years under Michele’s leadership, the organization’s operational funding has increased from 2.7m to 7.2m annually and Waypoints’ team has increased from 27 to 68 staff. Construction was also completed on a 27 million dollar affordable housing construction project. The Compass was opened on-time and on-budget in December 2014 and now includes a secure, 14-unit Second Stage Shelter, and 64 units of open market, affordable housing. Construction was also completed in 2019 on a new 45-bed Emergency Women’s Shelter and Sexual Assault Healing Centre and lastly, a $600K renovation was completed in 2020 on the previous Emergency Shelter facility repurposing it to become the region’s first Child and Youth Advocacy Centre and Outreach Centre. A total of 38m in capital projects was completed in 7 years, adding over 100,000 square feet of facilities to Waypoints and the community.

Michele’s has 34 years of experience in community services development and management in BC, and in Alberta, most recently as a Director with MacDonald Island Park in Fort McMurray. Effective, innovative collaboration to meet community needs is her passion. Michele is the Staff Delegate for Other Cities.

Sandy Vander Ziel

The former Chair of The Sonshine Centre in Calgary, Sandy is also an award-winning family lawyer. She has extensive volunteer experience both with community organizations and within the legal community. Witnessing the lasting impact of domestic violence upon children, she is a passionate advocate for building greater public awareness and education. Sandy is a Board Delegate for the Census Metropolitan Areas of Calgary and Edmonton on the ACWS Board.

Carol (Barb) Okemow

Barb worked at the Sucker Creek Emergency Women’s Shelter for five years. Currently, she serves on the Sucker Creek Board and is a Band Councillor on the Sucker Creek First Nation Council. She is a Board Delegate for the On-Reserve Shelters on the ACWS Board.

Jerri Taylor

Jerri lives in Lacombe and is a consultant, project manager, and a healthcare executive who runs her own consulting business. She was formerly Executive Director of Community and Continuing Care Contracts for Alberta Health. She is the past chair of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Centre in Red Deer. She serves as a Board Delegate for Other Cities on the ACWS Board.

“This past fiscal year was one of the most exciting in ACWS history. Not since the first World Conference of Women’s Shelters in Edmonton has the organization engaged on such a significant series of undertakings. When we reflect on the year it is remarkable the scale of the ambition and the impact of the work.”

Read the full report here: 2018-2019 Annual Report

“2016 was the year of the backlash… Throughout all of this, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters was at the forefront of working for the rights and safety of women. Despite the challenging context, the year presents many highlights.”

Read the full report here: 2017-2018 Annual Report

Annual Reports & Data Releases

Read annual reports and data releases from ACWS.

Reports