2019-2020 Board of Directors
Women General Counsel Canada is led by an amazing group of senior women in general counsel and legal executive roles from across Canada with diverse professional backgrounds.
Elspeth is General Counsel, Global Compliance at McCain Foods Limited. During her time with McCain she has had primary accountability for legal and regulatory risk management in the high-growth and diverse region encompassing Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Elspeth has also managed legal partnership with innovation and technology stakeholders at McCain and has more recently assumed global responsibility for compliance, including in respect of anti-corruption, competition, information governance, and privacy.
Prior to joining McCain, Elspeth acquired extensive commercial and compliance experience at Siemens Canada, where she handled a variety of complex matters in the energy, industrial and health-care sectors of this global engineering firm. She has also practiced in a national law firm in Toronto and with a regional Atlantic Canadian firm.
Elspeth has a JD from Osgoode Hall and completed graduate work at the University of Toronto. She is a member of the Law Society of Ontario and the New Brunswick Law Society.
Elspeth enjoys living with her family in the beautiful Saint John River Valley in New Brunswick.
Bindu Cudjoe is Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for CWB Financial Group, leading teams responsible for managing legal and regulatory compliance risk. Prior to joining CWB in December, Bindu spent six years at BMO Financial Group serving most recently as Vice President, Deputy General Counsel - Technology and Operations and Chief Knowledge Officer, and prior to that Deputy General Counsel & Chief Operating Officer. At BMO she managed legal and regulatory risk relating to a wide range of topics from technology to outsourcing, intellectual property to marketing, trade finance, corporate banking, correspondent banking and commercial banking and also lead the General Counsel group’s initiatives in knowledge management, technology, project management, e-discovery and litigation support, board and senior management reporting, administrative assistance, finance, human resources, real estate, strategic initiatives and BMO's outside counsel program. Prior to BMO, Bindu was a Partner with McMillan LLP in the financial services group. Bindu was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada by Canadian Lawyer Magazine in 2016 and a Lexpert Rising Star: Leading Lawyers under 40 in 2014. She is active in her community and currently secretary and director of the Oakville Community Foundation and a vice president and director of Women General Counsel Canada Network.
Alena is an experienced, award-winning lawyer with a strong background in corporate governance and the regulatory, financial services and government sectors. Prior to joining the Financial Regulatory Services Authority of Ontario, she served as the Deputy Director, Legal Services Branch at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) where she provided legal and strategic advice to senior government officials in multiple ministries on various high profile issues relating to energy sector policy, draft legislation, corporate governance and transactional matters.
In previous roles in the banking and credit union sectors, she provided legal and strategic advice on matters related to regulatory, risk, compliance, corporate and commercial law, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, and capital markets.
Alena is active on various legal industry and practice groups, sits on a number of voluntary Boards, and is passionate about supporting initiatives that promote diversity, inclusion and women in leadership positions. She is a member of the Ontario Bar Association and its Mentorship Program and the Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (past Chair.)
Hilda Wong is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for First National and oversees all aspects of First National’s legal affairs including formation of legal policy, compliance and regulatory matters, governance, contract negotiation and documentation and is responsible for First National’s privacy and anti money laundering programs. Ms. Wong joined First National in 2007 as Senior Legal Counsel and was appointed General Counsel in January, 2013 and Vice President in April, 2014. Prior to joining First National, Ms. Wong was a partner with the national law firm of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP. Ms. Wong has extensive experience in all aspects of financing, syndicated lending and real estate. Ms. Wong holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Toronto and has been in practice since 1993.
Cheryl Foy is UOIT’s first University Secretary and General Counsel, serving as the university’s senior advisor on governance and legal issues with responsibility for advising and supporting the UOIT Board of Governors and Academic Council and their committees.
Prior to joining UOIT, Cheryl was responsible for overseeing the legal affairs and large intellectual property portfolio at ViXS Systems Inc., a leading fabless semiconductor company based in Toronto. Before joining ViXS, Cheryl was University Secretary and General Counsel at Carleton University, in Ottawa, Ontario where she provided legal counsel to the Board of Governors, its committees, the President, Vice-presidents, faculty and administrative leaders. She also served as the Chief Privacy Officer for the university. Prior to that, Cheryl was Vice-president, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Tundra Semiconductor Corporation, a Canadian public company. After completing her law degree, Cheryl practised law in Ottawa with a focus on litigation and also taught employment law at Queen’s University, Faculty of Law.
Cheryl is actively involved in the in-house legal community and was a digital columnist for Canadian Lawyer InHouse Magazine. Cheryl holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Studies, and a Bachelor of Laws, from Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1995.
British Columbia Chapter Lead
Erika Tse is Chief Legal officer, Corporate Secretary, and Vice-President of Human Resources for Glentel Inc., a subsidiary of BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. Glentel Inc. is a large multi-carrier mobile phone retailer in Canada, operating under the banners WirelessWave, TBooth and Wireless Etc. (Costco). Erika has been practicing law for 25 years, with 24 of those years spent as in-house counsel in various industries including forest products (Weyerhaeuser Company Limited), grocery (Save-On Foods Limited Partnership) and retail.
In her spare time, Erika is an adjunct professor at Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, teaching the Corporate Counsel Externship, a clinic and course for upper year law students in the Centre for Business Law.
Erika also sits on a non-profit board (Arts Club Theatre Company) contributing in corporate governance, risk management and HR best practices.
Erika holds a law degree from Dalhousie University, a Bachelor of Commerce degree from UBC, and her ICD.D (directors education program) from the Institute of Corporate Directors, Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Erika has also completed the Financial Literacy Program and the Strategic Human Resources Management Program from Rotman School of Management at U of T, and the Executive Development Program from Wharton, University of Pennsylvania.
Ontario Chapter Lead
Alexa Abiscott is the General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of The Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. Alexa is a proud founding member of the Women’s General Counsel Chapter (WGCC) of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario and member of the Executive of the WGCC. Since 2012, during Sheridan’s exciting transition to become a university, Alexa has led the Office of General Counsel, which supports the Board of Governors and myriad stakeholders and provides oversight responsibility for Sheridan’s policies, privacy program, data governance and risk management. Prior to joining Sheridan, Alexa articled and practiced as a litigator at a Bay Street law firm.
Alexa holds an Honour’s Bachelor Degree from McGill University in Anthropology, a Graduate Diploma in Business from McGill University, a Bachelor of Laws from Western University, and has been certified in NFP governance by the Institute of Corporate Directors and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
Quebec Chapter Lead
Deborah Greenberg is the Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). She is responsible for the development and oversight of the overall legal and governance framework for CMHC’s operations including managing commercial, claims, litigation, labour and employment, and general regulatory matters as well as supporting and partnering with the different areas of the business including Policy, Insurance and Underwriting, Capital Markets, and Assisted Housing. She is also responsible for leading the corporate secretariat function. She is a member of the Executive Committee.
Prior to joining CMHC, Deborah was the General Counsel at Aimia. Deborah started her law career at Davies Ward Philips & Vineberg LLP specializing in general commercial, securities and privacy law. After seven years, Deborah left private practice to serve as legal advisor for various businesses, including Air Canada. In 2007, she left Air Canada to join Aeroplan. Prior to her career in law, Deborah held various positions in marketing and advertising, including several years as the director of marketing for a private-label health and beauty manufacturer, where she researched trends, developed products, priced raw materials, led customer service, and managed quality control.
In 2014, Deborah won the prestigious Global Counsel Award in the General Commercial Law Category. In 2016, Deborah was listed among the top 100 Canadian general counsel on the GC Powerlist, which recognizes corporate counsel who drive the legal business forward. Deborah holds Bachelor’s degrees in Civil and Common law from McGill University, a Graduate Management diploma from McGill University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Carleton University. She has also obtained her ICD.D designation, which is granted after following a well-known rigorous accreditation program that provides corporate directors with the knowledge and tools to encourage and enable good governance practices.
ATLANTIC CHAPTER LEAD
Ellen C. Desmond Q.C. is the Director of Legal & Administration with the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board and is responsible for all legal and regulatory matters that come before the Board. Called to the New Brunswick bar in 1993, she was engaged in private practice for over 12 years before moving into her role as Board Counsel. Ellen was awarded her Queen’s Counsel designation in 2015.
Ellen holds her B.A. from St. Thomas University, an LLB from the University of New Brunswick, a Masters in Social Work from Carleton University and a Masters in Law from Osgoode Hall, York University. Ellen is a part time instructor at the University of New Brunswick, teaching in the area of Dispute Resolution, Trial Practice and Industrial Relations.
Ellen is a member of the Board of Directors of Symphony New Brunswick and is the current Chair of the Administrative Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association, New Brunswick Branch. Ellen has also been recently appointed to the Auditing and Assurance Standards Oversight Council for Canada.
Director – Communications & Website
Angela Nikolakakos is the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Office of Natixis Investment Managers Canada LP, the investment fund manager of the Natixis Funds. At Natixis, Angela provides ongoing legal, compliance and corporate secretarial advice to all of Natixis’ investment funds, mutual fund corporation and investment fund manager in connection with securities, corporate and regulatory matters such as the creation and development of mutual fund products, distribution issues and continuous disclosure obligations. She is a member of the Legal and Compliance Issues Working Group of the Investment Funds Institute of Canada and a Director of Women General Counsel Canada.
Before joining Natixis in June 2016, Ms. Nikolakakos held senior positions at BMO Financial Group. Most recently she was Senior Counsel & Director in the Wealth Management Group providing legal advice to BMO’s investment funds and fund managers on a wide range of corporate, securities and regulatory issues.
Ms. Nikolakakos practiced law as a partner and as an associate in the Corporate and Securities Group of Gowling WLG’s Toronto Office. She earned her Master of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Windsor and her Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto. She also holds a certificate in Regulatory Compliance and Legal Risk Management for Financial Institutions from Osgoode Hall Law School.
Director – Partnerships & Sponsorships
Patricia Callon is Senior Vice-President and General Counsel, Sun Life Financial Canada. Appointed to this role in 2014, she is responsible for the legal affairs of the Company’s Canadian and investment businesses and leads the legal team that supports those businesses.
Her legal and executive experience spans private practice, in-house and regulatory roles across all major financial services sectors. Her career began at Blake Cassels & Graydon, LLP followed by in-house roles at Sun Life and Seaboard Life (now part of Industrial Alliance). She joined CIBC in 1998 where she rose to Vice-President and Associate General Counsel, Wealth Management and in 2005 moved to the Ontario Securities Commission where she led policy development for segregated and mutual fund disclosure. From 2009, Ms. Callon was Chief Legal Officer and Director, Stakeholder Outreach and Communications at the Canadian Securities Transition Office, the organization that is working with participating governments to create a new common capital markets regulator for Canada.
Ms. Callon has served on several corporate and community boards, including Meridian Credit Union, Toronto Hydro Corporation and the MicroSkills Community Development Centre. In 2013, she was awarded Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 – Corporate Directors award. She is currently a director of the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada.
Ms. Callon earned her Bachelor of Laws from the University of Western Ontario along with an Honours B.A. in French Language and Literature.
Director – Memberships & Awards
Elizabeth is the Vice-President & Associate General Counsel, Personal Banking for CIBC. In this capacity she provides legal advice to CIBC Retail on strategic initiatives as well as overseeing the advice from the Personal Banking legal team relating to strategy, payments and innovation, credit cards, mortgages, lending, insurance, deposits, marketing, sponsorships and operations. Elizabeth was previously the Group Head, Assistant General Counsel, Employment & Labour law, CIBC Legal Department where she lead the legal advice provided to CIBC’s human resources team. Called to the Ontario bar in 1993, Elizabeth practiced commercial litigation at Smith Lyons until she joined CIBC’s Legal Department as counsel, employment law in 1998. Elizabeth holds a B.A. from McGill University and an LLB from the University of New Brunswick. She was a Fox Scholar and qualified as a solicitor in the UK. She is a member of the board of directors of both Women’s College Hospital Foundation, and Women General Counsel Canada as well as a director of a number of CIBC subsidiaries. She is a past member of the board of directors of the George Hull Centre for Children and Families and past director of the Canadian Association of Counsel to Employers.
Director – Conference Co-Chair
Andrea joined Capital One Canada Bank in 2016 and is currently General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer. In this role, she is responsible for the delivery of legal and compliance services for Capital One’s Canadian business, as well as government relations. At Capital One, Andrea is the executive sponsor of the company’s Women’s Associate Network, a well-established group that supports the advancement of women in the workplace by breaking down gender-specific biases and promoting equitable treatment between women and men. Andrea is also a member of the company’s Diversity Council, created to foster an inclusive environment where every employee’s voice is heard and matters – inspiring better products, services and experience for Capital One customers in Canada.
Prior to joining Capital One, Andrea was General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA). As part of the executive team, Andrea acted as the lead legal advisor for the CBA and was responsible the management of the Communications function as well as the CBA’s Consumer Affairs Policy team. Before that, she was Vice President, General Counsel for MasterCard Canada, responsible for legal affairs and public policy.
Director – Conference Co-Chair
Judy Naiberg is the Vice President, Legal at Rogers Communications where she is responsible for overseeing all legal matters (including content creation, acquisition, marketing, distribution, ad sales, transactional matters, employment and litigation) in connection with Rogers Media properties. Such properties include seven television stations (including Sportsnet and CityTV), 53 radio stations, Today’s Shopping Choice (formerly The Shopping Channel), the Toronto Blue Jays, and Rogers’ ownership interest in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
Prior to joining Rogers, Judy was the Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs for Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc. A member of the Executive Team, Judy was a key advisor to the President in the development of company strategy and provided guidance across all business units both in Canada and abroad. She also worked closely with Canada’s recording industry association, Music Canada, to advocate for legislative reform and was a member of the Board of Directors of Re:Sound Music Licensing, the Canadian not-for-profit agency dedicated to securing, enforcing and distributing fair compensation for artists and record companies for their performance rights.
Judy is a mentor and frequent lecturer on a variety of topics including entertainment law, in-house counsel best practices, commercial drafting and women in leadership roles. She is a member of the steering committee of the Ryerson Law Practice Program (LPP) and created and co-teaches the LPP’s In-House Counsel Intensive Course.
Judy began her career at McCarthy Tetrault where she articled and practiced litigation for five years. Judy holds a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) from McGill University.