2023-2024 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.
As the Chief Legal Officer and EVP of Public Affairs of Randstad Canada for the last 10 years, Lara is a fluently bilingual C-suite executive and ICD-certified board member, with expertise in legal, HR and public affairs functions. Lara's25-year legal career straddles the private sector (HR services & financial institutions) and the public sector (government and Crown corporations).
As the 2022 Canada Law Award finalist for Female Trailblazer of the Year, Lara seeks to drive business growth in balance with strong risk mitigation strategies in the rapidly evolving world of work. Lara is passionate about promoting a purpose-driven and diverse & inclusive workplace, bringing rigor to the growing gig economy and discipline to the complex web of automation, heightened data security and privacy.
In addition to serving as President and board member of Women General Counsel Canada, Lara is an active member of the CD Howe Institute and sits on its Human Capital Council. Lara also currently serves as an independent advisor to the Board on governance issues for Lac Marois Country Club. Her previous board experience includes serving as: the former chair of the Randstad Charity Foundation, as HR Committee and board member of the Side Launch Brewery and as the former Chair of the HR Committee and board member of Boost Youth & Child Advocacy Centre.
Prior to serving as Chief Legal Officer & EVP Public Affairs, Randstad Canada, Lara was in-house counsel, with expertise in overseeing HR governance, data privacy, compliance, and risk management programs. Lara started her career as a constitutional litigator with the Department of Justice, after graduating from McGill University with both common law and civil law degrees. Lara obtained her BAH (psychology and health) magna cum laude from Queens University.
Alison is Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of First Capital REIT, a leading developer, owner and manager of mixed-use real estate located in Canada’s most densely populated cities. Prior to joining First Capital, Alison gained over 10 years of experience in private practice at Torys LLP, representing and advising companies across a broad range of industries in connection with securities and corporate transactions, risk management, mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, public and private offerings of equity and debt securities, and numerous other commercial transactions. She also has strong expertise advising public companies and their boards of directors on corporate governance and regulatory compliance matters.
Alison is passionate about First Capital’s mandate to create thriving urban neighbourhoods. In 2020, she led the creation of First Capital’s not for profit organization, the FCR Thriving Urban Neighbourhoods Foundation, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Park People, a Canadian not for profit organization that helps realize the power of parks to build strong communities, healthy environments and resilient cities.
Catherine leads and oversees MEC’s legal, governance, privacy, real estate and sustainability matters. She brings over 13 years of distinguished legal experience to MEC, and prior to joining MEC, Catherine was Senior Counsel at TELUS and associate at Borden Ladner Gervais, LLP. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in Finance from the University of British Columbia and a Juris Doctor from the University of Toronto. She was also Board Secretary of TELUS Victoria Community Board from 2014 to 2019. She is the co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee at MEC. In her free time, Catherine enjoys personal training, biking, golfing and travelling with her family.
Jennifer joined CRH Canada in 2008 as Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. CRH is the leading diversified building materials business in the world, employing 77,000 people at 3,100 locations in 29 countries, and is the largest building materials business in North America. Jennifer and her team provide all aspects of legal and compliance support to all of CRH’s businesses in Canada.
Previously, Jennifer served as Corporate Counsel for Home Depot Canada and practiced with the Toronto office of Heenan Blaikie LLP (corporate law) and the Montreal office of Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP (litigation).
She holds civil and common law degrees from McGill University, is a member of the bars of Ontario and Quebec and practices law in English and French. She remains closely connected to McGill University, volunteering on several boards and committees.
Alexa is the General Counsel and Secretary of ApplyBoard Inc. and is responsible for ApplyBoard's global legal operations, privacy and data governance compliance and risk management portfolios and acts as Secretary of the Board of Directors. Alexa is also on the Board of Directors of CoinSmart Financial Inc., an OSC-registered restricted dealer and marketplace crypto-currency trading platform, which is also publicly traded. 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. Prior to her current role at ApplyBoard, Alexa created and led the Office of General Counsel and Board Secretariat at Sheridan College. Prior to her General Counsel roles, Alexa practiced as a litigator at a Bay Street law firm. She lives in Toronto with her husband and four children.
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
Genevieve acts as the Vice-President, Legal Services and Regulatory Compliance at VIA Rail Canada Inc. In charge of managing the legal and enterprise risk management teams of VIA Rail composed of lawyers, paralegals, risk and claims specialists. Experience executive with over 20 years of M&A, retail, transportation and IT project management background, she is recognized as a visionary leader and as a change agent that specializes in business transformation, growth and expansion as well as reshaping organizations to ensure sustainability of their business.
Prior to joining VIA Rail, she has worked at Belron Canada a company specializing in the automotive glass replacement, repair and distribution industry as well at The CSL Group specialized in maritime transportation and international trading. She is a graduate of Université de Sherbrooke and Université de Montreal. Throughout her career, Ms. Richard sat on CBA and Quebec Bar committees and has always invested time to share best practices with the legal community.
2023 CONFERENCE CO-CHAIR, ONTARIO CHAPTER LEAD & CHAIR OF INTERCONNECTEDNESS COMMITTEE
Clare Smith is General Counsel at PepsiCo Beverages Canada, and is responsible for all legal matters relating to the Canadian business. Clare is passionate about brands and innovation, diversity and inclusion and employee engagement. Clare has spent the majority of her legal career in-house in the consumer packaged goods industry. She was previously the General Counsel at Labatt Breweries of Canada.
Clare began her legal career at Blakes. Clare holds a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and a Bachelor of Arts Honours (Political Studies) from Queen’s University
ALBERTA & PRAIRIES CHAPTER LEAD
Leah is currently acting as the Senior Corporate Development Advisor at AltaGas Ltd., co-leading a multidisciplinary negotiation and transition team tasked with the C$1.1 billion divestiture of the Alaskan natural gas utilities. Previously, she served as the General Counsel, Corporate and Corporate Secretary of AltaGas. As General Counsel, she maintained primary responsibility for legal support of global corporate functions including finance, tax, IT, HR, regulatory affairs and ESG. As Corporate Secretary she acted as liaison between the Chair, board members and management and assisted the board in the development, oversight and review of governance practices. Prior to joining AltaGas, Leah was a senior associate in the securities group of Torys LLP’s Calgary office.
Leah holds a law degree from Pepperdine University and is called to the Bar in Alberta, California and the District of Columbia.
BRITISH COLUMBIA CHAPTER LEAD
Lilac is the General Counsel of HSBC Bank Canada, the proud leader of a national team working together to protect HSBC and help grow HSBC’s business. Prior to joining HSBC, Lilac was a partner at a regional firm in Vancouver, with a broad general commercial litigation and employment law practice. Lilac joined HSBC as a specialist employment lawyer in 2012, took on the role of Head of Litigation and Regulatory Enforcement in 2014, and was appointed Senior Vice President and General Counsel in June 2018.
In her role as General Counsel, Lilac is a member of HSBC Bank Canada’s Executive Committee. She also plays a global role in HSBC as a member of HSBC’s Global Legal Risk Executive Committee, considering legal risk and regulatory trends in jurisdictions all over the world. Lilac is a champion for diversity and inclusion, and is currently Executive Co-Sponsor for HSBC’s Indigenous Canadian Employee Resource Group.
Lilac’s goal is to build and maintain an agile in-house legal team that provides simple, practical advice to support HSBC’s business priorities in a sustainable and ethical way. She brings the skills she honed as a commercial litigator to every aspect of her role, strategically managing conflict to obtain superior outcomes for the organization. Lilac is known for her creative problem-solving, clear thinking under pressure and direct yet diplomatic communication. Her passion is people; Lilac’s personal purpose is to help those around her grow and transform to fulfill their full potential.
In her personal life, Lilac enjoys cycling, hiking and skiing with her husband and three daughters.
ATLANTIC CHAPTER LEAD
Melanie McGrath is General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at CBCL Limited, which is a multi disciplinary engineering and environmental services company operating in 12 offices in 5 provinces. Melanie oversees legal, risk, insurance, contract, and compliance concerns with the firm. Melanie joined CBCL in February 2020 and throughout her career has worked in private practice as well as in house at several different insurance companies. She also spent several years as the Director of the Lawyers Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, which is the professional liability program for all Nova Scotia lawyers.
Since joining CBCL, Melanie has been an instrumental part of the firm’s COVID response committee and is a leader of the DEI committee as well the new ESG initiative.
Heather holds the position of Vice President, Law and Corporate Secretary for Johnson & Johnson Inc. (JJI) in Canada and US Legal Lead for Customer Development Organization. This translates to her overseeing all legal, governance and compliance activities pertaining to the Consumer Health sector in Canada as well as the same for the US sales team. She sites on the Executive leadership team in Canada, the Board of Directors for the Canadian organization, the Canada Pension Committee as well as the US Customer Development leadership team and various committees. She is also a member of the J&J Global Employment Law group and its representative for employment related issues in Canada.
Heather is the executive sponsor for the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), Open & Out (supporting the LGBTQ+ community) as well as an active mentor and member of external industry associations and numerous internal company initiatives, both local and global.
Heather joined Johnson & Johnson in 2012, as Vice President of the Medical Device sector in Canada and since that time has been a member of several executive leadership teams including DePuy Synthes, LifeScan Canada, Animas Canada, Synthes Canada, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics as well as J&J Vision Care in Canada. While in the medical devices sector, she was not only active in the industry association (MEDEC), she was also active as an executive sponsor of both the Operation Smile campaign and the WLI.
Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson in Canada, Heather held a senior legal position with a global pharmaceutical company during which she was a member of the Pension Committee, Risk Management and Compliance Committee, a Director of the company’s charitable foundation and member of the WLI.
Heather is called to the Bar in both Nova Scotia and Ontario and lives in Oakville with her husband and family.
PARTNERSHIPS & SPONSORSHIPS
Corinne Pruzanski was General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at CAPREIT from January 2011 to June 2022. Prior to joining CAPREIT, Corinne was a partner in the real estate group at the law firm Stikeman Elliott LLP, which she joined as an associate in 2004 after working as a lawyer in New York for 7 years. At CAPREIT, Corinne oversaw the company’s growth in Canada and expansion into Europe, first in Ireland with the formation of Ireland’s first multi-residential REIT, and in the Netherlands with the formation of the first Canadian listed European multi-residential REIT. Corinne is an experienced public company secretary, having served as corporate secretary to the CAPREIT board of trustees as well as the board of ERES REIT, and was corporate secretary and alternate director to CAPREITs’s Irish alternative investment fund manager.
Communications & advocacy
Andrea is General Counsel for Amica Senior Lifestyles, Canada’s leading provider of premium, private-pay retirement residences and a wholly owned subsidiary of Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan. In her role, Andrea leads and advises the business on all legal, strategic, and corporate- related matters, including all transactions, development, operations, and regulatory and compliance activities.
Prior to joining Amica, Andrea practiced for 9 years at Oxford Properties Group, the real estate investment arm of OMERS, where she advised on a broad range of complex real estate transactions, development projects and corporate law matters across all asset classes in Canada, the US and Europe. Andrea also spent eight years as a student/associate in private practice in the corporate real estate department of Goodmans LLP.
Andrea holds a Bachelor of Science from Queens University and an LL.B from the University of Western Ontario. In 2022 Andrea was one of three Canadian finalists for Chambers & Partners Diversity & Inclusion: Lawyer of the Year in recognition of her contributions and leadership towards equity, diversity and inclusion. In 2019, Andrea was awarded a Lexpert Rising Star, an award recognizing leading Canadian lawyers under 40. She has been named to The Legal 500 GC Powerlist: Canada for 2016-2017 and 2019-2020, a list recognizing the most influential and innovative in-house corporate counsel in the country, and in 2016 she was a recipient of the Women in Build Awards, recognizing her dedication and creativity in a typically male-dominated industry. Andrea is a member of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario, Toronto CREW and Women General Counsel of Canada. She is an active mentor in the real estate and legal communities and currently serves as a Director and Chair of Governance to the Pine River Institute.
MENTORSHIP & EMERITUS
Jolie is the Founder & CEO of Linnovation Works. She is a creative, passionate and collaborative thought leader who truly impacts the organizations she serves. Her calm, direct and innovative approach enhances both effectiveness and productivity in whatever capacity she’s engaged, and she brings tremendous experience and insight to each matter she approaches. Jolie is coach to many GCs — she supports professional leadership development and helps GCs perform to their very best.
Jolie was commissioned by Women General Counsel Canada (WGCC) to design and launch GCU, a leadership program to enhance competencies, knowledge, attributes and skills necessary for legal leaders to become the “Most Sought” GCs. From nearly two years, Jolie was also the Executive Director of The National GC Network, a not-for-profit organization founded by GCs and Senior In-House Legal Leaders who self-identify as Indigenous, Black or People of Colour, whose mission is to advance equity, diversity and inclusion values in their organizations and the legal community.
Before founding Linnovation Works, Jolie was the Head of Innovation leading global initiatives for Bank of Montreal’s Legal & Regulatory Compliance group. She spearheaded projects to optimize resources and bring greater efficiencies. She established functions for project management, records and information management, continuing professional development, centralized litigation support (eDiscovery and legal holds), internal knowledge-sharing systems, and effective and integrated board reporting. Jolie was also accountable for managing legal and regulatory risk for BMO’s Technology & Operations functions, including cybersecurity, privacy, procurement, technology outsourcing, brand IP, marketing, advertising and social media.
In her last role at BMO (2017 to 2019), Jolie was the Chief Legal Officer for its Canadian Personal and Commercial Banking businesses, where she was accountable for managing legal and regulatory risk relating to all (~900) of BMO’s retail branches across Canada, personal and corporate credit cards, its commercial loan portfolio, Corporate Finance Division, Treasury & Payment Solutions and Special Accounts Management Unit. Jolie led her team in managing significant regulatory exams and reviews, cyber attacks, unprecedented consumer class actions, innovative new product development, and countless customer questions.
Prior to joining BMO, Jolie was a partner in the Financial Services Group at Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP. Jolie received her LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. She is a board member of Canada’s National Ballet School (and Chair of its Nominating and Board Governance Committee), and of Women General Counsel Canada.
2023 & 2024 CONFERENCE CO-CHAIR
Ratika is currently General Counsel of Alcon Canada Inc., an evolving medical device company with a mission to help patients see more brilliantly. In addition to overseeing all legal and compliance issues for this organization within a complex industry, she is an active member of the Senior Leadership Team, which she finds to be the most rewarding aspect of her role. Her approach has always been to be a collaborative but proactive legal advisor, providing risk-management advice and embedding principles of sound corporate governance. Ratika has repeatedly trained other executive members on fiduciary duties, employment law considerations, best practices from a diversity and inclusion standpoint and compliance issues. She is a champion of a “Tone from the Top” culture and work to instill principles of integrity and collaboration to facilitate strong performance results. She is also currently the project lead on Alcon’s global transformation initiative aimed to redefine how the entire organization worldwide, engages and contracts with third parties.
2024 CONFERENCE CO-CHAIR
Adrian is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at Staples Canada, where she has accountability for all legal, regulatory and compliance matters. Prior to that, she was Head of Operations and Small Business Solutions at Bank of Montreal, where she led the integration and management of Small Business payment products, as well as managed operations for the cards business in North America and oversaw operational risk and compliance for the cards business. Prior to that, she was Head of Business Management for Personal and Commercial Banking, and Associate General Counsel, where she led the litigation team for P&C Canada. She was awarded the Canadian General Counsel Award for Litigation Management in 2015, and her team was awarded Litigation Team of the year by Benchmark Litigation. She also received the 2015 Community Builder Award from the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association. Prior to joining the Bank, in 2013, she was a partner with Stikeman Elliott’s Toronto litigation group, where her practice focused on commercial litigation, securities litigation and class action litigation. She was repeatedly recognized as a leading lawyer by Lexpert, Benchmark Canada and Best Lawyers, and was recognized by Lexpert® in 2008 as one of the "Leading Lawyers Under 40". Ms. Lang currently serves on the Board of War Child Canada. She has served on numerous boards, including the Advisory Board of the Class Action Defences Quarterly, the Board of Governors for Royal St. George’s College (where she was also Chair of the Governance Committee), The Advocates' Society, the Advisory Board of Young Women in Law, Canadian Stage Company (where she was also Chair (2013-15)), and the YWCA Toronto. She was a Vice Chair for the 2017 Princess Margaret Ride to Conquer Cancer. She is a graduate of the Institute of Corporate Directors’ Directors Education Program, and has her ICD.D designation.