Help us take action to advance social justice and equality for all women.

AboutBoard of Directors

CRIAW-ICREF is a not-for-profit charity that is governed by a Board of Directors.

Board Members

 Tamara Pearl, President (Oct. 2020 – Sept. 2023, Oct. 2023 – Sept. 2026)

Tamara (Baldhead) Pearl is a Nēhiyaw iskwew (Plains-Cree woman) from One Arrow First Nation in Treaty 6 territory and the traditional homeland of the Métis. She is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Alberta and a PhD in Law candidate at the University of Ottawa. Her research focuses on “anti-dominance” training which challenges the dominance dynamics of the settler colonial framework imposed upon Indigenous Peoples. Professor Pearl aims to contribute to training legal practitioners using anti-dominance to respectfully engage with Indigenous legal traditions and communities while using Treaty relationships as a guide. Her goal is to help train law students to not only better our communities but bridge them by using the Nēhiyawak or Plains Cree concept: māmawī wīcihitowin (“working together, helping one another”).

Anne Webb, Incoming-President (Oct. 2019 – Sept. 2022, Oct. 2022 – Sept. 2025)

Anne Webb is a senior policy advisor on equity, diversity and inclusion in research, based in Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia. Prior to joining the federal research funding sector in the fall of 2013 she worked for over 25 years with non-profits designing and coordinating qualitative and participatory feminist research and providing research training to academic and community-based researchers internationally and in Canada. Anne is the co-editor of two books, African Women and ICTs: Investigating Technology, Gender and Empowerment (Zed, 2009) and Women, Gender and ICT in Africa and the Middle East: Changing Selves, Changing Societies (Zed, 2014). She has also published articles and book chapters including “Information and Communication Technology in a Gender Inequality Context: Research learnings from Africa and the Middle East” (Journal of Information Policy, 2016).  She has served as a peer reviewer on international funding opportunities focused on gender in STEM.

Lina Khatib, Past-President (Oct. 2019 – Sept. 2022, Oct. 2022 – Sept. 2025)

Lina Khatib has over 10 years of experience working at the intersections of people, culture and social justice. She is currently a Principal at Korn Ferry where she advises clients on how to integrate equitable policies and practices into their workplaces, using structural and behavioural inclusion measures. She has worked for government and non-profit organizations focused on community health, gender equity, civic engagement and social justice. She brings an intersectional feminist lens to her work and has published policy position papers and literary pieces that give voice to issues related to marginalized women in Canada. Lina holds a master’s degree from the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University and a Bachelor of Arts from York University. When she is not spending time with family or playing volleyball, she volunteers with organizations that promote women & youth empowerment.

Elsy Gagné, Treasurer (Oct. 2022 – Sept. 2025)

Elsy has been practicing law since 1999 in the areas of commercial litigation, business, regulatory law, employment law and human rights. After earning a M.Sc., a Ph.D. and an LL.B., Elsy completed her LL.M. Elsy has been practising law in various Canadian jurisdictions in litigation and has appeared before different courts and tribunals.

Before her legal practice, Elsy has published articles and was formerly a university lecturer. Over the years, Elsy has been active in various non-profit organizations addressing issues such as violence against women. Elsy has provided services to sex and labour trafficking victims in Alberta. Elsy has served and will continue to serve as a member of the Board of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women. She was also a member of the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking Board.

Elsy has been politically appointed by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce to serve on the Federal Board of Referees – Board of the Employment Insurance and then by the Alberta Lieutenant Governor in Council as a public member on the Board of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta. Recently, Elsy was a Chair of an Appeal Hearing by the complaint’s director from the decision of a hearing tribunal of the College of Naturopath doctors of Alberta.

Amongst her professional affiliations and community involvement, Elsy is currently a member of the Association for Women Lawyers – Calgary and the President of the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Alberta. Elsy is very active with the Canadian Bar Association and the Law Society of Alberta.

Elsy is fluent in both English and French. Elsy has a keen interest for issues relating to women’s rights, constitutional minority language rights and access to justice.

Sunitha Bisan, Secretary (Oct. 2022 – Sept. 2025)

Sunitha Bisan is passionate about gender and ecological justice. She is currently an adjunct professor at University of Ottawa. She is dedicated to changing narratives towards increasing women’s participation, acceptance of women’s leadership and improving environmental governance. She encourages the training of relevant stakeholders for gender responsiveness in governance. With community partners, she supports participatory research to evidence grassroots gaps and challenges particularly in the ASEAN region. She was part of a 2021 study looking within Nordic countries climate finance using the OECD markers that evidences the continued struggles to be gender responsive. An earlier 2014 study with Indigenous women leaders in Sarawak, Malaysia supported the appreciation of gender-based violence in climate crisis and was acknowledged by the UNFCCC in 2019.

Calais Caswell, Board Member (Oct. 2022 – Sept. 2025)

Calais Caswell is a gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) Policy Advisor within the Resilience program of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). In this role, Calais leads and supports research and capacity strengthening on nature-based solutions and climate adaptation with a focus on GESI. She collaborates with a variety of partners on gender and nature-related initiatives in the Global South to design gender-responsive nature-based solutions. Prior to IISD, Calais was a GESI Senior Technical Specialist at MEDA where her work contributed to thought leadership and implementation of gender-related programming in several projects across East and West Africa, and the Americas. Additionally, Calais has worked as a gender and environment specialist with an international co-operative development foundation, and a researcher and policy analyst for development programming in Canada and the Americas.

Miriam Edelson, Board Member (Oct. 2019 – Sept. 2022, Oct. 2022 – Sept. 2025)

Miriam Edelson is a social activist, settler, writer and mother living in Toronto, Canada. Her literary non-fiction, personal essays and commentaries have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, literary journals and on CBC Radio. Her first book, “My Journey with Jake: A Memoir of Parenting and Disability” was published in April 2000. “Battle Cries: Justice for Kids with Special Needs” appeared in late 2005. She has completed a doctorate at University of Toronto focused upon Mental Health in the Workplace. Since retiring from a 30-year career as trade union equity and communications specialist, she volunteers with New Canadians learning English and as a writing workshop facilitator with marginalized populations. She lives with and manages the mental health challenges related to bipolar disorder. Her latest book, a collection of essays entitled “The Swirl In My Burl” came out in October 2022.

Priti Gami Shah, Board Member (Oct. 2018 – Sept. 2021, Oct. 2021 – Sept. 2024)

As a feminist educator, transformative facilitator, social justice activist and presenter, Priti Shah brings 30 years of knowledge and experience to her work for equity and justice. Her activism and political advocacy have been shaped by her upbringing in India and her experiences as a racialized settler in Canada. Using an intersectional approach to collaboration and capacity building, much of her work focuses on challenging systemic racism, sexism and processes that deny the potential and experiences of immigrant, refugee and non-status women. Priti’s websites:,, and

Over the past 30 years, she has worked with not-for-profit organizations, public sector unions, governments, interfaith organizations and grassroots collectives. She has created over 400 workshops/community dialogues/discussion groups, including a curriculum for the Pathways to Leadership programme for racialized and refugee women. Working with Indigenous communities, Priti coordinated the conference Redistribution of Wealth: Economic and Environmental justice from Indigenous and faith perspectives and a film entitled Hidden Legacies by Anishinaabe filmmaker Lisa Jackson, which is now used in school curricula. She is actively involved in municipal committees, local and national committees/councils, and the labour movement (she currently works at the Hospital Employees’ Union as the Equity and Human Rights Officer), engaging changemakers in civic and social transformation. Priti recently received the Inspirational Wonder Women Award, the TOP 25 Canadian Immigrant Award and the Drishti Award for Excellence in Community Involvement. She has also founded numerous community organizations and initiatives, including URJA and the local refugee friendship centre Miracle Connection.

Tara Howse, Board Member (Oct. 2023 – Sept. 2026)

As a lifelong social justice advocate and fiery feminist, Tara’s passions for pursuing gender equity can be summed up with the belief that voice matters, particularly those who are often ignored or even belittled. As a youth, she channeled that passion into coaching young girls in hockey. While not coaching hockey today, sport still is a large part of her life and she serves as a ride lead for a local organization that creates supportive and encouraging environments for women mountain bikers of all skill levels.

Tara has a Master’s of Interdisciplinary Studies with a Dual Focus in Global Change and Equity Studies. She analyzed the erasure of women’s and Indigenous voices from the resource extraction assessment process in BC, ultimately questioning how vulnerable populations can provide consent within the current power structures that exist. Professionally, she is an intersectional rural researcher, which often results in exploratory or foundational research and policy work. She has experience in a broad range of topics, including housing, disaster recovery, active transportation, diversity in politics, and resource development. Her work has garnered invitations on national panels, she serves as an Advisory Member for the University of Toronto’s Institute for Environment, Conservation, and Sustainability, and she attended the United Nations 67th Commission on the Status of Women as a delegate.

Maitland Shaheen, Board Member (Oct. 2021 – Sept. 2024)

Maitland recently completed her law degree at Queen’s, and is currently articling with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. She is passionate about intersections of gender, health, and the law.

Maitland has researched reproductive justice at Queen’s Law and with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). She has also worked with feminist organizations on a blueprint report on a national action plan on ending gender-based violence, and as a legal intern with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. She previously led Queen’s Women and Law group and LEAF’s Kingston branch, as well as a youth delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Prior to law school, Maitland received her B.A. and worked in policy and communications.

Besma Soltan, Board Member (Oct. 2023 – Sept. 2026)

Besma Soltan has 15 years of experience in the social and educational sectors, working with grassroots organizations, non-profits, startups, entrepreneurship incubators and higher education institutes. She co-founded a non-profit and a startup company focused on helping raise community awareness about local and global issues. Besma’s areas of expertise intersect curriculum design, interdisciplinary innovation, and entrepreneurial education with award-winning programs that have engaged thousands of students.

Besma is pursuing her doctoral studies in Interdisciplinary Social Research, with her research titled “Barriers to Successful Entrepreneurship: Creating the Enabling Conditions for Marginalized Women through Canadian Higher Education Institutions”. Her research utilizes Intersectionality Theory and Critical Pedagogy to consider the various dimensions of identities impacting the entrepreneurial experience and needs of marginalized women. She aims to utilize a learner-centered approach that confronts biases and oppressive systems existing in the higher education space and offers strategies to help convert theoretical knowledge and approaches into action.