Council Members


(missing from photo: Val Barter, Arlene Blanchard-White)


Appointment Process

The Advisory Council consists of  the President/CEO and 10 members appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor for a three-year term. Appointments reflect a regional representation of women with diverse backgrounds. Council members are selected through the Independent Appointments Commission, an independent body established by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to provide merit-based recommendations for Agencies, Boards, and Commissions.  They are selected based on criteria such as demonstrated leadership in working to advance the status of women as well as the ability to work on women’s equality and equity-seeking issues from a community, regional, or provincial perspective.


Paula Sheppard, President/CEO, St. John’s. Paula Sheppard is a diligent supporter and a fierce advocate for women. She has worked closely with colleagues and all levels of government to support women with the unique barriers they face. As CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, she gained first-hand knowledge and understanding of the critical importance women have to the social and economic success of our province. Paula is the vice-chair and founding member of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada and a member of Gender Equity Network Canada, a Status of Women Canada project. She was also the co-chair of Atlantic Canada Women in Exporting working group from 2011-2012. Paula holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Co-op), Human Resources and Labour Relations from Memorial University.

Barbara A. Barker, B.A. (Hons.), LL.B. (University of Saskatchewan) is a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation. Barbara works for the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission in the Provincial Director’s Office as the Legal Services Solicitor. Amongst other community work, Barbara is a member of the Expert Advisory Panel with the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, volunteers with the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre and sits on the board for a newly created feminist not-for-profit, SKS Children’s Centre. Barbara is a member of the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Indigenous Education and Action Committee, as well as their Education Committee, and teaches Continuing Legal Education and the Bar Admissions Course.

Val Barter was born and raised in Petty Harbour, NL. Over the past twenty years Val has worked in the non-profit sector of Newfoundland and Labrador. Val is a strong feminist, intimate partner violence survivor (IPV), and long-time advocate and supporter for abused women and children & IPV survivors of all genders. Val is dedicated to anti-violence organizations and is currently the Executive Director of Violence Prevention Avalon East, supporting all individuals in our province who have experienced violence and/or are looking for support and guidance in violence prevention.  Val has worked in women’s shelters in St. Johns and Labrador, including a 3.5 year term as Executive Director of the Nain Transition House In Nain, Labrador, previous Executive Director of Planned Parenthood NL and 6 years with the St. Johns Status of Women Council as a staff member where she served in a variety of supportive, trauma informed, education and advocacy roles, including a year as the Women’s Centre coordinator. “Ever since I can remember I’ve been very passionate about the rights of all women. When it came to choosing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life I wanted to dedicate my life to assisting other people in recreating theirs full potential in a violence free society”.

Kelly Hynes Curties is a lawyer for the Department of Justice and Public Safety. Bilingual, Kelly completed her Bachelor of Arts at Memorial University in French and Sociology, her Law Degree (LL.B.) at Université de Moncton and her Masters in Law (LL.M.) at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. Kelly is passionate about advancing equality issues. She is currently in her final year as Chair of YWCA St. John’s, and has been on their board in various capacities since 2013. Kelly has been actively involved in other community organizations, including the CBA NL, and the CBA National Committee on Equality.

Erica Samms-Hurley is a Mi’kmaq woman who earned her BN (2004) from Memorial University-Grenfell Campus and her MN (2014) from Athabasca University. Erica recently began studies at University of Alberta in the PhD of Nursing Program. She has worked in nursing education for over 10 years and is currently a nurse educator at Western Regional School of Nursing- Grenfell Campus. Erica is adjunct professor in the School of Arts and Social Sciences (Humanities) at Grenfell. Since a young age Erica has dedicated her time to volunteering on numerous committees locally, provincially and nationally, such Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Health Advisory Committee, the Canadian Institute of Health Research Institutes Advisory Board for Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes and the Council on Higher Education Subcommittee on Indigenous Education. She has been recognized for her achievements and contributions by the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award. She is currently the chair of the Grenfell Indigenous Advisory and Initiatives committee. Erica was elected into the vice-chief position of Qalipu first nation in 2015.

Vanessa McCarthy, Vice-President, is a lawyer in private practice with Rebecca Redmond MacLean Law Office PLC Inc. in Gander. She completed her Bachelor of Arts and LLB degrees with the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, where she was involved in numerous organizations committed to equality and women’s rights. Vanessa worked and volunteered for many years with the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre and later the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre. She is actively involved with the Gander Women’s Centre and the Rotary Club of Gander. Vanessa is originally from Grand Falls-Windsor, and has lived in Gander since 2010.

Elizabeth Evans-Mitchell was born and raised in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut. Along with friend, Tama Jararuse, Elizabeth was one of the first graduates of J. C. Erhardt Memorial. Elizabeth obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Memorial University which permitted her to follow her passion for teaching in her hometown for the past 30 years as both an educator and more recently, principal. Along with her education degree, she holds a Diploma in Kodaly Music from Acadia. Serving as a community councillor for many years as well as the North Coast VP for Combined Councils of Labrador, community issues and concerns have always been a priority. Elizabeth has volunteered for several committees including, Makkovik Museum Committee, Makkovikimut Trust, AnanauKatiget Timingit and Makkovik Chapel Servants – Acolyte for the Moravian Church.

Carmichael Polonio is a Belizean-Canadian engineer, who currently works at Nalcor Energy as a transmission design engineer. She moved to St. John’s in 2006 to pursue civil engineering at Memorial University, which she successfully completed in 2011. Born and raised in Belize City, Belize, she’s a Garifuna woman, which is an Indigenous race group combining African, Arawak, and Carib ancestry. Since residing in St. John’s, Carmichael has been an active participant in the community. She volunteers with Women in Science and Engineering and Women in Resource Development Council in their respective mentorship programs.

Raelene Vickers. Without human connection and a strong foundation of empathy, understanding and love change cannot occur. Raelene’s passion for human connection led her to pursue a Bachelors Degree in Social Work in 2014 from Memorial University and a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Toronto in 2018. Raelene describes herself as a fierce feminist who challenges society’s expectations, and a passionate advocate for gender and sexual diverse populations. Practicing as a front line social worker for four years, Raelene has experience working with children in care, foster parents, and women experiencing intimate partner violence. After completing a placement in Patient and Family Engagement at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) Raelene has been exploring the use of social work in administrative and policy roles. Recently, Raelene entered the role of Executive Director of Mokami Status of Women Council where she is incorporating strengths based and trauma informed theories into her everyday work.

Arlene Blanchard-White is a Business Development Officer with Ulnooweg Development Group mentoring Indigenous entrepreneurs. As a business owner, in 2006 she rode the Way-Out Women (WOW) Ride for Breast Cancer raising the second highest amount in Canada for research. Much of her life has been dedicated to volunteering on various boards such as the St. George’s Economic Development Corporation, and Bay St. George Mi’kmaq Cultural Revival Committee while volunteering with local schools to enhance Indigenous culture and heritage. She has served a three-year term as councillor for Qalipu First Nation where she also sat on the Education Committee as well as a representative to the Women’s Policy Office. Arlene is a proud Mi’kmaq who embraces her culture through dance, ceremony and Indigenous values.