Most Influential Women 2013

Chief Sport Officer, Canadian Olympic Committee (Montreal, QC)

Caroline Assalian leads all Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) matters related to the Olympic, Pan American and Youth Olympic Games in regards to preparation and at-Games operations. 2013 was a year of laying the groundwork for Canada’s Olympic Team that will compete at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. In order to contribute to Team Canada success, Assalian and her team worked with high-impact corporate partners, Own the Podium and government to help ensure national sport federations achieve their performance goals. Her hard work, dedication and passion for sport make her an integral part of the success of Canada’s Olympic movement, which included the Best-in-class national sport federation development initiative in 2013 part of the COC and partners work to redefine the trajectory of sport in this country. Assalian took a leadership role in 2013 with the NSF Enhancement Initiative, the first of its kind in Canadian Sport, introduced in early 2013 to focus on excellence in the business operations, leadership and governance of National Sport Federations (NSF). Fifty NSFs voluntarily opted to participate in this ground-breaking initiate. Assalian is responsible for the development and execution of the COC’s annual and long-term strategic plan for sport. With her work, she has advanced sport in tangible ways, including Olympic results for this country by helping unify a collective voice across a vast sporting system.

Beverly BOYS 
Official; “A Level” International judge; coach (Surrey, BC)

In 2013, Beverly (Bev) Boys was recognized as the country’s top sports official (female) of the year by Sport Officials of Canada. Boys led by example as a respected “A Level” International judge, coach and technical development coordinator. “Her insight into the athletes and coaches’ world has enabled her to voice her opinion on sometimes challenging issues in officiating and to work collaboratively with colleagues towards outcomes that advance the sport”. She is a member of the Diving Canada Plongeon Officials Committee and was elevated to the Chair of the Officials committee spearheading the development and implementation of new judging rules, to improve the expertise and consistency of Canadian judges. The year 2013 also marked her 30th year as a FINA “A Level” international judge for this Olympian (68, 72, 76). She has judged at the highest levels of the sport, including four Olympic Games, five World Championships and six Commonwealth Games. She is a club founder and manager and continues to develop the grass roots and future Olympians while at the same time contributing at the highest levels on the international scene.

Coach; Mentor; Master Learning Facilitator and Evaluator (St. John’s, NL)

Jill Brewer is a certified Level 4 National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) diving coach who has mentored, taught and impacted many coaches across Canada. A passionate volunteer, and Vice Chair of the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Brewer has demonstrated the spirit of the NCCP philosophy not only through her extensive professional development and commitment to pursuing excellence, but also through being a highly respected mentor and sharing that expertise with coaches, administrators and her peers across the nation. She is also a Learning Facilitator and Evaluator in Diving, Multi-Sport, School Sport and Fundamental Movement Skills.  In 2013, she facilitated a multitude of courses across Canada. Her expertise includes leading drug-free sport, conflict management, and coaching and leading effectively. She is a Senior National Official with diving (the only one from Atlantic Canada). Her commitment to sport, development, excellence and lifelong learning are what make her an influential leader. She was recognized with the Investors Group National NCCP Coach Developer Award for 2013, presented to one winner annually who embodies the spirit and characteristics of the “best of the best” Learning Facilitators and Evaluators throughout Canada for that year.

Chef de mission of Team Canada, Special Olympics (Winnipeg, MB)

In 2013, Jennifer Campbell led Team Canada as Chef de mission to the World Special Olympics Winter Games in South Korea. Her first time in this leadership role was in 2011 at the World Special Olympics Summer Games. She is the only person to be named Chef de Mission for Team Canada twice. Campbell is often asked to present on topics relating to sport and the Special Olympics movement. Campbell is on the Special Olympics Canadian Sport Council where she contributes to many working groups that impact national development and direction. Her skill and knowledge do not go unnoticed at the International level. Team USA approached Jennifer in 2013 to become the Sport Consultant for their National Special Olympics Team Program. Jennifer was also instrumental in setting the agenda for the Special Olympics North America 2013 Conference in the area of Advanced Quality Sport and Competition. Her professionalism and diplomacy is well known and make her one of the most influential women in sport.

Official; referee (Winnipeg, MB)

In 2013 Jane Edstrom was appointed by the International Association of Athletics Federations as an International Technical Official (ITO) for the 2014-2017 period. Edstrom has been a technical official on the national and international scene for over 30 years. This is the third appointment to the highly respected ITO panel, for this recently retired teacher and volunteer. This appointment is only announced following grading of the written and oral examinations by the Assessors in London, and is based on the recommendations of the Technical Officials Education and Certification System Working Group to the IAAF Executive Board. Edstrom is one of only two International Technical Officials in Canada and has experience officiating at the international level including at previous World Championships, World Junior Championships, World Youth Championships and Commonwealth Games, as both an official and referee.  Edstrom is a current member of the Athletics Canada National Officials’ Committee and is on the board of Sports Officials Canada.

Cyndie FLETT 
VP Research and Development, Coaching Association of Canada (Ottawa, ON)

Cyndie Flett’s contribution to sport and coaching impacts thousands of coaches. Her career was highlighted in 2013 with the creation and launch of the Coaching Association of Canada’s “Making Head Way in Sport” general concussion awareness module, as well as numerous sport-specific modules. Through these initiatives, she identified two gaps in the market: collaboration between medical experts and coach developers, and the implementation of eLearning technology in response to the barrier of access to information for coaches across Canada. Recognized internationally by the International E-Learning Association, these eLearning modules have been accessed by thousands of coaches since their launch in March 2013. Flett who started coaching at age 12 and took her first NCCP workshop at 15, is now a Level 4 Certified water polo coach, a Theory Course Conductor, water polo Master Course Conductor, NCCP Course Designer, and Level 4 Task presenter. Flett’s passion for, and impact on, education and coaching make her a most influential woman.

Jennifer HEIL 
Because I am a Girl Campaign; Jenn Heil Girls Camp (Spruce Grove, AB)

Activist Jennifer Heil continued to make a crucial difference in 2013 with the achievement of her important goal of raising one million dollars for girls’ health and education. Immediately following her victory at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, she had made the promise that she intended to raise $1 million for Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl campaign. Heil, who has Olympic gold from the 2006 and silver from the 2010 Games, went about achieving her goal and was able to announce in 2013 that she surpassed her objective by raising  $1.1 million. Heil’s tireless support of girls and development, and her intelligent use of her prestige to improve the lives of others, via B2ten, Jenn Heil’s Girls Camp and other initiatives makes her a leader and a woman of influence. Now also working as a member of the media, it was announced that Heil will be at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi as a television commentator for moguls.

Olympian; role model (Calgary, AB)

Not satisfied with giving 110% to her sport in 2013, Kaillie Humphries also finds time to build ties with important organizations as the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Right to Play, WinSport and many more. On her journey to becoming a role model, Kaillie Humphries has worked with true grit and determination to achieve World Cup and Olympic success while simultaneously contributing to community. This reigning Olympic champion in the two-woman bobsleigh (Vancouver 2010), and reigning overall World Cup champion, has also achieved seven FIBT World Championship medals which includes her current title as the reigning two-time World Champion. A recognized leader, she was also selected in 2013 to be featured in the Canadian Olympic Committee’s brand launch for Sochi. In addition, Humphries was previously selected to CAAWS’ Ones to Watch list of emerging leaders of 2012.

FILA Panellist to IOC to Save Olympic Wrestling (Hazelton, BC)

Since her retirement from competition in early 2013, Carol Huynh, Olympic Champion (2008) and Olympic bronze medallist (2012), has continued to be a champion of the sport, this time off the mats. In 2013, she represented Canada and Canadian wrestling as a panellist to the IOC as part of the Save Olympic Wrestling Campaign and was a key contributor to the overall process both domestically and internationally. At the same time, Carol was also voted in by all her wrestling peers from across the globe as the Chair of the new Athletes Commission at FILA (the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles) and, as a result, is the first Canadian female on the FILA Bureau. As her role in the sport of wrestling continues to evolve from that of a successful athlete, Carol’s influence continues to grow. To add to the accolades, Carol was inducted into the FILA Hall of Fame in 2013, in the athlete category, based on her success on the mats.

Executive director, AlterGo; founder of Défi sportif AlterGo (Montreal, QC)

2013 marked a year of crowning success for Monique Lefebvre, the executive director of AlterGo. Approximately 4,500 athletes from around the world and representing all types of disabilities participated in the 30th edition of the Défi sportif AlterGo. Held in Montreal, this annual seven-day sporting event promotes pushing all limits, both personally and socially. The growing success of Défi sportif AlterGo is explained by Monique Lefebvre’s vision of giving all persons with disabilities the chance to live life to the fullest and practise their favourite activity or sport. The event is a key competitive event for many Paralympians. In 2013, Lefebvre was awarded the Medal of Honour of the National Assembly of Québec and in true fashion she turned the attention to the growing recognition afforded to individuals with functional limitations in our society. As a child, Lefebvre wanted to change social perceptions. She quickly understood that for her dream to come through, she would have to showcase the capacities and talents of persons with functional limitations. With that in mind, she founded the Défi sportif, in 1984, now known as the Défi sportif AlterGo.

Monique F. LEROUX
President, Sherbrooke 2013 Canada Summer Games (Montreal, QC)

Monique F. Leroux was the President of the highly successful Sherbrooke 2013 Canada Summer Games, one of our countries’ premier sporting competitions. Leroux led more than 6,000 volunteers who ensured the best conditions for the 3,400 Canadian athletes who competed. The success of these Canada Games cannot be underestimated as they help to develop future Commonwealth Games athletes as well as Olympians and Paralympians ascending Canada’s sport system. The lasting legacy of accomplishments, sports facilities and innovations of the 2013 Canada Games will benefit all participants for years to come. Through her leadership, Leroux helped raise the funds to hold a successful edition of the Canada Games and ensure that emerging Canadian athletes are on a pathway to success. Leroux’s expertise and accomplishments in the areas of management, leadership, finance and governance were widely used in order to guide success. Monique F. Leroux is Chair of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Desjardins Group.

CEO, Own the Podium; Board member Special Olympics Canada (Ottawa, ON)

As CEO of Own the Podium, Anne Merklinger is a driving force behind Canada’s reputation as a leading sport nation. A passionate and inspiring leader, Merklinger has more than 20 years of management experience with national sport organizations—which served her well in 2013, a pivotal pre-Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games year. Merklinger strategically heads an organization with the mission of maintaining Canada as a world leader in high-performance sport. In 2013, she continued to work with partners to strengthen national policy, programs, the sport delivery system and the commitment to excellence for both winter and summer high-performance sport. Merklinger’s life-long experience in sport as an athlete and professional is complemented by extensive volunteer experience with a number of organizations including the Sandra Schmirler Foundation as well as being a member of the board of Special Olympics Canada in 2013. She has previously made the CAAWS MIW list five times and was named to 2013 Maclean’s: 50 Most Important People in Canada list.

Dr. Jane MORAN
Chair ISU Medical Commission; IOC Medical Commission (Victoria, BC)

In 2013, Dr. Jane Moran was appointed to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Medical Commission’s Games Group. The long-time chair of the International Skating Union’s (ISU) Medical Commission was chosen as the representative of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations. The Medical Commission Games Group’s role is a vital one to ensure excellence across a number of areas. Dr. Moran will help oversee the provision of medical care and anti-doping services approved for the 2014 Olympic Games. A true advocate for the well-being of athletes, she is an outstanding medical professional, whose advice and counsel has been instrumental in developing the ISU’s medical protocols to the highest standards. An emergency room and sport medicine physician in Victoria, Dr. Moran is also an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine. She also travels four times each year to provide medical services to remote clinics in Nunavut.

FINA Sports Medicine Committee; IOC member (Guelph, ON)

A highly respected leader, Dr. Margo Mountjoy is a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Medical Commission, is a member of the FINA Bureau (Executive Board) with the portfolio of Sports Medicine and is a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) Committee. A former competitive synchronized swimmer, Mountjoy has served as the team physician for Synchro Canada since 1987, is a consultant for the University of Guelph’s Health and Performance Centre, and is on faculty of McMaster University’s Medical School. Her areas of specialty include female athlete health, elite child athlete health, prevention of sexual harassment and abuse in sport, and anti-doping. She presented at the International Sport and Exercise Nutrition Conference 2013 on Female athlete triad update: New IOC Position Stand.

COO GoodLife Fitness Clubs Inc. (London, ON)

Jane Riddell is Chief Operations Officer of the largest fitness company in Canada. She is Winner of the 2013 Canada’s Most Powerful: Top 100 Award Winners (Women’s Executive Network) . She is a key leader in the Canadian fitness industry: with over 902,000 members, GoodLife is helping to transform the health of 1 in 37 Canadians. Riddell invests a great deal of time in people development and creating the optimal work culture. She is completely invested in people and meant what she said in an episode of Undercover Boss Canada, “you are nowhere without great people.” Her innovative and strategic mind has allowed her to enhance the corporate performance of the company. It is important to note that under Riddell’s leadership, the company employs over 12,500 people and has achieved Platinum Status Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies, and Platinum Level Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures. Her volunteer work includes her passionate investment in Golden Retriever Rescue (   ; coaching club level soccer and basketball; and work with the Women’s Athletic Alumni at the University of Western Ontario.

Christine SINCLAIR
Captain, Canadian Women’s Soccer Team (Burnaby, BC)

An international star, Christine Sinclair was nominated for FIFA top player award of 2013. The captain of Canada’s National Soccer Team, whose individual accomplishments include “Top-5 Player in the World” status over the last decade, also received several other important honours this past year: induction into the Canadian Walk of Fame, as well as receiving an honorary doctorate of laws degree from her alma mater Simon Fraser University (both in 2013). Sinclair will always be remembered for guiding Canada to its first medal in soccer at the 2012 London Games, which made her a household name. The fact that Sinclair is a highly-recognized athlete surely helped draw a record crowd of 22,450 to BMO Field in Toronto in June 2013 for the rematch with the No. 1 ranked Americans. However, never resting on her laurels, in 2013 she also completed her first season with the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League. She guided the Portland Thorns to the first-ever title as they beat the Western New York Flash. This past year, Sinclair has an important leader role in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015TM build-up. She was front and centre at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015TM logo launch this past year. Sinclair has been named to the CAAWS Most Influential Women List 3 previous times (when Canada’s National Soccer Team was named as a group). This is the first time she is named in her own right.

Tricia SMITH
VP, International Rowing Federation (Vancouver, BC)

In 2013, Tricia Smith was elected Vice-President of the International Rowing Federation(FISA). This four-time Olympian, and Vice-President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, is a respected leader within the sport community both at home and internationally. Smith was also named a member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her athletic career and her devotion to supporting and advancing sport in Canada and internationally. “She is talented, engaging, competent, ethical and inspirational,” said Dr. Michael Murphy, President of Rowing Canada Aviron.  A lawyer, she is currently a partner in a liability claims management firm in Vancouver.  She is a Board member of the International Council for Arbitration for Sport and in 2013 was appointed President of the Ad Hoc Court of Arbitration for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She is the outgoing Chair of the Women’s Commission of FISA, the incoming Chair of the Development Commission of FISA, and continues her work with FISA as Vice President and member of its Executive Committee. This is Tricia Smith’s third appearance on the CAAWS Most Influential Women List.

Michelle STILWELL 
Paralympian; MLA; Advocate (Parksville, BC)

Paralympic gold medallist Michelle Stilwell was elected Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Parksville-Qualicum in May of 2013. She is Government Caucus Chair and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for Healthy Living. She is also a member of the Treasury Board, the Cabinet Committee on Secure Tomorrow as well as the Cabinet Working Group on Core Review. Prior to being elected to the Legislative Assembly, Michelle was a motivational speaker and community advocate for persons with disabilities and children with special needs. Michelle is also an ambassador for ActNow BC and the Rick Hansen Foundation, and she worked on the B.C. government’s 10 by 10 Challenge to increase employment for persons with disabilities. She is the only Canadian female athlete to be a Paralympic champion in two distinct summer sports (basketball and athletics). Stilwell successfully combines training and political office and in July 2013 she competed at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championship and won three gold medals. A graduate of the University of Calgary, this is Michelle Stilwell’s first time on the CAAWS Most Influential Women List.

Head coach, Canada’s senior women’s basketball team (Dundas, ON)

In 2013, Canada Basketball named Lisa Thomaidis head coach of Canada’s senior women’s team after 11 years as an assistant, making for a seamless transition. Thomaidis is a two-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and four-time Canada West coach of the year with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. She garnered valuable experience working as assistant coach with Allison McNeill on the team’s inspiring run to the quarter-finals at the London Olympic Games. At the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship for Women, Thomaidis led the squad to a silver medal, the team’s best finish since 1995. By making the tournament final, Canada qualified for a berth in the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women. This is Lisa Thomaidis’ inaugural appearance on the CAAWS Most Influential Women List.

Professor and Research Chair; Volunteer (Victoria, BC)

Dr. Joan Wharf Higgins is a Professor and Canada Research Chair (Health & Society) with the School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. In 2013, Wharf Higgins’ research is specifically related to enhancing physical activity among vulnerable groups (including women and girls). She also secured research funds, published three journal articles and presented at 11 conferences provincially, nationally and internationally. That same year her work in health literacy was adopted by the Ministry of Health for high school health curriculum (Take a look: Media and health. Victoria, BC: Ministry of Health), and she was the invited expert external reviewer for the text Health Literacy in Canada: A Primer for Students (Canadian Scholars’ Press). Dr. Wharf Higgins is the first Chair of the ViaSport Girls & Women Advisory Committee, who are tasked with moving the agenda forward for gender equity in sport for the British Columbia. Her personal 2013 physical activity accomplishments include completing the Boston and New York marathons.


Andrea BRAZEAU and Julia ST-AUBIN (Kangiqsualujjuaq, QC), both in their teens, worked in 2013 for the future wellbeing of Nunavik, a priority for both of these emerging leaders. They are extremely active in creating positive experiences for their community. Both St-Aubin and Brazeau were invited to Ottawa by Clara Hughes to launch her new initiative, “Clara’s Big Ride”. Their most recent initiative called “Come Let Us Enjoy Life Together” is a project from the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services. Both are touring as role models to all of the 14 communities in Nunavik. They discuss all issues related to healthy living: diet, exercise, smoking, drugs, alcohol and sleep habits. In addition, the girls will discuss how perseverance and determination allowed them to succeed during their 1000km Grand Defi and how students should persevere to stay in school and work hard towards a better future. Both of these young athletes are proof that you can make an impact that reaches far and wide, even from a remote community.

Ashley HOWARD (Vancouver, BC) is the new managing athletics director at UBC and is displaying strong leadership and integrity through a very difficult review process within the UBC Department of Athletics and Recreation. The former CEO of Swimming Scotland, Howard is leading UBC’s Sport Review which intends to enhance the focus on varsity sports, provide long term sustainability for the program, as well as continue to build on the strong history and winning tradition the Thunderbirds have achieved as the most successful athletic program in Canada.

Monali PATEL (Kitchener ON), one of the youngest players ever to make the national women’s cricket team, is also a coach with a Cricket Australia Level 3 Cricket Coaching Certification. This is the highest level of any woman in North America, and she is the only female who holds the designation amongst a small group of men. A role model for many young women who are entering the game, she is one of only a handful of women who are on the board of directors of a cricket club. She is also the first woman to facilitate an ICC Level 1 Coaching Course in North America – and has facilitated ICC level 1 courses in San Diego for the USACA.

Former National team soccer player Carrie SERWETNYK (Mississauga, ON) was the first woman inductee in the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and Founder of Why the Women’s World Cup Matters.  WWWCM is a grassroots campaign which aims to use the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada as an opportunity to create catalytic equity changes for girls and women on and off the field by bringing awareness and promotion to the challenges and benefits this international event will bring to women and girls. She believes that girls and women who become aware of, or participate in, the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 will be transformed by the power of sport. The Women’s World Cup sends a message that they too are important and they can achieve the dreams they aspire to in their own life. It is also an opportunity to create legacy advancement for women in all sectors of society by progressing their aspirations through policies and laws.