The Council is the 21-member governing body and board of directors that manages and administers College affairs. The Council is composed of:
- Seven social workers who are members of the College and who are elected by the members of the College in accordance with the bylaws.
- Seven social service workers who are members of the College and who are elected by the members of the College in accordance with the bylaws.
- Seven persons who are appointed by the Ontario Government.
The College’s primary duty is to serve and protect the public interest while promoting high standards of practice for the professions. At the same time the College encourages a robust interactive relationship with members, stakeholders and the public. To steer and guide these processes, Council’s primary governance function is policy development. The policies developed by Council provide direction to the College and to staff.
Council regularly engages in a strategic planning process. View the current Strategic Map
Council meetings are open to the public. Dates are announced on this website and highlights from each meeting are published on the website and in our Perspective newsletter.
Amanda Bettencourt – Elected Social Service Worker
Amanda Bettencourt is a social service worker graduate from Mohawk College, mom to a beautiful little girl, and a current full-time advance standing BSW student at Ryerson University. She works part-time as a family access worker with YWCA Hamilton. Prior to this, Amanda was working as a peer tutor while she attended Mohawk College, and went on to cover a medical leave at her last placement: The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. Amanda seized the opportunity to become an OCSWSSW Council member as she believes in promoting registration with the College to fellow social service workers and hopes to advocate for policy-level change which will be seen not only in the field, but by the public as well.
Charlene Crews – Elected Social Service Worker
Charlene Crews is a mental health clinician with over 26 years of experience working with marginalized and homeless populations. She brings a diversity of experience and transferable skills developed through direct service and program development work across sectors of child and adult mental health and addictions, hospital and community health care, patient advocacy, corrections, homelessness and housing. Charlene worked for 10 years with the CATCH Program at St Michael’s Hospital and has recently moved to an adjudicator role with Toronto Community Housing. Charlene also continues to work as a Rights Adviser with the MOHLTC – Psychiatric Patient Advocates Office and as a course instructor for case management. Charlene maintains active roles on multiple community advocacy boards in the homeless and mental health sectors. Charlene holds a strong interest in health law, privacy and ethics. She holds certificates in family therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, interpersonal medication and health service management and is currently pursuing a degree in health administration at Ryerson University.
Linda Danson – Elected Social Worker
Linda Danson holds a master’s of social work from McGill University, and she has been a social worker for over 30 years. In Montreal she worked in family services, child protection and supervised social work students from McGill. Linda also taught courses at Concordia and McGill Universities, and she has had a private practice. Linda currently works for The Ottawa/ Pembroke Champlain LHIN as a staff therapist. She has been a guest lecturer at Algonquin College. She is the Vice-President of the Renfrew and District Food Bank.
Angèle Desormeau – Elected Social Service Worker
Angèle Desormeau graduated with a BA in psychology from the University of Ottawa in 1985 and received a diploma in addictions studies from McMaster University in 1993. From 1986 to 1990 she worked in child welfare and with youth. She has worked at South Cochrane Addictions Services since 1990: first, as an Addictions Counsellor, then as a Clinical Supervisor and now as Executive Director. Angèle is an active member with many community/district/regional working groups and committees including, but not limited to: Cochrane District Addiction and Mental Health Systems Group, Cochrane District Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee, Timmins Health Link, Community Mobilization Timmins, and the North East LHIN Mental Health and Addiction Advisory Council.
Judy Gardner – Elected Social Service Worker
Judy holds a bachelor of arts and also received a social service work diploma with honours in 2013. Her diverse educational background also includes administration, criminology, early childhood and women’s studies. She is currently a college instructor specializing in addictions and community service work. Judy has over 10 years of frontline professional experience supporting adults with developmental disabilities and has a passion to advocate for the marginalized. Judy was elected to Council in May 2014.
Sanjay Govindaraj – Elected Social Worker
Sanjay Govindaraj graduated with an MSW from TISS (1994) and a masters in applied environmental studies from UW in 2004. Over the last 24 years, Sanjay has led projects related to poverty, food security, housing, child prostitution and HIV/AIDS. Currently employed with the Region of Waterloo as Social Planning Associate, he is leading the diversity, inclusion and accessibility portfolios. He also provides counselling on a part-time basis at the Delton Glebe Counselling Centre in Waterloo. Wilfred Laurier University awarded the title Associate Practicum Professor (part-time) for his years of supervising MSW students. Sanjay has been on numerous boards with not-for-profit organizations and is a mentor for new immigrants. Sanjay was elected to the Council in 2018.
Shelley Hale – Elected Social Service Worker
Shelley is a registered social service worker and registered social worker with over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health. She graduated from Algonquin College’s Intensive Social Service Worker Diploma Program and has been registered with the College since its inception. Shelley previously served on the OCSWSSW Council for the first 10 years and was re-elected to Council in 2016. She is currently the Director of Patient Care Services for the Royal Ottawa Operational Stress Injury Clinic at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. Shelley’s previous clinical work experiences were all community based and her administrative career at The Royal has led her to complete a certificate in program management through the University of British Columbia. She is currently pursuing her masters in leadership at Royal Roads University.
Frances Keogh – Elected Social Worker
Frances Keogh is currently employed on a part-time basis as a counsellor with Family Service Thames Valley Employee Assistance Program, in London. She has worked in employment assistance programs for the past 16 years. Her previous clinical experience has been in child welfare, in/outpatient mental health services and community work and outreach. She has been employed by not-for-profit organizations, health and welfare departments, and community agencies. She has worked in Ireland, Britain and Canada during the past 30 years.
Toula Kourgiantakis – Elected Social Worker
Toula Kourgiantakis is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream and Coordinator of the Simulation Program at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW). Her research focuses on social work education and family involvement in addictions and mental health. Toula is a registered couple and family therapist and a clinical fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Her research and teaching is informed by 25 years of clinical practice across different settings such as child welfare, schools, as well as mental health and addiction treatment centres. She continues to work with families in private practice and she also offers consultation and supervision to professionals and agencies.
Mukesh Kowlessar – Elected Social Service Worker
Mukesh Kowlessar previously served on the OCSWSSW Council from its inception until 2013. During this time he served on the Executive Committee and as College President for four years. Mr. Kowlessar recently retired as a program manager for the City of London. He has over 30 years of leadership experience in the municipal and provincial sectors in social services. Mr. Kowlessar was formerly an adjudicator with the Landlord and Tenant Board and is currently a consultant in strategic planning. Prior to his retirement, Mr. Kowlessar worked within the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) on the Social Services Solution Modernization Project in leading change management to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program offices. He holds certificates in mediation – alternate dispute resolution and executive management from Western University; certification in crisis and critical incident stress management and a social service worker diploma from Fanshawe College.
Andy Kusi-Appiah, Public Member
Andy Kusi-Appiah of Kanata is a demographer by training; and an adjunct professor at Carleton University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies. Between 2004 and 2006, Andy served as the Senior Advisor on Diversity Issues to then Mayor of Ottawa, Hon. Bob Chiarelli (currently Infrastructure Minister for the Province of Ontario). As senior advisor to the Mayor of Ottawa, Andy led many multi-disciplinary teams to solve complex diversity issues in a timely and sensitive manner. He also led multi-disciplinary research in identifying policy initiative opportunities, and strategic policy options including monitoring the development and implementation of City policies with a diversity lens. Over the years Andy has contributed voluntarily to numerous organizations focusing on socio-cultural, educational and integration issues affecting citizens of Ottawa. For example, he served on the City of Ottawa’s Equity & Diversity Advisory Committee, Homelessness Task Force, Task Force on Somali Youth, Tsunami Relief Committee, Crime Prevention Board, and Interfaith Ottawa. Andy writes frequently on diversity issues in the online magazine Black Ottawa Scene. In 2007, Andy received Black History Ottawa’s award for outstanding service to the community. Andy also received the Ghanaian-Canadian Achievement Award for outstanding service to the community in 2010.
Richard (Rick) Lamb – Public Member
Rick Lamb is a “semi-retired” principal with the Thames Valley District School Board, where he has been employed for the past 30 years as an administrator and teacher in a variety of assignments. Prior to his career in education, he worked as a child and youth worker at Madame Vanier Children’s Services in London, providing support and counselling to children and their families. Rick attended the University of Western Ontario and holds a BA in administrative and commercial studies (public administration and public policy) and a BEd from Althouse College. He is also a graduate of the Child and Youth Worker Program at Fanshawe College.
Sue-Ellen Merritt – Elected Social Service Worker
Sue-Ellen Merritt graduated with honours from Niagara College’s Social Service Worker Program in 1996. She has served on the Niagara College Social Service Worker Advisory Board for 15 years, and was Chair of the Board’s Legislation Sub-Committee. Currently retired, Sue-Ellen was employed for 20 years by Niagara Health System, Mental Health and Addictions, where she provided direct client support and held the positions of Smoking Cessation Coordinator and Gambling Coordinator. Sue-Ellen was also a small business manager for 15 years for a privately owned natural gas company, and served as an elected official for Township West Lincoln from 2003-14. Prior to 2003, she served as Chair of the Township’s Committee of Adjustment for 10 years. Sue-Ellen was an OCSWSSW Council member from 2000-2010, during which she was elected to the Executive Committee for those same years and held a Vice-President position from 2001-2010.
Donald Panton – Elected Social Worker
Donald Panton, RSW, obtained a combined bachelor in gerontology and religious studies, and a bachelor of social work from McMaster University. He has certificates in palliative care, disaster chaplaincy and spiritual care, and recently completed field instructor training at McMaster University. Donald has been working at Hamilton Health Sciences since 1994, most recently in medicine social work. Prior to this position, he worked as a health care aide at Brantwood Life Care and was a part-time lecturer (fashion/clothing and textiles) at the University of West Indies in Jamaica. Donald currently volunteers as a church elder, adult Sabbath School teacher and treasurer at Hamilton East SDA Church, and as a disaster preparedness chaplain for Ontario Conference SDA Church. Donald has also served in various positions on the Unit Council of the Oncology unit, Grandview Adventist Academy school board, to name a few.
Vinita Puri – Elected Social Worker
Vinita Puri has worked as a professional social worker and family mediator since 2009. Vinita possesses a specialized honours B.A. in sociology from York University; a masters in social work from Wilfrid Laurier University and a masters in criminological research from the University of Cambridge (U.K.). In addition, she has acquired certifications in alternative dispute resolution; family mediation; solution focused therapy; cognitive behavioural therapy; mental health first aid; and crisis intervention stress management (CISM). At the present time, Vinita is a Clinical Director with Relationship Boutique. Relationship Boutique provides unique, professional and specialized services to support individuals, couples and families experiencing relational difficulties and life transitions. Vinita is passionate and committed to utilizing a strengths-based, anti-oppressive approach to working with all her clients. In 2017, Vinita was appointed to serve as an ambassador/advocate for the CNIB. She also participates as a board member of the Health Providers Against Poverty in Toronto. Vinita has been a member of the Standards of Practice Committee with the OCSWSSW and is looking forward to actively participating as a Council member.
Lisa Seburn – Elected Social Worker
Lisa Seburn was first elected to the OCSWSSW Council in 2016. She is a graduate of the Honours Bachelor of Social Work Program at the University of Western Ontario, as well as the Master of Social Work Program from Lakehead University. She is employed as a Social Worker and Team Leader at St. Joseph’s Care Group in Thunder Bay, working with adults in a community-based mental health program.
Déirdre Smith – Public Member
Déirdre Smith is the Manager of the Standards of Practice and Education unit of the Ontario College of Teachers where she has led the collaborative development of the Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession and the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession. Smith has also coordinated the policy development of over 350 Additional Qualification (AQ) course guidelines and programs for teacher and leadership education. Smith has presented nationally and internationally on many topics including educational leadership, ethical practice, ethical standards and standards of practice. She has been published in the areas of cases, teacher education, leadership, inclusive education and ethics. Her experience as a professional facilitator, school principal, education consultant, special education administrator, teacher educator, youth counselor and classroom teacher inform her work in policy development, teacher education, leadership formation, professional learning and organizational development.