Healthcare Labour

Media release: Avalon Sexual Assault Centre staff won’t work with current Board

For immediate release

K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX), NS, July 30, 2019 — Staff of Avalon Sexual Assault Centre have recruited a replacement board of directors to be elected in September, citing board mismanagement as the driving factor that led to critical problems at the Centre this year, including the closure of the therapy waitlist. 

“Staff have identified for a long time now, and in a very focused way since November, harmful and unethical conditions which were leading to an inevitable inability to continue service delivery according to our mandate,” said Adrienne Buckland, speaking on behalf of the employees who are working collectively on this reform effort. “Our current board has ignored or blocked every staff attempt to get out ahead of this crisis.” 

Current board members are Ann-Barbara Graff (Acting Chair), Lee-Ann Conrod, Nicole Doria, Diane Crocker, Deanna Grant, Michelle Hyson, Jennifer Taylor, Lauren O’Neil, and Sharon Robinson. 

Staff have identified, in particular, misalignment of values and governance style as contributing to problems. The Centre has employed a very successful model for many years which is rooted in feminist, trauma-informed principles and relational approach. As one example of the misalignment, the board has disregarded information on accepted best practices around safe and ethical wait times for clients in their directives to staff. As another, a critical need for support for primary trauma among staff was neglected. As well, the board recently directed months of legal fees to fighting staff’s attempt to unionize, at a time when, for example, the Centre does not offer parental leave top-up due to “limited resources”. Recruitment for the board of directors currently does not seek candidates who are familiar and comfortable with feminist, relational, trauma-informed work, a change staff have advocated in this reform initiative. 

Other reforms staff seek to implement at the Centre’s Annual General Meeting in September include measures addressing representation. Staff have requested that a special resolution be introduced at the AGM to ensure representation of priority communities. The resolution amends the organization’s bylaws to state the intention of specific representation from the Centre’s communities, those with lived experience, and Centre staff, and to specifically prioritize 2SLGBTQ, BIPOC, disabled, student, emergency services, military or veteran, and newcomer representation. 

The current board has rejected staff’s request that they step aside, and in response to staff’s proposed reforms shared some of the work they have been doing to revise bylaws. This is an inadequate response, and staff are adamant that board-staff relations can only proceed with an entirely different board. 

Staff also modified the Centre’s outreach processes and guidelines to support these reforms, and employed them to engage the new slate of directors offering to stand for election. The candidates are: 

● Gabriel Enxuga, BSW, SWC. Support Services Manager at the Youth Project providing supportive counselling to LGBTQ youth. Research assistant with Dr. Gahagan investigating the housing needs of older LGBT adults. 

● Catherine Crossley. Lived experience single mother of two. Currently employed in the medical field. Passionate about helping give back to those in need. 

● Dr. Ardath Whynacht is an award-winning professor and researcher with more than 15 years experience working with both survivors and offenders of intimate partner, family and sexual violence. She currently holds two research grants for projects related to trauma and violence. 

● Sue Goyette. Sue is an artist, educator, and activist who is currently studying complex trauma and the impact of sexual violence and abuse in Saint Mary’s University’s Women and Gender Studies Graduate Program 

● Anita Smith. A SMU alumni holding a MACP and BA, Anita Smith has been a Counsellor II A with Child Protective Services for over 11 years. Anita brings experience as former Fund Development Coordinator at Bryony House, past Board member and past Chair of Women’s Employment Outreach and current Board member of Coed Volleyball Nova Scotia. 

● Hilary Murphy. Hilary works for Coverdale Courtwork Society. They are starting Grad School in Addictions and Mental Health, are on the board of directors for the Youth Project and are the Treasurer for the Anchor City Rollers Club. Hilary is a derby skater, is trauma informed, and passionate about honesty and helping people make positive changes in all the spaces they exist in. 

● Charnell Brooks, Social Worker with Nova Scotia Legal Aid. Charnell holds Bachelor’s of Arts and Social Work degrees from Dalhousie University, and has over 15 years experience working with vulnerable populations. 

● Leticha Lucas, staff representative. Leticha is the Intake and Initial Response Support Counsellor at Avalon. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a counselling focus. She has many years of experience working with youth and families from marginalized communities. 

“This is about much more than working conditions. Unionization will help us work towards improvements in that area. The need to end the relationship with this board is about mismanagement and a lack of shared values and the impact this has had on service delivery. The problem is the gap between the needs of the Centre’s clients and community, and the worldview of this board,” said Sarah Kasupski, speaking on behalf of the employees who are working collectively on this reform effort. “We are all looking forward to closing that gap and focusing on delivering critical services in our community, as Avalon has done for over 30 years.” 

The group of people who have offered to support staff in rebuilding the Centre as a replacement board are bringing relevant experience, perspectives, and most of all commitment to relational work and genuine support of Avalon’s staff. Staff are eager to begin stabilizing Avalon Centre with this group. Given the current board’s rejection of this slate of candidates, staff hope the community will join them in support at the annual meeting, which will be announced soon in Avalon’s online communications. 

The Avalon Sexual Assault Centre is a feminist organization working to eliminate sexual assault/abuse, and to change the current socio-political culture that fosters sexism, social injustice and other forms of oppression. 

Contact: Adrienne Buckland or Sarah Kasupski 



  1. From my experience of Avalon, I’d say this is a long overdue change that feels like a breath of fresh air.

  2. Sincerely hoping things are resolved in a good way. Avalon such crictal services. And it is so important that everyone lives the values of the organization if it is to be strong.

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