After 10 years as co-director of the legal office at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Vicki White is taking on the role of chief executive officer of The Advocates’ Society effective July 23.
White replaces executive director Alexandra M. Chyczij, who retired at the end of May after 25 years.
White has been the co-director, along with Lisa Brownstone, of the legal department at the CPSO since 2009. In that role, she was a member of the senior management team that led the College’s team of 27 lawyers and legal staff.
She is taking on the role at The Advocates’ Society after 15 years at the CPSO, somewhat unexpectantly, having been approached about the job just three weeks ago.
“My vision of the role is that it’s a bit of a rudder for the organization as the board and executive changes over that there be a constant presence from the CEO,” she says.
Under the Society’s bylaw, White will be responsible for implementing its strategic plans and priorities and, subject to the authority of the board of directors, for general supervision of the Society’s affairs.
White says the role also includes helping to determine which cases make sense or need the Advocates’ Society’s intervention and presence.
At the CPSO, White and Brownstone shared the role of co-director in a unique model that saw them both share the management of the sizeable litigation team they built up, as well as continue to be able to litigate cases in court.
In term of highlights from her time at the CPSO, White says, Mussani v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario was one of the first constitutional challenges she and Brownstone did together successfully in relation to the mandatory revocation provisions for physicians who engage in sexual relationships with patients.
More recently, The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario case was the most recent constitutional challenge to the policies requiring that physicians who object to a health-care service on the basis of conscience/religion provide a referral to another non-objecting physician or agency that she and Brownstone argued successfully, which was just granted leave at the Court of Appeal.
“That Divisional Court victory was hard fought and was a highlight for me,” says White.
In terms of the discipline committee, she cites the Sazant case — another constitutional challenge, this one in relation to the College’s investigative powers. That was a case where criminal charges had been laid and White successfully prosecuted a physician defended by Marie Heinen.
The physician had engaged in sexual abuse of multiple young boys, including a patient, and had his licence revoked while the constitutional challenge to the College’s powers was rejected.
“Really, though, my biggest highlight is having had an opportunity to work with and grow that legal office into an unbelievable collection of talent and passion and dedication,” she says. “I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the quality of litigators there and the fierce determination every single one of them has to do the best they can for the public interest and for the College. That will be a very difficult thing for me to leave.”
Previously, White was counsel at the CPSO for five years. Earlier in her legal career, White was a litigation associate at Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP. She was called to the bar in 1998, after clerking for Justice Peter deCarteret Cory at the Supreme Court of Canada. White obtained her LLB from the University of Ottawa.
“My colleagues on the executive committee and I are delighted that Vicki White has chosen to join The Advocates’ Society as its chief executive officer at this very important time in the Society’s evolution,” said Brian Gover, president of The Advocates’ Society. “Our membership — now numbering over 6,000 advocates across Canada — will be very well served through her leadership.”
The Advocates’ Society is a professional association for advocates with more than 6,000 members from the bench and bar across Canada.