One Year Into COVID-19 It’s not every day that you start a new job and then immediately have to close down the office indefinitely and send everyone home amidst a once-in-a-century pandemic. But that was my whirlwind experience when I joined YWCA Edmonton as our new CEO one year ago today. I hadn’t even met most of our staff yet before making that difficult decision after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mandated an historic stay-at-home order
Karen was born in Montreal, Quebec and moved to Edmonton in 1980.
She graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor and Masters of Social Work and a postgraduate Diploma in Management. She worked as a Social Worker at the Montreal Catholic School Commission and formed and became President of the Association of Ville Marie Social Service Workers.
After her move to Edmonton, Karen worked at the City of Edmonton as a Labour Relations Officer and Equal Opportunity Officer. She was elected to the Alberta Legislature from 1993 to 2001 for the Meadowlark constituency. As an MLA she was the critic for Labour, Intergovernmental Affairs and Health as well as Caucus Whip. The provincial government appointed her as a delegate to the Pacific Northwest Economic Region Foundation.
Karen was elected to Edmonton City Council in 2001, where she represented Ward 1 ( which became Ward 5 in 2010). She was the lead and chaired many City initiatives such as Contaminated Gas Stations Task Force, Traffic Safety Initiative, Affordable Housing initiative, Bar Safety Advisory Group and Stop Grow-Op Coalition. Karen was also the Mayor’s designate on the Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness.
She was Chair and Vice-Chair of many Council Committees and was twice appointed to the Edmonton Police Commission. In addition, she was the City of Edmonton representative to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. At the Federation she was the Chair of many committees including the Green Municipal Fund. She became President of FCM in 2012.
Karen was unsuccessful in her 2013 bid to become Mayor of the City of Edmonton. Since 2013, she has been Executive Director of the Heavy Construction Heritage Society, as well as a Board member of the Municipal Government Board. In 2018 she was appointed as Vice-Chair to the Civilian Review and Complaint Commission for the RCMP.
Over the years, she has volunteered for and had leadership roles in many organizations such as the Alberta Association of Former MLA’s, Habitat for Humanity, Concordia University of Alberta Board of Governors and Edmonton Events.
Karen is the recipient of numerous awards: the Federation of Canadian Municipalites Roll of Honour, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, Alberta Centennial Medal and was a Beth Israel Synagogue Honouree. Karen is married with a son.
Sources: Bio supplied by Karen Leibovici