Canadian CEO Champions Diversity

Rebecca Shields is the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) York Region and South Simcoe Branch. She is a mental health advocate, philanthropist, and committed community builder who, after many years, has discovered that great planning inspires hopes and dreams.

Shields’ colleagues say she’s a visionary leader who creates transformational impact through bold and innovative solutions. Her leadership over the past four years has positioned the agency as a leader in the sector through a transformational impact model. Its revenue has doubled since 2012. With a staff of 168, last year the agency served 5,518 individuals, up from 2,894 the previous year. It also operated 2,500 groups and made over 100,000 visits to support recovery initiatives.

At CMHA, she champions diversity and inclusion as a key organizational strategy to provide the best service and work experience in one of Canada’s most diverse communities. Shields believes the most important qualities a woman leader should bring to the table is the ability to inspire people, allowing them to bring their full value to their organizations. She uses cultural competency as a cornerstone for community development, innovation and to build and sustain high performing and inclusive teams. “My role is to energize and engage staff, volunteers, donors, and community partners to deliver high quality care,” Shields said.

She reflects that she knew she had the right career fit when it made more sense to refer to herself as the chief enthusiasm officer. “My passion for fighting stigma and promoting mental health, gratitude for my team, and support for our clients and families just made the title fit,” she said. “My circle enables creative and radical thinking that challenges the status quo, driving enhanced performance and more mindful practices,” she explained.

Rebecca has over 18 years of senior leadership experience in a variety of social organizations, including the Executive Director of CMHA Vancouver, Burnaby Branch and Deafblind Services Society of BC, and Director of Development for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.

She was recognized as a Newsmaker of the Year and is the recipient of various awards for leadership in community development, inclusion for persons with disabilities, LGBTQ rights, and for Aboriginal youth at risk. She’s also been appointed to the Region of York Human Services Planning Table, Community Partnership Council, and the Local Immigrant Partnership Council. She is also Co-Chairing a Service Coordination Council with local government to identify optimal ways of streamlining access to and provision of health care in the region. Shields holds a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of British Columbia.