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ACTRA National Women’s Committee

Who We Are
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What We Do

Who We Are

As a Standing Committee of the ACTRA National Council, the ACTRA Women’s Committee has a mandate to explore the concerns of all female Members, raise awareness of these concerns, and support women both within ACTRA and the industry. Inspired by the commitment to gender equality articulated by the international trade union movement, the ACTRA Women’s Committee has been revitalized for the 21st century.

Heather Allin
Chair, ACTRA Women’s Committee

Get Social


What We Do


The Women’s Committee is always busy! Check out some of the work we are doing through our ‘working groups.’

Women’s Committee members conduct interviews and submit articles to ACTRA Magazine to spread the word about our female Members. Recent issues illustrate some of the work we’ve contributed.

Q&As with ACTRA’s Women of the Year


Noreen Golfman Rita Shelton Deverell Tina Keeper

Summer 2016 coverCatherine MacKinnon

Summer 2015Amanda Tapping

Spring 2014Jean Freeman

Summer 2013Mary Walsh

ACTRA Mag summer 2012Sandi Ross (pg. 26)

Summer 2011Tantoo Cardinal

It came to our attention that women often need encouragement to even consider becoming involved in the political aspects of our union, not to mention governance in general. Our committee provides moral support and encouragement to women considering running for election at the ACTRA Branch and National level. Today, several of our Branches are close to, or have achieved, equal numbers of men and women on their elected councils. Women currently make up over half of the current IPA Bargaining Committee and we have women in some of the most senior leadership positions in our union (including our National President, Ferne Downey, and National Treasurer, Theresa Tova!). But there is always more work to be done.

International Women’s Day
March 8, 2010, marked the first time ACTRA recognized one its leading ladies in recognition of International Women’s Day. ACTRA’s Women’s Committee saluted icon Shirley Douglas for her illustrious and inspiring work as a performer and her unwavering activism and commitment to social justice. Branches of ACTRA also recognized their own celebrated Members. The initiative meant so much to Members that the commitment was made to make this an annual event to honour a member who excels in both her artistic and advocacy achievements.

Other recipients include: Tantoo Cardinal (2011) was honoured by ACTRA’s National Council in Vancouver. She is an appointed member of the Order of Canada (2009) and has been presented with the Eagle Spirit Award for her contributions to the Native Artistic community. Sandi Ross (2012), the first female president of ACTRA Toronto, was honoured for her contributions (click here to watch a fabulous interview with Sandi). Mary Walsh (2013), a member of the Order of Canada (2001) and recipient of ACTRA Newfoundland’s Award of Excellence, 18 Gemini Awards and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, was awarded the honour. Jean Freeman (2014) was honoured for her artistic contribution and advocacy achievements. An accomplished actor and ACTRA Member since 1967 (she was the first actor to join the Saskatchewan Branch), Jean is well-known for the six years she played the Mayor’s grandmother on the hit CTV series, Corner Gas. Actor, director and producer Amanda Tapping (2015) was bestowed the honour for her artistic and charitable work. Amanda is known for her role as Samantha Carter on TV series Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate: Universe. Performer, filmmaker, producer and activist Catherine Joell MacKinnon (2016) received the honour for her inspirational contribution to our entertainment industry. Canadian actor, humanitarian and activist Tina Keeper (2017) was honoured for her work as a dedicated spokesperson on social issues, her far-reaching and powerful humanitarian work, and her deep commitment to the growth and development of Indigenous performing arts in Canada. Canadian artist, broadcaster and television producer/director Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell (2018), was honoured for her pioneering work as a broadcaster, and passion for social justice through her work on industry boards and councils in Canada. Within her union, Rita was responsible for coordinating ACTRA’s earliest study on diversity, Equal Opportunities to Perform, in 1987, and served on the ACTRA Saskatchewan Branch Council and the National Executive in the 1970s and ‘80s. St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival founding director and chair Noreen Golfman (2019) was honoured for her passionate and powerful work on behalf of female actors, writers, producers and directors and her support of culture in Canada.

Start thinking now about which ACTRA sister you would like to see honoured in March 2020! Nomination deadlines will be available in fall 2019. Criteria for selection include the nominee be a living, working member of ACTRA, and that she has a demonstrable history of giving back to our union, our industry and causes of social justice.


ACTRA women have for decades worked to improve work opportunities, address inequalities and change the way women are portrayed on our screens. We have accomplished so much. Here are some of our more recent achievements:

Amendments to Appendix “B” on Gender Equality Adopted
In May 2012, ACTRA’s National Council unanimously approved amendments  to ACTRA’s  Constitution and By-Laws that update a 1986 Appendix on Gender Equality. The new and improved “Appendix B” reaffirms ACTRA’s commitment to gender equality within union governance. All branches have pledged to honour requests to report their progress towards achieving gender equality on their councils, boards and committees. The ACTRA National Women’s Committee is very proud to have worked with our brothers and sisters to accomplish this significant objective.

Adoption of ACTRA Equality Statement
In May 2010, the ACTRA National Women’s Committee won unanimous support from ACTRA’s National Council to adopt a new ACTRA Equality Statement. This inspiring document affirms ACTRA’s commitment to zero tolerance of harassment for ACTRA Members. President Ferne Downey has committed to ensuring this document is read at the start of every National Council meeting. Branches are encouraged to do the same.

Reel Women Seen
A nation-wide collaborative effort by the ACTRA National Women’s Committee, Reel Women Seen is a short film that takes a comedic look at how women are underrepresented in all areas of screen-based media, most notably: as protagonists; behind the scenes in creative, writing and directorial roles; and in key technical roles. While telling the stories of realities faced by women in the film and television industry, the film also shows solutions for change. For more information on this short film, please visit


Gender Equality in Canadian Screen-based Media
Inspired by gender equality work by the International Actors’ Federation (FIA), the Women’s Committee has launched a new initiative. Working with representatives from IATSE, DGC, WGC as well as academics engaged in research on gender, work and unions, this working group’s first task is the collection of reliable statistics. The collected information will be used to report on the status of gender equality in our industry. The ultimate goal is the development of a Gender Equality Checklist for use in pre-production to improve work opportunities for women in our industry and ultimately change the way women are portrayed.

Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen (CUES)
CUES aims to achieve gender equality in the production of screen-based media by raising awareness of the issue and generating discussion within the industry.

Women in View
A national not-for-profit organization dedicated to strengthening gender and cultural diversity in Canadian media both on screen and behind the scenes.


The best initiatives are member-driven. By getting to know the membership and listening to your experiences we can better shape initiatives that support you. Does your ACTRA Branch have a Women’s Committee? Find out by contacting your Branch office, or contact the National Women’s Committee if you would like to get one started.

Send us an email for more information or if you would like to get involved!

bio-HeatherAllinHeather Allin
ACTRA Women’s Committee Chair
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