As the daughter of a cleric and a long-time member of Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St., where she has held several leadership positions, Marg Creal brings a deep understanding of church life to her new role as chancellor of the diocese.
Ms. Creal became the chancellor on Jan. 1, succeeding Canon Clare Burns. The chancellor is the chief canon lawyer of the diocese and gives advice to the diocesan bishop.
“I’m excited and a little bit nervous,” she says. “There are very big shoes to fill and lots of different things to learn. But I’ve been watching and observing and been part of the mix as a vice-chancellor, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Ms. Creal comes from a long line of clergy. Her father, the Rev. Michael Creal, is an active member at Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, having recently served as an honorary assistant, and both her uncles and a grandfather were clerics. Being a “PK” (preacher’s kid) will help inform her decision-making as chancellor, she says.
“I certainly knew when I was growing up what the pressure was like – and still is – and I’ve observed the pressures on the spouse of the cleric as well. So I think I have a pretty good understanding of what kinds of sacrifices that families make in the Church.”
As a member of Church of the Redeemer for the past 25 years, she has served as churchwarden, co-chair of the governance committee and chair of human resources. During the pandemic, she was vice-chair of the parish’s board of management.
Just over two decades ago, Ms. Creal chaired the parish selection committee that brought the Rev. Andrew Asbil to Redeemer as its incumbent. He served there for 15 years before becoming the rector of St. James Cathedral and dean of Toronto in 2016 and then Bishop of Toronto in 2019.
Although she hadn’t volunteered in the Church at the diocesan level, she didn’t hesitate to accept Bishop Asbil’s invitation to become the next chancellor upon Canon Burns’ retirement from the position. “When you get asked, you say yes unless there’s a good reason not to,” she says. “When Bishop Andrew asked me, I had no choice. I look forward to working with him again.”
She admits the learning curve has been steep but she has been well supported by the diocese’s team of vice-chancellors. “I feel good that there are so many vice-chancellors who know lots about different areas. This isn’t all about me. It’s about the chancellor team.” Helping her are vice-chancellors Canon Paul Baston, Canon Brian Armstrong, ODT, Mark Hemingway, Gail Smith and John van Gent.
In addition to being a wife, mother and grandmother, Ms. Creal is a lawyer with a background in criminal law. She was an assistant crown attorney in Toronto for many years, “doing everything under the sun.” Among her achievements, she did a lot of work in the early days of using science and DNA in prosecutions. She was on the first child abuse legal team in Canada and was one of the people who helped form Ontario’s mental health courts, which are designed to deal with accused persons who are experiencing mental health difficulties with understanding and sensitivity. She was co-counsel to Ontario’s coroner in the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, a teenager who died in custody in 2007. She was also counsel to the coroner in an inquest into the death of two young men in Kashechewan, a First Nations community on the James Bay coast.
Since 2015, she has been the chair of the Consent and Capacity Board, a job she loves. “It’s a great board with wonderful people, it does important work with vulnerable parties and it’s fast moving,” she says.
The Consent and Capacity Board is a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal that operates at arm’s length from the Ministry of Health under the authority of the Health Care Consent Act. The board convenes hearings and makes decisions under six acts, including the Health Care Consent Act, the Mental Health Act, the Substitute Decision Act, the Personal Health Information Protection Act, the Child Youth and Family Services Act and the Mandatory Blood Testing Act. Hearings are adjudicated by members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in panels of one, three or five. Hearings convene within seven days of an application and decisions are issued within one day of the conclusion of a hearing.
She says her faith has always played a role in her work. “It came into play in many areas – the mental health court, in particular. As the chair of the Consent and Capacity Board, I don’t do hearings but I’m certainly involved in decision-making, so my faith comes into play in terms of a deeper understanding of what people are going through, a developed sense of empathy and compassion. So yes, I think my faith has really been important in my work. You can’t extricate faith from your work. At least I can’t.”
She says she’s looking forward to serving the Church in a new way as chancellor. “It’s a nice segway for me, having worked at the parish level for so many years, to see things from a different perspective, and so far so good. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve met such wonderful people.”