Sandy Vander Ziel wins 2016 WILL Award

December 5, 2016

Women in Law Leadership Award for Service to the Community for all of Alberta


Sandy A. Vander Ziel is a Family Law Lawyer with Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP in Calgary. Sandy was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 2001 and has been practicing family law exclusively since 2002. Sandy is a Mediator, Arbitrator, Collaborative Lawyer and a Dispute Resolution Officer at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary. Sandy’s practice is mainly focused on Alternative Dispute Resolution and she works closely with her client’s to bring finality to their family matters with a focus on the best interests of the children and maintaining a healthy post-separation parenting environment.


Sandy has always been a volunteer and leader in the legal community and in her personal community. Sandy is currently on the Executive of the Canadian Bar Association Family Law Section. Sandy also volunteers with the Legal Education Society of Alberta as an instructor and evaluator for the CPLED Program. In addition, Sandy has been working with Pro-Bono Alberta on a project to develop a legal clinic in a local Calgary hospital. Sandy also serves as the Chair of the Family Law Practice Group at Dunphy Best Blocksom and was the former Chair of the Association for Collaborative Professionals in Calgary.


Sandy’s local community involvement is another one of her real passions. Sandy served as the Chair of the Calgary Youth Justice Society for 7 years until 2013. In her role, Sandy was instrumental in expanding the mandate of the Calgary Youth Justice Society to not just focusing on youth who were in conflict with the law, but, to help launch a program called In the Lead. In the Lead is a program where children who are at risk of being in conflict with the law or who are at conflict with the law are mentored by employees of Cenovus Energy to focus on their leadership abilities. This program has been very successful and since its launch, over 250 youth have graduated from this program. Sandy was honored upon her departure from the Board to have the Sandy A. Vander Ziel Heart of Change Award named in her honour.


Sandy’s more recent involvement is as Chair of the Board of Directors for Sonshine Community Services. Sonshine is a second stage shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Sandy has been involved on the Board since 2007 and was elected into the Chair role in 2012. Sandy’s work as Sonshine is a labour of love that is fuelled by a sincere desire to make a difference in the area of domestic violence and to work to break the cycle for the next generation.


In her role, Sandy was instrumental in raising over 1 million dollars to develop the Sonshine Children’s Centre. The Sonshine Children’s Centre is the first of its kind in North America and provides full-time care and therapeutic interventions to children who have experienced domestic violence and other forms of emotional trauma. This evidence based program works towards breaking the cycle of violence for future generations and Sandy is very proud to have been involved in its design and implementation.


Sandy also serves as an advocate for Sonshine and was the guest speaker at the Children’s Hospital Aid Society Lunch where she shared Sonshine’s passion and the story of the Children’s centre. Sandy also played a pivotal role in advocating the Government for funding to support second stage shelters for abused women. This success was evident in October 2015 when the Government announced funding for second stage shelters.


Outside of her legal and community commitments, Sandy is a devoted Wife and mother to her Husband Philip and her three beautiful children Ilianna, Noah and Ethaniel. Her family is the light of her life and notwithstanding some significant medical issues with her daughter Ilianna over the last 7 years, Sandy continued to devote time and energy to serve the many organizations within her community. Sandy has dedicated her life to assisting the marginalized and those who are often so invisible to many and takes every challenge as an opportunity to make a difference.

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