Cree lawyer, Lisa Abbott, gifted with the Indian name, Thunderbird Woman Who Travels Through Land. She is from the Treaty Six Territory and member of the Pelican Lake First Nation, and a very proud mother of two beautiful indigenous daughters. She feels privileged to be a visitor, who is working and living, in the lower mainland of British Columbia, in the traditional and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), QayQayt First Nation, Kwantlen, q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), Semiahmoo, Tsawwassen First Nations, kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), and Stó:lō Nation.
Lisa earned her LL.B, Bachelor of Laws, from the University of Saskatchewan in 2005 and was called to the Ontario and Saskatchewan Bars in 2010. She has worked for the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) before starting her own law practice, in 2010. For over a decade, she has grounded her legal practice on a deep commitment and passion for access to justice and toward ameliorating the intergenerational impacts of colonization and assimilation.
As a staunch advocate for culturally relevant trauma-informed lawyering, she has assisted hundreds of former students through the Indian Residential and Federal Indian Day School claims processes and represented clients in both Criminal and Family/Child Protection legal systems. She has advocated for her clients at the Provincial Court, Queens Bench and Federal Court levels. Lisa’s legal career, to date, has uniquely prepared her to be a champion for the transformative change envisioned by the BC First Nation Justice Strategy and she is so pleased to join the team as a Staff Lawyer with the Virtual Indigenous Justice Centers.
On her free time, she is exploring local farmers markets, cooking for her adult daughters (who may never move out) or hiking one of the many vast trails in and around the lower mainland Vancouver with her dog, Chewie.
Curtis is an experienced policy analyst and advisor who is committed to supporting First Nations in advancing transformative change within the Canadian justice system and the strengthening of Indigenous justice systems in BC.
Curtis has several years experience working directly with First Nations and First Nations organizations as a consultant and employee. Curtis holds a B.A. (Honours) in political science from Simon Fraser University, and a M.A. in public policy and public administration from Concordia University.
Curtis is honoured to work on the unceded territories of the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), in addition to the Syilx Nation (Westbank First Nation).
Shelley Bevz is Smelqmix from Lower Similkameen Indian Band. She is Sylix Indian and Blackfoot Lakota Cree. Her community is located next to Nighthawk, USA and spans from Vernon, BC down to Colville, Washington.
She has been a CPA since 1992, graduating from the College of New Caledonia in Prince George with a diploma in accounting and finance, attending the School of Chartered Accountancy of BC and Atlantic Canada, including a Certificate in Sustainable Indigenous Communities from Harvard University. Shelley brings 30 years experience in Finance, accounting and taxation in First Nations Government and Economic Development Operations. International tax experience and corporate North America in multiple roles including natural resource, service, and non-profit sectors.
In 2013, her life changed when she lost her brother to suicide. Shelley felt the overwhelming urge to return home and work with her own people. A time of retrospect, healing, and reconnecting with community.
Says Shelley, “To me, home is any Indigenous person as we have that common bond and understand without speaking what it is to have suffered, survived, and thrived through our history. As a knowledge-keeper, it is time to pass this information to others and mentor the way our grandparents mentored us with sharing, showing, and passing knowledge down.”
Shelley has had the opportunity to work with many First Nations in BC and Manitoba. She has also been a facilitator for the CPA Western School of Business and AFOA/CPA Canada, among others, has set up Volunteer Tax Clinics for many non-profit entities and First Nations, and gives back as a financial literacy volunteer.
Says Shelley, “Indigenous people have always dealt with economics, the currency has just changed from currencies familiar to us such as fish, fur, meat, berries, shells, and ribbons – to the paper and cryptocurrencies of this new world. As Indigenous peoples, we now find the balance to walk in both worlds and take back our sovereignty as we develop our own traditional laws through the education of a colonial government so that we are equal with our brothers and sisters from other Nations.”
In closing, Shelley says, “I am excited to be working with BCFNJC, an organization that is truly recapturing our peoples’ spirit and restoring us to our place in the world”.
After graduating from the University of Alberta with a law degree in 1996, Darrin became a member of the Law Society of Alberta in 1997, Saskatchewan in 2012 and B.C. in 2018. He completed the Program on Negotiation at Harvard University in 2015 and completed arbitrator training in 2018 in Vancouver BC.
Darrin has represented indigenous people in hundreds of litigation matters including residential and day school cases, criminal, child welfare and civil matters. Darrin is honored to have been Counsel on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2018. After successfully piloting a project for First Nations by Legal Aid Alberta, acting in house to two tribal governments through managing and operating his own First Nation law firm together with the privilege of listening to Elders, knowledge keepers from across western Canada and his own mother a Residential School Survivor, this has laid a foundation and continues to fuel his passion for Indigenous justice.
Darrin is honored to be helping with what the BCFNJC has been trusted to do. When not working, Darrin enjoys perfecting his mother’s bannock recipe or riding his mountain bike in the Okanagan.
Amanda Carling (she/her) is Métis from Red River, Treaty One. Amanda’s undergraduate studies were in criminology at the University of Manitoba (BA, 2007). Thereafter she joined the JET Programme and spent two years teaching high school English in Tosu, Japan. Amanda attended law school at the University of Toronto (JD, 2012) and articled with Innocence Canada (formerly the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted or AIDWYC). She was called to the Ontario Bar in 2013.
Amanda served as president of the board for Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto from 2014 until 2020. In 2014, Amanda launched Innocence Canada’s National Legal Education Program to forward the organization’s mandate to prevent wrongful convictions. The same year Amanda was appointed by the Attorney General for Ontario to the Debwewin Jury Implementation Committee. In 2016 she returned to the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law as Manager of the Indigenous Initiatives Office and Adjunct Faculty, where she oversaw the institution’s efforts related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action and taught a course on wrongful convictions. Amanda’s work in legal education was recognized by Precedent Magazine in 2020. Amanda has served on the Canada Committee of Human Rights Watch since 2016.
Amanda joined the BC First Nations Justice Council in March 2022 as Senior Policy Counsel. She was called to the Bar of British Columbia in May 2022. Amanda is grateful to live on the unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan peoples with her partner Jesse, son Sam (3.5 years), daughter Joy (10 months) and her first baby, Jake the dog (12 years!!). Amanda is currently the Acting Executive Director of BCFNJC.
Michael Conlin is a proud member of the Syilx Okanagan Nation registered at Okanagan Indian Band. He joined the BC First Nations Justice Council in February 2022 as the Gladue Training and Education Coordinator.
Clara Renault Teixeira Da Costa
Clara Renault Teixeira Da Costa
Clara is a Brazilian lawyer who moved to Canada in 2021 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public Policy and Global Affairs, in the University of British Columbia. After learning about the colonial impacts in the lives of Indigenous people in Canada, Clara became interested in learning more about First Nations history, culture, laws, and traditions. Having the opportunity to work as a policy analyst with BCFNJC is a great honor and an amazing learning experience for Clara.
Clara worked as an intern at the Prosecutor’s Office of Underaged Infractions, where she had the opportunity to get to know the socio-educational system. Worked as an Institutional Modernization Advisor at the Penitentiary Administration Secretariat of the State of Maranhão, one of the poorest states in Brazil, having followed the implementation of measures imposed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights within the prison units of that state, which have already been considered the most violent in Brazil. She also has experience as teacher for children and teenagers living in the Brazilian favelas. Clara’s main interests are human rights, children’s and teenager’s rights, and gender equality.
Clara feels honored to live, study and work on the traditional unceded territories of the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), in addition to the Syilx Nation (Westbank First Nation).
Sam Ens was born in Prince George, BC, and continues to live, work and play in the traditional territories of the Lheidli T’enneh peoples. Sam enjoys winter and summer recreational activities and the easy access to mountain biking, skiing and abundance of lakes and outdoor activities in BC. He spent time growing up in both the Okanagan and Cariboo regions of BC and continues to have family in both regions.
Sam studied justice at Royal Roads University where his research focused on the over-representation of Indigenous people and systemic racism and prejudice in the justice system in Canada. He identifies as Metis and understands both Indigenous and settler worldviews. Sam has 30+ years experience working in the adult and youth justice systems, child welfare, homelessness, supportive recovery and supported housing focusing on services by and for Indigenous people. Sam is enthusiastic to be a part of the implementation of the First Nations Justice Strategy.
Lorna comes to the BCFNJC with a strong interest in criminal law and parent-side child protection, bringing with her an understanding of how colonialism continues to perpetuate violence on her clients. Prior to being a lawyer, Lorna was a forensic linguist, whose work examined how Indigenous clients experienced the criminal system, from arrest to conviction, through to incarceration.
She is the author of Communicating Effectively with Indigenous Clients, and Aboriginal Legal Services Publication. It is available at the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia.
Stephanie is the Legal Assistant with the Prince George Indigenous Justice Centre, providing support to the staff Lawyer. She has worked in a variety of different legal fields and is honored to bring her knowledge and experience to the BCFNJC to assist her community and its residents on implementing the Justice Strategy.
Being of both Ts’il Kaz Koh (Burns Lake) and Vechigen (Switzerland) decent, Stephanie enjoys learning and celebrating the similarities and differences of both her cultures. She brings this joy of exploration and discovery to her new life in Prince George on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Lheidli T’enneh peoples.
Ashkaughn was born in Montréal and grew up in Victoria BC. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Victoria and earned his law degree in Australia in 2019. During his time in law school, Ashkaughn interned at a criminal law firm in Queensland and was Vice President of a non-profit organization on the Gold Coast assisting other non-profits and charitable organizations. Through his time in Australia and work in Canada as a legal professional, Ashkaughn witnessed the intergenerational impacts of colonialism on the Indigenous peoples of Canada as well as Australia.
Ashkaughn completed his articles with the BC First Nations Justice Council and was called to the Bar of British Columbia in December 2022. He joins the BCFNJC as a Staff Lawyer for the Virtual Indigenous Justice Centre. Ashkaughn is honoured for the privilege to actively participate in the vision of the BCFNJC to promote access to justice for Indigenous communities of BC and more effectively protect the rights of clients experiencing injustices that have spanned generations.
Outside of his legal career, Ashkaughn is an avid swimmer and has trained and competed at the international level alongside Canadian Olympic medallists. He also enjoys surfing and has surfed on Vancouver Island, California, Hawaii, and throughout the east coast of Australia.
Marie joined the BC First Nations Justice Council in August 2020, as a legal assistant for the Prince Rupert Indigenous Justice Centre. She supports the staff lawyer in the area of criminal defence and child protection matters. Marie is responsible for the efficient management of client files, office organization and the securing of good client service.
Marie is a trained paralegal experienced in real estate, personal injury, ICBC defence cases, corporate files as well as wills and estate administration. She obtained her diploma in paralegal at CDI College and is a member of the BC Paralegal Association. In 2007, she was awarded a caregiver certificate through the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Marie continues to upgrade her skills set by taking courses at CLEBC.
She enjoys cooking, learning and exploring new recipes from various ethnicities. She plays music regularly, watches stand-up comedy shows and believes in finding therapeutic ways to maintain a calm, tranquil yet high-spirited mindset.
Kimberly Gee is a practicing lawyer in BC and serves the BCFNJC in the role of Counsel, Information Management. Records and information are key assets for every organization that require management in accordance with industry standards.
Brenna is a band member and elected councillor for the Gitxaala Nation. She joined the BC First Nations Justice Council as a Gladue report writer at the Prince Rupert Indigenous Justice Centre. In this role, she will be responsible for supporting Indigenous people in the criminal justice system by providing the courts with a report that outlines an individual’s life circumstances, Gladue factors and systemic barriers. Alternatives to incarceration will be identified that can assist with healing.
Brenna has an extensive work history in health and justice. She graduated from the University of the Fraser Valley with an Associate of Arts degree and a certificate in Indigenous Films, Maps, Rights and Land Claims. Brenna continues to take courses towards obtaining her Bachelor of Arts degree where she has declared a double extended minor in criminal justice and history. She takes great pride in building and maintaining healthy working relationships with people of all backgrounds.
Brenna enjoys the outdoors, taking in activities like kayaking, camping and hiking. She also enjoys participating in cultural activities such as traditional drumming and singing and is always eager to listen and learn of her nations traditional laws as well as the Gitxaala language Sm’algyax.
Lisa Joe is dedicated towards promoting and fostering the spirit of healing and well-being of all. Building strong, authentic partnerships has been a cornerstone of her career, and her approach to providing technical assistance is always one of respect, trust, and a shared vision for success.
Her traditional shared Coast Salish name is, “P’gaaltaanut” and she is a member of the Penelakut Tribe. Her mother was late Rosemary (Joe) married to Darrel Modeste and her late father was late Ramsey Alphonse Sr. of the Coast Salish people located on Southern Vancouver Island.
Lisa Joe served as a former elected leader of the Penelakut First Nation (2006-2010). She also served as the BC First Nations volunteer Assembly of First Nations Women’s Council Representative for one term. Lisa graduated with her Bachelor of Arts, from the University of Victoria, in 2015.
She brings over 15 years’ combined expertise in human resource development, organizational capacity development, governance, policy development.
Lisa is an avid outdoors person and bird photographer. She has three children and currently lives, works, and resides in the traditional territory of the Lekwungen and Wsanec Peoples of the Greater Victoria Region.
Chantelle is one of the Regional Human Resources Managers for the BC First Nation’s Justice Council. She is grateful to work out of the head office in Westbank that is located on the ancestral, traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx Nation.
Having worked in Human Resources since 2012, she is honored to bring her experience to support the BCFNJC in a way that aligns with and supports the strategy, culture and values.
Chantelle earned her diploma in Human Resource Management from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, AB. She is a General Member of Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of BC & Yukon (CPHR) and an Associate Member of AFOA Canada.
Chantelle’s Indigenous background is on her father’s side. Her family belongs to Spô’zêm (Spuzzum) First Nation located in Nlaka’pamux territory. Her father has represented the Spuzzum community as Chief for over a decade. Growing up she has spent many hours with her family out on the land. In her spare time, she still enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors and on the land with friends and family
Anna is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation with Scots Métis roots in Saskatchewan. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in First Nations and Indigenous Studies from the University of British Columbia. Anna recently completed her first year in the joint common law and Indigenous legal orders program at the University of Victoria. She has a background as a youth worker supporting Indigenous youth as they age out of B.C’s child welfare system, and in journalism where she covers Indigenous child welfare issues. Anna is the mother of three Indigenous children, and gratefully resides on the unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
Charlene was born and raised in Prince Rupert in the unceded Territory of Tsimshian (Ts’msyen) Nation. Charlene is a member of the Metlakatla Band, which is one of the seven communities in the Ts’msyen Nation. She is married to a wonderful husband, and they are blessed with three beautiful children.
Charlene holds a lot of respect for elders and values their knowledge and wisdom that they carry and willingly share. Whether they are from her own community or from another Indigenous community, their presence orders her attention and respect. She also believes that the Indigenous youth are important to the vitalization of Indigenous culture, language, values and beliefs.
Charlene believes the knowledge and wisdom each Indigenous community holds, comes from their lived experiences, along with acquiring knowledge through the educational or professional institutes. Each individual community is unique to their culture, language and their individual stories. She has always had a passion to serve Indigenous people and has worked in the capacity to support people that are vulnerable and marginalized by institutions and society.
Charlene joined the BCFNJC in July, 2021, as a Gladue worker, at the Prince Rupert Indigenous Justice Centre. Her role as a Gladue worker is in the capacity to help facilitate Indigenous people at various criminal justice system stages. She also helps to facilitate tangible individual client healing plans to address their specific needs. Charlene works towards the individual’s strengths and builds on their positive characteristics, to promote their own supports for their health, safety, self-identity and resilience.
Charlene looks forward to serving the Indigenous people and being part of the BCFNJC in reforming justice for Indigenous people as a Gladue worker.
Kitty (Mazaku) Mueller
Kitty (Mazaku) Mueller
Kitty started working at the age of 14 in the local hotels and, during this time, she learned many valuable life lessons that she carries with her today.
Kitty has also worked in the healthcare field for 25 years, as a certified care aide, and spent the last ten years at Prince George Hospice House.
Always an advocate for those that need it, Kitty also worked at St. Vincent de Paul drop-in center and the Fire Pit Cultural drop-in center, feeding our homeless brothers and sisters and giving hugs when needed.
Erin brings over 12 years of experience in Gladue to the BCFNJC. Originally from the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, she grew up in Houston and moved to Prince George when she was 11. Erin has attended the College of New Caledonia studying criminology and social work before moving on to the University of Northern British Columbia, focusing her studies on social work.
Erin has been involved with several organizations in the Prince George community with a focus on serving members of the Prince George Indigenous community. She brings her passion and dedication to this new role for the Indigenous Justice Centre. She spends her free time dedicated to her family, husband and two children. She enjoys camping, fishing, kayaking and spending time outdoors.
Maiya has a lifetime of being a geek, at first fixing the ancient and enchanting world of microwave-sized desktop computers to today’s supporting of the tiny connected creatures that live on our hand.
She loves spending time with horses who magically clear her mind, preparing her for the next event on the horizon.
Although she earned a BA in Justice related Studies from Royal Roads University and accomplished the Legal Administrative Assistant Certificate from Capilano University, she has found sustaining a continuing education throughout different subject areas just awesome in understanding the world around us (rumour has it she has a soft spot for teachers).
Maiya arrives to BCFNJC as part of a journey to be a better person, live a meaningful life, and be as helpful as possible to the First Nations communities of BC as one of their Legal Assistants within Merritt’s Indigenous Justice Center.
Stephanie is a certified paralegal with the Virtual Indigenous Justice Centre and works from the head office in Westbank providing legal support to the Virtual lawyers.
Stephanie was born and raised in Kitimat, B.C. and is a member of the Haisla Nation. She moved to the Okanagan in 2003 and is thankful to live on the ancestral and unceded traditional territory of the Syilx Nation.
Stephanie has worked in the legal field since 2005 and obtained her Paralegal Certificate with Capilano University in 2011. She has worked in a variety of different legal fields and is excited to bring her knowledge and experience to the BCFNJC and to be part of the implementation of the First Nations Justice Strategy.
In Stephanie’s spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, and enjoying the many outdoor activities the Okanagan has to offer. She has one daughter that keeps her busy with her own extracurricular activities and together they enjoy learning and exploring their culture and implementing these teachings into their daily lives.
Amery was born and raised in Matsqui (Abbotsford) on the traditional and unceded territory of the Sto:lo Nation. He grew up within one block of the Matsqui First Nation not understanding why many of his friends who were “Indians” lived on this land called a reserve. This was not something that was taught in conventional school curriculum. Even though Amery grew up within a 10-minute drive of the St. Mary’s Indian Residential School in Mission, BC, he did not come to understand the horrors that Indigenous children faced when attending until much later in life.
In 2005, Amery moved with his young family to Merritt on the traditional and unceded territory of the Nlaka’pamux People. After tragedy struck his family with the death of their son Matthew, Amery sought out a career change and entered the social work degree program at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. It was in this time that Amery learned the true history of Indigenous Peoples in this land and the atrocities perpetuated against them, including ongoing systemic racism in criminal justice, child welfare, healthcare and so on.
Amery and his family identify as Metis and try to immerse themselves in local Metis and First Nations activities as much as possible. Amery approaches this work with two-eyed seeing, drawing on his lived experience as the descendant of white settlers and his extensive experience working with and living within Indigenous communities. Amery has spent the past decade working within poverty law advocacy, child welfare, homelessness, youth addictions and supportive recovery focusing on services by and for Indigenous people.
Amery is proud to be part of the dynamic BCFNJC team that is poised to affect a major paradigm shift in justice services for Indigenous Peoples in this country.
Jeff Shidei’s parents immigrated to Toronto from Japan. Jeff attended York University in Toronto to obtain his undergraduate degree before earning his Bachelor of Laws at the University of Saskatchewan. Jeff has practiced in the areas of civil litigation, property law disputes, municipal law, human rights violations, family law, and child protection during his 13 years in private practice within the city of Kamloops, located on the unceded territory of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc.
Now, living and working on the traditional territory of Lheidli T’enneh, and focusing on providing legal and non-legal services to members of the Indigenous communities within and surrounding Prince George, Jeff is grateful for the opportunity to advance the goals of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy and provide practical assistance and better outcomes for those members dealing with the criminal justice or child protection systems.
After earning her undergraduate degree from UNBC in Prince George, Rachel obtained her law degree from the University of Manitoba’s Robson Hall in Winnipeg. Rachel then returned to Prince George where she completed her articles. Called to the bar in BC in 2007, she commenced private practice the following year in Winnipeg, representing clients for many years primarily in the field of criminal defence. In 2015 Rachel opened a law office in the northern city of Thompson Manitoba. As part of that practice Rachel represented people charged with criminal offences in numerous First Nations communities in the surrounding area. Her work in the north exposed her to the harsh reality of life in Canada for the people in the communities she served and gave her a passion for true justice.
Rachel is excited to do her part to help increase access to justice for Indigenous people with the BC First Nations Justice Council, and to get involved in her new home community of Merritt where she will be the staff lawyer at the Merritt Indigenous Justice Centre.
Sandra Staats has enjoyed a varied legal career. Spanning more than 27 years, she has practiced in the areas of criminal, family, child protection, poverty, general civil litigation and Aboriginal law. She has represented clients in both the Provincial and Supreme Court of BC as well as the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Between 2003 and 2017, Sandra practiced primarily in the area of Indian Residential School litigation. She assisted with the negotiation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, represented claimants with their claims for abuse suffered at Indian Residential School and assisted as co-counsel for Independent Counsel, appearing in the Ontario Superior Court, Ontario Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada in an action to ensure that the confidentiality of residential school claimants was protected and that the release of records in residential school claims could only be done with the claimant’s consent.
Taking her role as a legal counsel seriously, she takes the time to listen and communicate with her clients as much as possible to ensure that they understand the legal process and that she provides effective legal representation.
E. Condesa Strain is from the lands and waters of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Syilx (Okanagan) and Secwepemc peoples. She grew up in the territory of her q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie) and qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ (Kwantlen) relatives. She is a proud mother of two children.
Condesa earned her Bachelor of Arts in Applied Criminology with Honours from Douglas College in 2018 and earned her Juris Doctor Degree from the Peter Allard School of Law in 2021. During her education she became passionate about the effects of colonialism on indigenous people and their contact with the criminal justice system. In 2020 Condesa worked as a student clinician at the Indigenous Community Legal clinic. And in 2022 she completed her articles with the Provincial Crown.
She cares deeply about making the process more relatable for clients. She is committed to bringing Respect, Reciprocity, and Humility into her practice.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family in nature and playing rugby in Vancouver with her club the Scribes.