Gaelene was raised in the Okanagan and lived for many years in different parts of Canada. She learned about residential schools and the impacts of those on Indigenous people while studying in Winnipeg, changing her whole understanding of colonialism and the history of our country.
Using her human resources background, she has taken on executive director roles in a number of social justice organizations and joined the BC First Nations Justice Council in October 2019. Happy to be back in Syilx territory, she is excited to be a part of this transformative work to implement the First Nations Justice Strategy.
As the manager of media relations and special projects for the BCFNJC, Nancy brings her extensive past experience as a journalist, senior government communications manager and issues analyst to her role. As a storyteller, she is thrilled to be supporting an Indigenous-led organization with a massive trail-blazing mandate and is often heard telling others that “we are writing history here.”
In addition to six years of experience supporting a national Indigenous human resources initiative, Nancy’s substantial 30-year career has also included work in strategic communications, media relations, issues management, government affairs, project management and community engagement as well as the chairing of numerous committees.
For 15 years, Nancy also guest-lectured at three BC universities, speaking on strategic communications and media relations. Her issues management methods, focused on transparency, were shared with many criminology students, in particular. She has also provided media training to a wide variety of people and organizations.
Today, Nancy is considered one of Canada’s senior crisis communicators, having led large government public information teams through 11 disasters. As well, she continues to write for a number of magazines and stays involved with the emergency management community.
Nancy’s personal interests include archaeology, science, technology and aviation. She is a licenced commercial pilot.
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).
Melanie is a settler and lawyer, raised and living on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.
Melanie attended the University of British Columbia, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in First Nations studies and later her law degree. Prior to joining the BCFNJC, Melanie articled and practiced criminal defence at a highly regarded litigation firm in Vancouver. Her practice covered a range of areas, including civil forfeiture, drug offences and serious crime.
During law school, Melanie worked with Pro Bono Students Canada to establish a free legal clinic assisting clients with obtaining government identification. She also spent a semester serving clients at the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic. She has worked and volunteered with many non-profits and social justice organizations working on prison justice, drug policy and gender equality.
Melanie’s practice is grounded in a harm reduction and trauma-informed approach. She has many years of experience working in frontline harm reduction work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She has worked in low barrier housing, outreach and at safe injection facilities. She brings a wealth of experience in non-profit service work to this role.
Melanie is humbled and privileged to help advance the work of the BCFNJC in this role.
Renzo is a member of the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation. He was called to the BC Bar in 1996 and the Alberta Bar in 2002. Prior to law, Renzo studied social work and worked as a financial assistance worker with the Province of BC.
His background includes senior positions with Indigenous organizations at the Band and Tribal Council levels and with the Assembly of First Nations’ national office and Alberta regional office. As VP of a new division of Legal Aid BC, Renzo was responsible for Indigenous services and initiatives including the successful expansion of seven new Parents Legal Centres in BC.
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.
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.
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.
Jennifer is Dakelh (Carrier) and a member of Nak’azdli Whut’en (Fort St James, BC). She belongs to the Lusilyoo (Frog) Clan. Jennifer’s mother was the late Melinda Sam. Her grandmother is Rosie Sam, and her grandfather was the late David Sam Sr.
Jennifer grew up as the second oldest in a sibling group of six. Jennifer and her siblings spent much of their childhood years in foster care. Jennifer has always been a fierce and protective big sister and has come to recognize what a powerful impact that an effective and supportive advocate can have. This ultimately led Jennifer to a career in social work and she is currently working towards the completion of a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Northern British Columbia. As a mom to a busy five-year-old boy, Jennifer has come to embrace her Dakelh culture and is raising her son with a strong sense of his identity, extended family and community.
Jennifer is passionate about northern and remote issues and particularly about complex challenges experienced by Indigenous peoples in rural British Columbia. While undertaking her Bachelor of Social Work, Jennifer has come to recognize the significant scope and impacts of colonization, residential schools, and inter-generational trauma.
Jennifer has recognized these impacts both personally and professionally within her own family and community and this has driven her to become a Gladue worker to support those experiencing these impacts and subsequent over-representation in the criminal justice system of Canada.
Nikki is the Virtual Indigenous Justice Centre’s legal assistant, providing administrative support to BCFNJC virtual lawyers throughout BC. She joined the BC First Nations Justice Council in August 2021.
Nikki completed her legal assistant diploma in Calgary, Alberta, at the Bow Valley College in 2006 and has worked in different areas of law with experience in corporate, family, litigation and real estate. She also worked as the Chief and Council secretary for the Tsuu T’ina Nation for a number of years before moving back to Penticton, BC.
She grew up in Kamloops and Penticton before moving to Alberta to pursue her legal career and is a band member of the Tsuu T’ina Nation. Nikki has two wonderful daughters and loves spending time with her family and enjoys playing softball and volleyball.
Darlene Kavka has been an environmental and social justice advocate since the late 1980s. Her volunteer work led her to law school, during which she continued to represent her advocacy clients under the supervision of the UBC Law Students Legal Advice Program.
Following her call to the bar in 2000, Ms. Kavka built a busy family law practice, which grew to include family and child protection legal representation and mediation services. From there she expanded her practice to include parenting coordination and arbitration.
Since 2014, Ms. Kavka’s areas of law practiced have included both family and criminal clients as well as Crown Counsel work in federal prosecutions.
Throughout her career, Ms. Kavka has always maintained her roots in social justice, serving numerous non-profit societies as a volunteer board member. She is most proud of her work with the Phoenix Transition Society in Prince George as well as the Northern John Howard Society of British Columbia headquartered in Prince George, BC, and John Howard Society of British Columbia, where she has served on the boards since 2009.
Taking on the role of staff lawyer at the Prince George Community Legal Clinic is like coming home to her roots. As a member of the BC First Nations Justice Council team, she is excited to serve the community she loves by bringing the depth of her skills and experience to this initiative.
James is a lawyer and advocate with a background in criminal law. Prior to joining the Prince Rupert Indigenous Justice Centre, he was with a criminal law firm in Vancouver representing accused persons across the province. His work has also focused on providing legal services and access to justice for under-served populations, namely as a legal advocate with the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic. James received his law degree from the University of British Columbia.
Michelle’s front-line career started as a housing manager for subsidized housing in Terrace in 2007. Michelle then went on to work as a social justice coordinator at the Penticton Women’s Resource Center from 2011 to 2012.
In 2016, Michelle was approached by a long-time mentor to come and work for her as the poverty law advocate at Terrace District and Community Services. Michelle spent three years there until a position in Kitimat opened up to start a new poverty law advocate program.
Michelle spent two years building the program while working with a wonderful team. In April, Michelle’s grandson was born which helped their family to make the decision to move to Prince George. When the BCFNJC posted the position of legal advocate for their new Community Legal Clinic in Prince George, Michelle knew this was a calling and quickly applied, having been an advocate for the Law Foundation for five years.
Michelle’s passion and interests include helping marginalized individuals find and retain adequate and affordable housing and making sure they have access to justice. Michelle wants to help everyone succeed in all they do one step at a time as well as be a positive connection in the lives of everyone so that they can reach their fullest potential.
During her free time, Michelle enjoys spending time with her wife, three children, grandson, and family. Michelle also enjoys reading, taking walks in nature, camping, fishing, and loves crafting and repurposing items to bring them new life.
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.
As the training and education coordinator, Tina supports the Gladue Services department, to implement Strategy #6 of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy. Tina also volunteers with the Health Standards Organization (HSO) of Canada for the Improving Integrated Care for Youth (IICY) initiative.
Tina has also been a community co-organizer for the annual MMIWG vigil, rallies, teach-ins and discussion panels in Kelowna. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration, focusing on marketing and communications from Okanagan College. She is from the Nisga’a Nation, Village of Laxgalts’ap, House Wilp High Maas and is Ganada (Frog).
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.
Jeanette Newman was born and raised in Penticton, BC, the traditional territory of the Syilx Nation. After spending several years travelling and adventuring she started her journey to become a CPA in 2010 by going back to school at the Okanagan College to obtain her degree. She articled with BDO while in the CPA program and finally became a CPA in 2016.
Jeanette has been with the BCFNJC from the very beginning and is so proud to be a part of all of hard work that has gone into the amazing growth that we have seen. She is excited for the future work that will be done and the impact that the BCFNJC will have throughout BC.
Erin is a Gladue report writer with the Prince George Indigenous Justice Centre, with 12 years of experience writing Gladue reports. Erin is 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.
Walter’s maternal grandmother was Louisa McQuabbie, and his mother was Catherine Quinlan. They were Anishinaabe and the family home was on the Pickerel River. His father, Michael Quinlan, was Irish Canadian.
Over the past 12 years, Walter has managed a wide range of communication projects and priorities for Indigenous nations. He brings insight and respect for Indigenous communities to his work.
Walter is a graduate of Trent University (Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies and Canadian Studies). His interests include guitar and photography.
Debbie was raised and spent the majority of her life in Terrace where all four of her children were born and raised. She was active in hockey, soccer and basketball as a community coach and avid player. Being immersed in the beauty of northwestern BC gave Debbie a deep appreciation of the natural environment – the wind, mountains, rivers and ocean is where she finds solace.
In Debbie’s 30+ years of work, she has always been drawn to work with those marginalized by society and those who have or are experiencing trauma. She is passionate about this work and draws upon both lived experience and professional studies in her efforts towards more fair and just communities.
One of Debbie’s favourite sayings is “some of us will make small ripples, some will make large – the point is to make ripples” borrowed from Canadian icon, June Callwood.
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.
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.
Pamela is the legal assistant with the Prince George Indigenous Justice Centre, providing administrative support to the Prince George IJC staff lawyer and community outreach coordinator.
Pamela was born and spent her childhood years in South Africa before immigrating to Canada with her family in 1994. Pamela moved to Northern BC in 2005 and lives in Prince George with her husband and son. Pamela has 10 years of experience as a legal assistant, with several of those years being focused on the residential school class action lawsuit.
Pamela has completed three years of post-secondary education with Douglas College in the criminology program.
Jenni is the legal assistant for the Prince George Community Legal Clinic, providing administrative support to the Prince George CLC staff lawyer and legal advocate.
Jenni was born and spent her childhood and most of her adulthood in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Jenni moved to Prince George in 2007 to work on the residential school claims and has since made Prince George her home.
As director of Gladue Services, Mitch is responsible for the implementation of Strategy #6 of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy.
Mitch holds a Master’s Degree (with Distinction) in criminology from Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland and a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology and criminal justice from the University of Victoria.
Mitch has worked in various roles in the criminal justice system for the past 15 years, with a consistent focus on restorative justice and capacity building in Indigenous communities.
On a part-time basis, he teaches criminology at Okanagan College in Penticton, B.C., with a specialization in criminological theory and restorative justice.