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Board

West Coast Environmental Law is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.  Board members are appointed at our Annual General Meeting each September.  West Coast's current board members are:

Kat Hartwig, Development Director, Wildsight, Invermere – on board from September 2009

Kat Hartwig was a founding member of the Invermere Branch of the East Kootenay Environmental Society (now Wildsight) and had the volunteer Invermere Branch president position for 10 years while managing her family ranch. Kat was also a Wildsight regional council board member until she started working as a Wildsight program manager in 1997, and she now works as Wildsight’s Development Director.

Kat has been involved in international, national and regional environmental advocacy issues relating to sustainable tourism, endangered species and water resource protection since 1983. With a background in business, Kat has worked to enhance corporate and NGO partnerships for conservation work and to develop shareholders resolutions that encourage environmental policies for public and private companies. She has attended the Triple Bottom Line conferences in Amsterdam and Washington DC, worked with Ethical Funds, Jantzi Sustainability Index and worked in Pembina Institute workshops to help develop criteria for Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) in Canada.

Kat is the Wildsight representative in the partnership with Living Lakes International (Global Nature Fund based in Germany) on behalf of the Columbia wetlands for which Wildsight was able to secure Ramsar status. She is currently developing a Canadian Living Lakes network. Kat traveled to Ottawa on behalf of Wildsight to receive the 2005 Canadian Environmental Award for Conservation in recognition of successful work to protect the regions wildlife and wild land values.

Ms Hartwig holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Guelph, and started her career managing hotels in the ski resort industry. Her current work with Wildsight includes program development and resource support for Climate Solutions for the Kootenays, Columbia Headwater Legacy Program, Classroom With Outdoors, Southern Rockies/Flathead Wild Campaign, and Purcell Transboundary Conservation Plan.


 

Sarah Khan, Lawyer, Henshall Scouten, Vancouver

Sarah began working with Henshall Scouten in November, 2010, where she practices civil litigation.

Prior to joining Henshall Scouten, Sarah worked as a staff lawyer with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre, where she developed and litigated constitutional, administrative law and human rights cases in the areas of income assistance, disability benefits, farmworkers’ rights, employment standards, access to legal aid, residential tenancy, child protection, and debtor assistance.

She has been a regular guest lecturer and presenter at the University of BC and University of Victoria faculties of law, and at Legal Services Society and Law Foundation of BC advocates training conferences.


 

Lisa Matthaus, Provincial Lead, Organizing for Change – on board since September 2010

Lisa joined OFC in April 2009. Prior to this she was with Sierra Club BC for more than ten years, starting as a Forest Policy Analyst and ultimately becoming Campaigns Director overseeing the strategic development and implementation of all conservation campaigns. She has played lead roles in several high profile BC campaigns including forest policy reforms, negotiating Forest Stewardship Council standards for BC and climate initiatives such as BC’s ground-breaking carbon tax. She was also one of the primary leaders on the Great Bear Rainforest campaign for which she received a Wilburforce Foundation award for Outstanding Conservation Leadership (2006). She gained extensive experience with media and government in these roles and earned a strong reputation for constructive collaboration with her ENGO allies.

Lisa has a Masters degree in Environmental and Resource Economics from University College London (London, UK, 1995) and an undergraduate degree in commerce/ finance (McGill). She spent seven years working as an investment banking credit analyst in Toronto and London before joining SCBC in 1998. She was raised in a resource-based community in coastal BC and now lives in Victoria.


 

Nancy McHarg, Vice President, Jim Hoggan & Associates – on board since September 2008

Nancy McHarg is Vice President, Strategic Counsel at Hoggan and Associates, a leading Canadian public relations agency (www.hoggan.com) on environment and sustainability. Nancy provides strategic communications counsel to a variety of BC-based and national organizations. Nancy is actively involved in Hoggan’s sustainability practice and has led the firm’s landmark research initiatives in 2006 and 2009 that explored Canadians’ understanding and attitudes toward sustainability. Over the years, Nancy has worked on a variety of environment-related communications issues working with both corporate and ENGO interests. As a volunteer, Nancy has served on the Board of Directors of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and the executive of the Parent Advisory Council and School Planning Council of her children’s school.


 

Lorene Oikawa, Vice President, BCGEU – on board since September 2008

Lorene is the first Asian Canadian vice president for the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), and is in her third term since first being elected in 2005.

Lorene is a past chair of the BCGEU’s environment committee and works closely with the union’s staff and members on environmental issues. Lorene is also a member of the Sustainable Communities Initiative Advisory Committee, Climate Justice Project Team and a member of the BC Federation of Labour Executive Council and the Canadian Labour Congress’s Human Rights Committee.

As well as being a union spokesperson, Lorene has authored articles on a range of topics including health care, education, child care, poverty, human rights, food security, migrant workers, social media, and the Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF).

Lorene has a BA (UBC) and is a strong advocate of life-long learning. She contributes to the process by facilitating training events within the labour movement and community. She is a part of a multi-union design team that created a climate change workshop for union educators across Canada.

Lorene is a fourth generation British Columbian whose family migrated from Japan in the 1800’s and 1906. Her family’s roots are close to environmental issues from food security to protection of fish habitat (T Buck Suzuki).


 

Richard Overstall, Barrister & Solicitor, Buri, Overstall, Smithers – on board since September 2009

Richard Overstall practices in Smithers, British Columbia with a particular interest in land-use, environmental and aboriginal law.

He received an undergraduate degree in geology and worked for a decade as a mineral exploration geologist in Ireland and western Canada. While subsequently working at farms, sawmills and construction in northwestern BC, he developed a penchant for public interest environmental work. He contributed research and strategic advice to local groups opposing Alcan’s Kemano project, seeking more sustainable logging practices, and seeking less polluting mining practices.

In the mid-1980s, Richard began work with the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en peoples, including coordination of the scientific evidence in the Delgamuukw trial, and advice on the subsequent settlement and treaty negotiations, particularly in the areas of forest and land use. He also helped design a restorative justice program based on indigenous law and practices, as well as education and training programs in fisheries, wildlife surveys and forest ecology. He helped produce and write scripts for two documentary films on the Gitxsan land claim struggle.

Richard obtained his law degree from the University of Victoria in 2000. His general practice has included litigation and policy advice on pesticide judicial reviews, contaminated sites, aboriginal fishing rights, land-use plan negotiations, forest-use practices, and establishing a public-private land-use plan monitoring trust.
He has published peer-reviewed articles on the use and misuse of DNA evidence in criminal trials, the use of the trust as a legal device to reconcile indigenous and western legal orders, and the concept of property in indigenous law as it relates to land and to so-called cultural property. He is currently investigating the close similarity between the legal orders extant in Northwest Europe in the first millennium AD and those on the Northwest Coast of America in the second millennium AD.


 

Christine Scotnicki - on board since September 2012

Christine Scotnicki grew up in Edmonton and obtained her BA from the University of Alberta in 1983. She has practiced law in the interests of Indigenous peoples since attending the University of Victoria law school and being called to the bar in 1989. She resides in Victoria, B.C. 

After  several years working with a downtown Vancouver firm providing general legal services primarily to Bands, Tribal Councils, and several national Aboriginal organizations, Christine began working  with the-then Gitksan & Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council in early 1991.

She became in-house counsel with the Gitxsan Chiefs in November, 1994 and was involved with negotiations at the provincial and federal level as the Chiefs implemented several governance initiatives, notably for community-based self-government, health services, and child welfare.  She advised the Chiefs in treaty negotiations in the post-Delgamuukw era. 

From 1994 until 1997, Christine practiced law part- time while partnering with 2 other women to establish a neighbourhood garden centre on Vancouver’s east side.  Nearly 20 years (and several changes of ownership) later, Figaro’s Garden continues to serve the Commercial Drive neighbourhood.

Since late 2003, Christine has worked for the Gitksan Watershed Authorities and Skeena Fisheries Commission.  GWA is the Gitxsan fisheries program and SFC acts on behalf of  its member Nations the Gitxsan, Gitanyow, Wet’suwet’en, Lake Babine, and Tsimshian First Nations for fisheries and other natural resource issues along the Skeena River.  With increasing development pressures on the territories of the SFC First Nations, her work has increasingly involved issues at the intersection of Aboriginal and environmental law.  


 

Cheryl Sharvit, Barrister & Solicitor - on board since September 2006.

Cheryl Sharvit has a BA from York University (1992), a LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School (1995) and a LLM from the University of Calgary (1999, specializing in Natural Resource and Aboriginal Law). She received several scholarships and awards while completing those degrees. She was called to the bar (BC) in 1999. She is an Associate at Mandell Pinder, and was previously Staff Lawyer at EAGLE, where she also articled. Her practice is focused on Aboriginal law and employment law. She has represented clients at all levels of court, including the British Columbia Supreme Court, British Columbia Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada, and has also appeared before tribunals. Ms. Sharvit taught an environmental law course as a sessional instructor at the University of Calgary, and has published articles concerning environmental law, constitutional law, natural resources law, and Aboriginal rights. She has also been a member of other Boards of Directors, including the False Creek Watershed Society.


 

Cristina Soto, PhD, - on board since September 2008

Dr. Cristina Soto's education has focused on aquatic and marine resource management; she has Bachelors and Masters Degrees in marine biology from the University of Guelph and a multi-disciplinary PhD in Resource and Environmental Management from Simon Fraser University.
Cristina's doctoral thesis examined the barriers to using Traditional and Local knowledge in fisheries management. She chose the topic because this valuable knowledge is still minimally incorporated into current natural resource management and planning. During her studies, Cristina published a research paper on Climate Change and Marine Protected Areas.

Cristina has worked for the Federal, Provincial and First Nation's Governments and most recently as an independent environmental consultant. She also worked in Eastern Indonesia for two years with coastal communities to address issues of cyanide fishing, overfishing, small-scale aquaculture, and community development.

Currently, Cristina is biologist/planner at North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society, facilitating community-based marine planning with five First Nations. Her bicultural heritage (Chilean and Anglo-american) has contributed to her enjoyment of traveling and working with different cultures, particularly indigenous peoples.


 

Pieter van Gils – on board since October 2012.

Pieter van Gils is principal of Headwater Capital Consulting. Prior to founding the consultancy, Pieter was Managing Director of Ecotrust Canada Capital, the investment arm of Ecotrust Canada, a community development organization. He managed the Natural Capital Fund, which invested $12 million in conservation-based enterprises active in BC’s coastal resource sectors. He also led a team of professionals who were engaged as business consultants by coastal resource enterprises.

Pieter came to Ecotrust after working as Investment Manager at Vancity Capital Corporation. He helped write VCC’s business plan and provided subordinated debt to businesses and non-profit organizations in the Lower Mainland. Vancity Capital is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vancity Credit Union, where Pieter spent five years as manager of Community Economic Development. He developed two micro-lending programs targeted at Canada’s poorest neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside.

Before coming to Canada, Pieter worked in London, UK with KPMG’s consulting division. He provided advice to corporate clients regarding transactions and restructuring, as well as financial management services. Pieter holds a Masters degree in Economics from the University of Hull, UK.


 

Tracy Wachmann – on board since September 2010.

Tracy Wachmann became the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law’s first Public Interest Coordinator in June, 2009. As Public Interest Coordinator, Tracy works closely with UBC Law students and faculty members as well as the broader public interest community to support the needs of students who wish to pursue a career in public interest and social justice and to connect those students with the organizations who need them. Tracy also sees her role as creating a focal point for all UBC Law public interest matters and promoting information exchange and opportunities for collaboration.

Tracy obtained her B.A. in communications from Simon Fraser University in 1990, specializing in environmental risk perception. After realizing that she could affect social change more readily through the field of law, Tracy obtained her LL.B. from U.B.C. in 1994. Following a clerkship with the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Tracy articled with a Vancouver litigation boutique firm, where she subsequently practiced general civil litigation and administrative law. In 2001, Tracy chose to become a sole practitioner with a focus on administrative law. Tracy has a background in public interest environmental law in private practice, in association with public interest environmental law organizations and as a consultant with the Provincial Ministry of the Environment. She has also worked very closely with grassroots public interest community groups in such diverse areas as land use planning and community support for families. Tracy is a mother of two children and has tailored her career towards maintaining a sustainable work/life balance.