High Ground 2023 Conference Coordinator
Michaela is a proud generalist with the kind of wide-ranging, Millennial-specific work experience that forever befuddles her grandparents. Since graduating Quest University—Canada’s unique experiment in liberal arts education—her professional life has been anchored by a passion for community engagement and gathering, with specific interests in climate work, youth engagement, urban planning, and arts and culture. Past work includes running climate labs, municipal elections outreach, events, and communications for CityHive; supporting values-driven communications campaigns with Ideacamp; facilitating zero-waste workshops in elementary classrooms with Elements Society; and convening virtual roundtables and discussions with the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria. Michaela is also a musician, songwriter, and recording artist signed to 604 Records.
Events and Communications Coordinator
Juliana first joined the Columbia Institute in early 2022 as a Digital Media Intern and now serves as the Events and Communications Coordinator. She studied Natural Resources Conservation at the University of British Columbia. She has returned to the University as a Communications & Knowledge Translation Assistant at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm. Connect with Juliana via email.
Judy Phipps (pronouns She/Her), comes to us as a member of Component 7 (Local 703) and a BCGEU member for over two decades. She was elected to her first term as Executive Vice-President at the 2021 Constitutional Convention. While serving as EVP, Judy’s priority will be assisting the membership, and encourages you to reach out to her. Open door policy!
Prior to becoming an EVP, Judy’s 40 year work history has encompassed working within a variety of marginalized environments. Most recently, Judy worked as Support Staff in the Broadcast and Media Communications department at BCIT’s Burnaby Campus where she served as a Steward, fervently advocating for her co-workers. She was also a member of BCIT’s Anti-Racism Working Group, assembled to create change and policy at BCIT, which ensures education, raising awareness and ensuring an inclusive learning environment for all.
Judy is deeply passionate about equity, human rights, anti-racism and the treatment of people. This motivated her to produce the video “Moving Forward: Let’s Talk Anti-Racism”, which featured two high profile BCIT Alumni sharing their unique lived experiences as IBPOC folks. For her years of service and dedication in this regard, she received the BCIT Inclusivity Award.
Judy is also a member of the BCGEU’s Roundtable for Workers of Colour, and resides on the unceded traditional territories of Qayqayt First Nation (New Westminster).
Arzeena Hamir is Area B Director on the Comox Valley Regional District and runs Amara Farm, a certified organic farm the Comox Valley. She obtained her BSc in Crop Science from the University of Guelph and her Master’s Degree in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of London, England. She helped to launch the Richmond Farm School, Mid Island Farmer’s Institute, and the Merville Organics Grower Co-op to support the farming and food sector. @arzeena
Isabella joined the Columbia Institute as an Associate in early 2021. Prior to this, she worked in the experiential education industry at the Council on International Educational Exchange placing university and college students in academic placements across Canada. Isabella is currently a student in the Sustainable Business Leadership program at BCIT. Connect with Isabella via email.
Ela Esra Gunad is a long-time advocate for social justice and human rights. She created award-winning education programs and has run advocacy campaigns that transformed government policies and practices and informed institutional changes on issues relating to human rights, women’s empowerment, minorities, migrant justice, and democratic governance. Recently, Ela started the #LostVotes Campaign with young leaders advocating for permanent residents to vote in municipal elections in BC. She is the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Officer at Hospital Employees’ Union. Ela studied international relations, global advocacy, public relations and holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights Law.
Rhiannon (she/her) is Musqueam and a much-sought-after speaker who is well known for asking tough questions in a manner that encourages engagement and dialogue. She is actively working to create a more equitable world for all. She has been working with children, youth, and families for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Professionally, she has worked with Indigenous youth and families, with overarching themes of her work being Decolonization and Reconciliation. In 2014, she was the first Indigenous person elected to the Delta Board of Education. While not successfully re-elected, she was inspired to launch a consulting firm with her running-mate, Andrea Hilder, to continue to do the important work.
Gaetan’s love of everything urban brought him to hundreds of cities in 30 countries. An urban planner originally from Québec City, he received a Governor General’s Medal for his humanitarian work in Sarajevo. During his time as City Manager in Port Moody, the city received numerous awards including the International Livable Communities Award. Gaëtan was also Chief Planner for Metro Vancouver. As author of “Time for Cities,” he advocates for a better deal for cities. He is co-author of Columbia Institutes reports “Who’s Picking Up the Tab? Federal and Provincial Downloading Onto Local Governments” and “Back In House: Why Local Governments Are Bringing Services Home.” He is CEO of CityState.ca.
Keith is a policy analyst who has worked at all three levels of government, for two public sector unions and as a private consultant. His work has been deeply focused on municipal services and finance, on broader issues related to privatization and on government transparency. He has served on the national and BC boards of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Board of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. Keith has authored presentations for a wide range of organizations, including the Canadian Institute, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the BC Municipal Finance Authority and fact-finding missions from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the Australian Parliament. Keith holds a Masters of Public Administration from Queen’s University. Keith was the lead author on our report Back In House: Why Local Governments Are Bringing Services Home, and, most recently, Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Public’s Right to Know, which examines the proposed Bank, and government legislation that prevents public access to information. He has also penned numerous op-ed pieces for Canadian mainstream newspapers with our Executive Director, Charley Beresford.
Public Policy Researcher
Blair is a public policy researcher based in Vancouver. Blair is currently co-chair of Canada’s national Trade Justice Network. Blair was President of the Transportation Association of Canada from 1999-2001. During the 1990’s, he was a senior administrator in the B.C. public service, serving variously as Deputy Minister of Transportation and Highways, CEO of the BC Transportation Financing Authority and Deputy Minister of Employment and Investment. He was senior research staff at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) untill 2012. While at CUPE, Blair focused primarily on local government issues as well as privatization, energy, water services, green jobs and free trade.
Robin has co-authored “For the Love of Nature: Solutions to Restoring Biodiversity” in the Going for Green Leadership series, sharing her perspective on leadership in biodiversity. This perspective stems from 30+ years experience working as an educator, activist scholar and filmmaker. It also stems from extensive work with indigenous people in Mexico and Tibet, facilitation of community development processes in Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala and BC, and participatory action research with the Rainforest Solutions team that negotiated the protection of the Great Bear Rainforest, a collaborative model led by Coastal First Nations.
Hood has a PhD in global education, specializing in curriculum development. She authored UNICEF’s, Growing Strong that has been translated into several languages and was the curriculum designer for the innovative indigenous program, Guiding Spirit. She was a Research Associate on the “Coasts under Stress Research Alliance” from 2001-2004, where she focused on a traditional knowledge research initiative. She also coordinated regional community planning, and learning community initiatives for the BC Ministry of Community Development. In 2005 she coordinated over more than 166 community initiatives to support the reconstruction efforts after the SE Asian Tsunami for the Canadian Red Cross. She has taught at the University of Victoria and held research positions at Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. She was also the Director of the Community Based Research Institute at Vancouver Island University.