Our board of directors

Legal Aid BC is governed by a nine-member board of directors. The board is governed by policies and bylaws that reflect established best practices. Under its bylaws, the board's role is to "ensure the effective governance of the organization through setting direction, monitoring performance, and hiring and supporting the executive director."

Of our nine board members:

  • five are appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Attorney General, and
  • four are appointed by the Law Society of BC after consultation with the executive of the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association.

The Legal Services Society Act outlines the need for the board as a whole to have a range of knowledge, skills, and experience in such areas as:

  • business management and the financial affairs of public and private sector organizations;
  • law and the operation of courts, tribunals, and alternative dispute resolution processes;
  • the provision of legal aid;
  • BC’s cultural and geographic diversity; and
  • the social and economic circumstances associated with the special legal needs of people with low incomes.

The board establishes three committees to help it carry out its responsibilities:

  • The Executive Committee, which is headed by the board chair and consists of at least three other board directors, and holds all the powers of the board between meetings.
  • The Finance Committee, which makes recommendations on Legal Aid BC's finances, funding, fiscal allocations, and risk management.
  • The Stakeholder Engagement Committee, which recommends ways to strengthen the organization's relationship with key stakeholders in the justice system.

The chair, in consultation with our chief executive officer, appoints the members of these committees, unless the board directs otherwise. Specific inquiries should be directed to the corporate secretary.

Board governance practices

Legal Aid BC is committed to strong corporate governance practices that enable public accountability and transparency. We adhere to the governance principles established by the Board Resourcing and Development Office (BRDO) and are in full compliance with its guidelines.

To maintain excellence in board governance, we review our governance framework regularly to ensure it meets Legal Aid BC's ongoing business needs while being consistent with recognized best practices.

The following board practices documents are in PDF.

Compensation disclosure statements

As required by the Financial Administration Act, under a Treasury Board Directive, Legal Aid BC discloses board remuneration annually: 2019/20 Board Remuneration Disclosure Statement.

Our board members

Meet the board:

Jean P. Whittow, QC

Jean P. Whittow, QC

Chair, Board of Directors
Chair, Executive Committee
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Jean is associate counsel with the Vancouver firm of Sugden, McFee & Roos LLP. Her practice is focussed on administrative law and professional regulation. She acts as counsel in investigations and hearings conducted by regulatory bodies, which she advises on topics such as legislation, scope of practice, privacy/disclosure, conflicts and design/review of regulatory processes. Jean formerly held a senior management position with the Law Society of British Columbia, the regulatory body for BC lawyers.

Jean is a group leader of the Law Society’s Inns of Court Program, which gives junior barristers an opportunity to discuss issues with senior lawyers. She was a member of the Law Society’s Trust Assurance Review Task Force and Disclosure Privacy Task Force. She is a frequent speaker on professional regulation and ethics. Jean received her law degree from the University of British Columbia in 1983 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2001.

Karen Christiansen

Karen Christiansen, CPA, CA, FCA, FCPA

Chair, Finance Committee
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Karen is a partner and business advisor in MNP’s Kelowna office. Drawing on more than 20 years of experience, Karen delivers a full range of business advisory and assurance solutions to help private enterprise clients, including business owners, real estate developers and professionals, achieve their goals and meet their regulatory, financing and governance requirements. She prides herself on her ability to provide the expertise her clients need to effectively manage and grow their business.

In 2002, Karen was awarded the Early Achievement Award by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia (ICABC) for her contributions to the profession and outstanding accomplishments. In 2012, she was honoured with a fellowship (FCPA, FCA) from ICABC. In 2015, she became a fellow of Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC). Karen is chair of CPABC’s Member Recognition Committee and Search Committee.

Celeste Haldane

Celeste Haldane, QC

Chair, Stakeholder Engagement Committee
Member, Executive Committee
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Celeste Haldane was appointed to her second term as Chief Commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission in April 2020. Prior to this she served as an elected Commissioner for three two-year terms commencing in 2011.

Celeste is a practising lawyer and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2019. She holds a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Constitutional Law from Osgoode Hall Law School (York University), and a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) and Bachelor of Arts from UBC. In 2015, she began her doctorate in Anthropology and Law at UBC. 

The provincial government appointed Celeste to the Legal Services Society (now Legal Aid BC) where she served as Chair. She recently completed six years on the UBC Board of Governors and continues to serve on the UBC Indigenous Engagement Committee as the past Chair. Celeste is a Director of the Brain Canada Foundation and the Musqueam Capital Corporation.  She is an active member of both the Canadian Bar Association and the Indigenous Bar Association. She is an alumna of The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.

Celeste is a member of the Sparrow family from Musqueam and is Tsimshian through Metlakatla. She is the proud mother of three and grandmother of two.

Allan P. Seckel, QC

Member, Finance Committee
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Allan P. Seckel is the Chief Executive Officer of Doctors of BC. Previously, Allan was a senior public servant, first as Deputy Attorney General for British Columbia (2003-09); and later as Cabinet Secretary, Head of the Public Service and Deputy Minister to the former Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell (2009-11). A lawyer by profession, Allan practised with a major Vancouver law firm. In 1983-84 he was Law Clerk to The Chief Justice of British Columbia, the Hon. Nathan Nemetz. He is co-author of two legal texts, including one on the Rules of Court (with James MacInnis).

Allan has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) degree with joint honours in economics and commerce from Simon Fraser University, and a law degree from the University of Victoria, where he was the Law Society Gold Medallist. After being called to the bar in 1985, he attended Gonville & Caius College at Cambridge University as a Commonwealth Scholar, earning a Masters of Law degree. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2003 and earned his Institute of Corporate Directors, Director designation in 2013.

Allan is active in his community and has served on several charitable organizations’ boards. He is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors of Covenant House Vancouver. Allan recently chaired a commission on congestion road pricing in Metro Vancouver on behalf of TransLink and the Mayors’ Council.

Dinyar Marzban, QC

Dinyar Marzban, QC

Vice-Chair, Board of Directors
Member, Finance Committee
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Dinyar Marzban is a senior partner with Jenkins Marzban Logan LLP. He practises in the areas of family law and mediation. Dinyar was called to the BC bar in 1982, and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2004. He is an advocate for justice system reform, particularly in family law. He is the founder of the Supreme Court pro bono mediation service and regularly provides free legal advice through Access Pro Bono.

Dinyar was a member of the Family Justice Reform Working Group for the Justice Review Task Force established in 2002. His professional memberships include fellow of the International Society of Barristers; fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers (provincial committee chair, 2011-2012); former chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s Vancouver Family Law Subsection; and member of the Committee on Relations with the Judiciary and the Nova Scotia Barristers Society; and a past member for two terms of the Supreme Court Rules Committee. He has written and presented extensively on various family law topics.

Gisela Ruebsaat

Gisela Ruebsaat

Member, Stakeholder Engagement Committee
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Gisela Ruebsaat (BA, LLB) is an independent legal analyst, writer and scholar. She has played a lead role in key justice reform initiatives throughout her career. As an analyst for the Ending Violence Association of BC, Gisela worked with police, corrections and community advocates to design and implement provincial anti-violence programs to improve access to justice for marginalized women. Many of these BC-born initiatives, such as the provincial Third Party Reporting Protocol, are now generating interest across Canada.

Gisela also worked at the Ontario Ministries of Attorney General, and Citizenship and Culture, developing race relations, human rights and multiculturalism policies. Gisela received the Silver Medal Award from the Ontario government and the BC Building a Safer Future Award for her anti-violence work.

In 2006 Gisela co-authored a groundbreaking study that documented police misclassification of sexual assault cases, ultimately leading to a national review of police practices. In 2016, Gisela was nominated by MOSAIC and selected to serve as one of 150 woman leaders in Canada to support gender equality.

Gisela is an accomplished poet and scholar whose work has appeared in both literary and academic journals. Her debut poetry collection, Heart Mechanic, was published in 2016.

Nathalie Baker

Nathalie Baker

Member, Finance Committee
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Nathalie Baker is associate counsel at the firm of Eyford Partners LLP. She has been practising primarily in the areas of municipal and administrative law since she was called to the BC bar in 2002. She represents landowners, developers, citizens groups and business owners on a wide range of local government matters that fall under the Local Government Act, the Community Charter and the Vancouver Charter. She has a particular interest in land use matters and issues of procedural fairness.

Nathalie is a contributing author of Continuing Legal Education BC’s Real Estate Development Practice Manual and has spoken at a number of conferences on municipal matters and on the topic of integrity in local government. She is also fluent in French and volunteers for the Access Pro Bono francophone telephone clinic.

Christine Smith-Martin

Christine Smith-Martin

Member, Stakeholder Engagement Committee
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Christine Smith-Martin is of Haida and Tsimshian descent and grew up on the North Coast of British Columbia. She spent 19 years as the executive director of the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Services Society, spending most of her time building capacity within Vancouver’s urban community.

Christine played a key role in the formation of the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council. Her board experience extends beyond Canadian borders, as she is a trustee of the Christensen Fund, a philanthropic foundation based in San Francisco.

Christine is married and considers her four children and five grandchildren to be her greatest accomplishment in life. She carries two traditional names from her communities: Lidayts lax neega neexl (Tsimshian) and Xaad Xyella (Haida).

Donna M. Turko, QC

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Donna M. Turko, QC, graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1991. She also earned a bachelor's and master's degree in Sociology from the University of BC. In 2017, she was appointed Queen’s Counsel. She is also honoured to have received the Harry Rankin, QC, Pro Bono Award in 2017. Donna is an executive member (Advisory Committee) of the Criminal Defence Advisory Committee C-DAS. She has mentored and lectured at the UBC Innocence Project. She is also a reviewer for the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted.

Donna has been invited to speak at numerous conferences for judges and lawyers, including the National Judicial Conference, and Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Continuing Legal Education and Trial Lawyers Association of BC conferences. She is a participant in the Inns of Court program whereby judges and lawyers join to mentor junior counsel.

Donna has served on numerous CBA committees including the CBA Criminal Subsection Committee for Sentencing and Release, Legal Aid Committee, the Advisory Committee to the Judicial Council, Government Relations Committee, and the BarTalk Editorial Board.

Donna has taught at the UBC Allard School of Law and has been principal to over 26 articling students.