Meet the Commissioner
Her role is to lead the promotion and protection of human rights in British
Columbia through the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner.
What are human rights?
Human rights is fundamentally about human dignity. At the heart of human rights is equality. By equality I don’t mean treating everybody exactly the same, I mean treating people according to their unique needs and circumstances. We each come to the world with a complex set of identities and histories and contexts and we need to be treated according to that complexity in order to be treated equally.
Why do human rights matter to you?
I am deeply passionate and committed to working on human rights. And that is in large part due to the deep roots my family has in the social justice movements of our time. My mother spent her life and career working to combat gender-based violence. My father grew up as an Indian person under the apartheid regime in South Africa. And those experiences were very formative for me in understanding how racism and sexism impact us all. It really embedded in me this commitment to spend my life and my passion and my energies working on human rights.
Why is human rights education so important?
I’ve spent my career thinking about how to change the law and policies and how government needs to treat people. Those issues are fundamental to human rights, but what is also fundamental to human rights and to creating a culture of human rights, is really changing the hearts and minds of people and how they feel about discrimination and how they understand it, and how they understand their rights and obligations in that regard. So that is why educating people about human rights is so fundamental to this project of equality that we are working on.
Kasari Govender (she/her/hers) took office as B.C.’s first independent Human Rights Commissioner on September 3, 2019. Her role is to lead the promotion and protection of human rights in British Columbia through the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner.
Govender has devoted her life to promoting human rights, with a focus on the rights of those most marginalized. She is passionate about using her skills as a lawyer and community builder to create a more equal and just province. She has worked closely with organizations and communities promoting gender equality, Indigenous rights, children’s rights, the rights of people with disabilities and the rights of immigrant communities.
From 2008 until 2019, Govender held leadership positions at West Coast LEAF and was appointed Executive Director in 2011. She has co-authored key reports and articles and speaks widely on crucial social issues such as hate speech, access to justice, gender based violence and systemic racism. Her earlier work includes a pivotal role in establishing the Rise Women’s Legal Centre, a non-profit legal clinic in British Columbia.
Govender earned her law degree from the University of Victoria and her Master’s Degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, UK. She has served on the board of directors for the University of Victoria, Pivot Legal Society, the Coalition for Public Legal Services, and the Society for Children and Youth. Govender has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia and as an instructor at Simon Fraser University. Her work was recognized by the Women Lawyer’s Forum which honoured her with their Award of Excellence.
In addition to her role as Human Rights Commissioner, Govender is a mother, an aunt, a daughter and a sister.
Get the Commissioner’s media kit
Meet the staff
Our staff works to promote and protect human rights through education and engagement, research and policy, investigations, and interventions and inquiries on issues of systemic discrimination in the province.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
Haida (she/her/hers) has been active in social justice since she was a child, and is particularly passionate about feminist and queer liberation, racial justice and disability justice. Haida has worked in union and student leadership, non-profit administration, care work and as a university instructor, and holds degrees in anthropology and English literature from Simon Fraser University. Outside work Haida cooks frequently, reads constantly and writes sparingly. Haida is a white settler of Acadian and mixed European ancestry from P.E.I., who lives on the occupied lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
Diana (she/her/hers) is incredibly excited to be a part of the BCOHRC team. She comes from a varied background of administration, labour organizing, and theatre-making, working most recently as a theatrical stage manager, technician, and technical director in Vancouver. She is particularly passionate about queer activism, workers rights, decolonization, and anti-racism work, and continues to learn and grow daily as an activist, friend, and ally. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Labour Studies from Simon Fraser University and (like the rest of the office) spends her free time baking, reading, and cuddling with her cats.
At the centre of the struggle to advance and protect human rights there are real people who have important stories to tell. As Communications Advisor, Lindsey’s (she/her/hers) job is to help make those stories heard—to seek out and amplify voices from B.C.’s most marginalized communities—and to ensure the BCOHRC demonstrates respect, honesty and compassion in all its communications. Passionate about social justice and democratic discourse, Lindsey has served organizations such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, OpenMedia and the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. She has a BA in Communications from Simon Fraser University and an MA from Royal Roads University. Lindsey lives in East Vancouver where she enjoys goofing around with her family, joining waitlists for library books and exploring weird corners of the internet.
RESEARCH AND ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR
Emily (she/her/hers) is a passionate advocate of engagement, equity and justice. Her past work is rooted in addressing discrimination while building spaces for meaningful connections through learning, unlearning and relearning. She most recently spent her time working in organizations like Collingwood Neighbourhood House and First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, and volunteering for organizations like Still Moon Arts Society and Girl Guides of Canada (Renfrew District). She graduated from UBC with an Honours in Sociology, where she wrote her thesis on how the intersection of race and gender affect students’ participation. When not at work, you’ll most often find her out for a run through her Renfrew-Collingwood community, giving her cats cuddles, or talking passionately about the power of a good spreadsheet.
As an educator who is passionate about social justice, Margo (she/her/hers) is fascinated by how understandings are shifted and how awareness builds meaningful connections between people and with place. Prior to this role, Margo worked in provincial government, health authority and non-profit settings, creating engaging learning projects supporting equity and transformational change. Margo holds a BA in Anthropology, a Diploma in Intercultural Education and Training and a Certificate in Adult & Continuing Education. When not at work, Margo can be found in the woods, the water, a book or a conversation.
Karen-Marie Elah Perry
When practiced critically and reflectively, the purpose of Anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences. As an Applied Anthropologist, Karen-Marie (they/she) has dedicated their life to social justice-based research. Over a 20-year period this work has spanned efforts to make health care safe and accessible for systemically oppressed communities, to disaster plans that account for social inequalities in order to save more lives. Karen-Marie holds a PhD and MA in Anthropology. In their spare time Karen-Marie enjoys hiking and fishing on Vancouver Island.
Stephanie (she/her/hers) is grateful to support Commissioner Govender and our dynamic team in building an organization capable of realizing our vision of a province free from discrimination, inequality and injustice. Stephanie has spent nearly two decades working to advance human rights, gender equality and sustainability, supporting organizations in the public, civil society and private sectors in 20 countries. She holds a graduate degree in gender, development and globalization with a specialization in international human rights law from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a BA in Communications and Culture from the University of Calgary. She also holds a post-graduate certificate in cross-sector partnership and sustainability from the University of Cambridge, and has additional training in conflict resolution and mediation, non-profit management and corporate social responsibility. Stephanie finds joy in nurturing her fruit, vegetable and flower garden.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RESEARCH & POLICY
Trish (they/them/theirs) is a tea-swilling Brit with a passion for social justice. Having gained their experience at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and working with Raise the Rates, an anti-poverty group based in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, they led the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition for eight years before joining BCOHRC. Through this work with people in poverty, they came to learn that it all comes down to relationships grounded in respect for each other so they try to slow down to take the time to build trust and relationships with folks and now bring this foundation to their work. They are excited about the systemic mandate of BCOHRC because they believe in going upstream to tackle the root causes of issues to prevent the crisis. They have graduate degrees in both engineering and gender studies, as well as experience in community-based research and policy analysis, and strive to do research differently to make a difference. They are inspired by all who came before them in this work and those who are currently organizing for social change. To get away from it all, you will find them on the ocean with their partner and three kids.
Heather (she/her/hers) comes to BCOHRC determined to makes the law’s promise of a society free of impediments to full and free participation (more of) a reality for all residents of British Columbia. Heather is a lawyer who has practiced exclusively in the areas of human rights, labour, employment and professional regulation since her call to the bar in 2015. Prior to that, Heather clerked at the BC Court of Appeal. Before becoming a lawyer, Heather worked for 13 years as an advocate, organizer and social worker in community organizations in Vancouver and Montreal. Outside of work, Heather can often be found curled up with a good book and loads of salty snacks.
REQUEST MANAGEMENT OFFICER
Kerry (she/her/hers) sees joining the BCOHRC as unique opportunity to participate in the progression towards a more just and kind society. She came to the BCOHRC from the BC Human Rights Tribunal. In the past, Kerry oversaw campaigns for health-based charities and NGOs in Montreal. That experience combined with her life-long interest in health, was the inspiration to pursue an M.Sc. in International Health in Edinburgh. Post degree, she designed and implemented community-health programming for refugees and marginalized groups in London UK’s poorest borough. Kerry wholeheartedly believes in the basics—that committed efforts in housing, food, clean water and education would produce profound generational change. Whether in her organic veggie garden, or gazing skyward in vain attempts to decipher seed-planting wisdom, Kerry feels at home nature. Indoors, baking’s no different—to boldly explore the limits of the sugar-free, grain-free universe.
Sarah (she/her/hers) has spent most of her career working to promote social justice, and is grateful to join the Human Rights Commissioner’s team. Sarah worked with a public interest law firm for many years, developing and litigating constitutional, administrative law and human rights cases, primarily on issues involving income assistance, disability benefits, employment insurance, employment standards, access to legal aid, and access to affordable residential electricity. Sarah has also worked as the Acting Executive Director and Clinic Lawyer with Seniors First BC, as in-house legal counsel with the BC Utilities Commission, and with a law firm specializing in representing indigenous communities in rights and title proceedings. She received her law degree from the University of Victoria. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys swimming, cooking and cycling around Vancouver.
ACTING COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
Elaine (she/her/hers) comes to BCOHRC to work toward her vision that one day all women and children can live lives free of misogyny, violence and abuse. She is a national award-winning social justice journalist who honed her craft and credo in newsrooms at the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen and Vancouver Province before transitioning to corporate communications. As a senior consultant in the health sector, she led public health and safety campaigns and launched complex care initiatives with diverse B.C. community partners. Through expertise in brand journalism and ethical storytelling, she centres marginalized peoples’ voices and uses art, authenticity and innovative social marketing to activate behaviour change. A certified Communications Management Professional and industry mentor, she serves on the IABC/BC Board of Directors and holds degrees in journalism, public relations and non-profit management. Elaine believes in the transformational power of education, intersectional feminism, voting, a good to do list, adventure travel, creativity, coffee, and her favourite zen koan, “no mud, no lotus.”
Lenée (she/her/hers) is a Khmer Krom multimedia storyteller and digital specialist living in Surrey on Kwantlen, Katzie, Semiahmoo, and Kwikwetlem territories. She has been involved in community activism and advocacy for many years, taking part in grassroots movements against racial profiling, police violence, gentrification and poverty. She is also the award-winning co-director of My Name Was January, a documentary celebrating the life of January Lapuz and examining the impact of gender violence and transphobia. Lenée is dedicated to actively evolving her intersectional analyses and is committed to promoting human rights through her work.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EDUCATION & ENGAGEMENT
Where do I belong? Sharon (she/her/hers) has long been trying to answer this question in her 34 years of working. In community through residential school and education work, in family sometimes by running away but also by studying psychology, on planet through respectful living and beauty and art. The answer she is coming to understand is in the trying. It lies in the relationships that hold you together, on the land where your foot falls sometimes wet and oozy, and inside when you face your imperfection, my imperfection. This we have in common. Working on finding our way back to each other is what inspires my work now. That and my daughters and cake.
Mazen (he/him/his) has a diverse background ranging from work with a Canadian tech start up, to project and finance work with the National Petroleum Construction Company in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. Mazen is a certified PMP (Project Management Professional), with a Master of Business Administration from the University of Ottawa, a Master of Commerce from the University of Sydney, and a Bachelor of Business Administration from American University of Beirut. In his spare time, Mazen enjoys the outdoors in addition to everything to do with playing and watching soccer.
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