Our People

Our People


Our People

Rise consists of three full-time staff members: the Executive Director, the Supervising Lawyer, and the Operations Manager. The Executive Director and Supervising Lawyer directly supervise our student clinicians in their provision of legal services. Rounding out our team is a part-time Liaison Lawyer representative of West Coast LEAF who works with us to identify and advocate on significant issues of a systemic nature.

Our board, consisting of our President, Vice President, Treasurer-Secretary and five Directors, is made up of community members with the wide range of experience and knowledge to effectively govern our organization.

Our Staff

KIM HAWKINS, Executive Director

Kim Hawkins came to Rise Women’s Legal Centre via Whitehorse, Yukon Territory where she worked for many years as a full time staff lawyer at a busy legal aid clinic, practising mainly in the areas of family and criminal law. Kim also spent a year and a half at the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown South Africa, and two years as a judicial clerk. Kim holds a BSc. in Biochemistry and Environmental Studies and a J.D. in Law from the University of Victoria and a Masters in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford. Kim has always been concerned with violence against women and spent five years on the Board of the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society. When she isn’t in the office Kim enjoys baking bread, yoga, and obsessively monitoring the tomato plants in her community garden plot.

RAJI MANGAT, Director of Litigation, West Coast LEAF & Rise Liaison Lawyer

Raji joins Rise from West Coast LEAF, where she is committed to using the law as a tool for advancing women’s equality. At Rise, Raji works with staff and students to identify and scale up  issues of a structural and systemic nature arising from client’s experiences navigating the justice system.. Prior to her work at West Coast LEAF and Rise, Raji practiced constitutional and administrative law with a focus on reforming the criminal justice system. Raji began her legal career as a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada before going on to practice litigation as an associate at the New York City office of Sullivan and Cromwell LLP.  Raji received her law degree from the University of Victoria, and holds a BA from the University of British Columbia and an MA from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. Outside of work, Raji aspires to be more active and to learn meal-planning, but she is more likely bingeing on Netflix and having popcorn for dinner.

VANDANA SOOD, Supervising Lawyer

Vandana has focused her legal career on working to achieve gender equality and empowerment for women. Prior to joining Rise Women’s Legal Centre, Vandana was a sole practitioner and practised primarily in the areas of family law, child protection law (as parent’s counsel) and immigration&refugee law, with a focus on assisting women of color who had experienced family violence. Vandana also worked previously at an aboriginal law firm, articled in criminal law with Glen Orris. Q.C., and worked as a Mental Health Advocate for CLAS during law school. Vandana has a J.D. from the University of British Columbia, and an M.Sc. and B.Sc. from the University of Calgary. Vandana is a strong believer in the power of community and is excited about the potential of Rise to help unite communities working to achieve gender equality. In her spare time, Vandana can be found spending time with dear friends and family, trying to start her own food revolution in her backyard, doing yoga, or escaping to the Sunshine Coast.

SHEILA SCHIERBECK, Operations Manager

Sheila Schierbeck has spent a lifetime working for feminist, social justice and legal causes, both in professional and volunteer capacities. Pre-Rise, she attended SFU (triple minor in education, psychology, criminology), launched a successful small business, and spent nine years as the Trial Lawyers Association of BC’s first Membership Director. She is thrilled to be part of the inaugural team of this ground-breaking new venture, and to be contributing to its growth and success.

KIM HAWKINS, Executive Director

Kim Hawkins came to Rise Women’s Legal Centre via Whitehorse, Yukon Territory where she worked for many years as a full time staff lawyer at a busy legal aid clinic, practising mainly in the areas of family and criminal law. Kim also spent a year and a half at the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown South Africa, and two years as a judicial clerk. Kim holds a BSc. in Biochemistry and Environmental Studies and a J.D. in Law from the University of Victoria and a Masters in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford. Kim has always been concerned with violence against women and spent five years on the Board of the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society. When she isn’t in the office Kim enjoys baking bread, yoga, and obsessively monitoring the tomato plants in her community garden plot.

VANDANA SOOD, Supervising Lawyer

Vandana has focused her legal career on working to achieve gender equality and empowerment for women. Prior to joining Rise Women’s Legal Centre, Vandana was a sole practitioner and practised primarily in the areas of family law, child protection law (as parent’s counsel) and immigration&refugee law, with a focus on assisting women of color who had experienced family violence. Vandana also worked previously at an aboriginal law firm, articled in criminal law with Glen Orris. Q.C., and worked as a Mental Health Advocate for CLAS during law school. Vandana has a J.D. from the University of British Columbia, and an M.Sc. and B.Sc. from the University of Calgary. Vandana is a strong believer in the power of community and is excited about the potential of Rise to help unite communities working to achieve gender equality. In her spare time, Vandana can be found spending time with dear friends and family, trying to start her own food revolution in her backyard, doing yoga, or escaping to the Sunshine Coast.

RAJI MANGAT, Director of Litigation, West Coast LEAF & Rise Liaison Lawyer

Raji joins Rise from West Coast LEAF, where she is committed to using the law as a tool for advancing women’s equality. At Rise, Raji works with staff and students to identify and scale up  issues of a structural and systemic nature arising from client’s experiences navigating the justice system.. Prior to her work at West Coast LEAF and Rise, Raji practiced constitutional and administrative law with a focus on reforming the criminal justice system. Raji began her legal career as a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada before going on to practice litigation as an associate at the New York City office of Sullivan and Cromwell LLP.  Raji received her law degree from the University of Victoria, and holds a BA from the University of British Columbia and an MA from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. Outside of work, Raji aspires to be more active and to learn meal-planning, but she is more likely bingeing on Netflix and having popcorn for dinner.

SHEILA SCHIERBECK, Operations Manager

Sheila Schierbeck has spent a lifetime working for feminist, social justice and legal causes, both in professional and volunteer capacities. Pre-Rise, she attended SFU (triple minor in education, psychology, criminology), launched a successful small business, and spent nine years as the Trial Lawyers Association of BC’s first Membership Director. She is thrilled to be part of the inaugural team of this ground-breaking new venture, and to be contributing to its growth and success.

Our Board

JANINE BENEDET, Director

Janine is the Associate Dean, Academic Affairs and Co-Director of the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies at UBC’s Allard School of Law. She joined UBC’s Allard School of Law as an Associate Professor in 2005. Janine completed her law degree at the University of British Columbia, and clerked with the Supreme Court of Canada. She completed an LL.M. and an S.J.D. at the University of Michigan, where she also taught as a Visiting Faculty Fellow. Janine practiced labour law in Toronto from 1997 to 1999 and was a member of faculty at Osgoode Hall Law School from 1999-2005.

PAT KOTSUK, Treasurer-Secretary

Pat currently works as a sole practitioner in public accounting and teaches college level accounting. As a CPA,CA, Pat brings broad financial experience in public accounting, government and industry to the Rise Board. Pat is an active volunteer presenter with CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy Program and also volunteers as a musician with a local military band. She is a strong believer in equity and throughout her career worked in, what was at the time, traditionally male dominated positions, helping to open doors for younger women to follow.

DONNA MARTINSON, Director

After spending 21 years as a judge, Donna now works on a volunteer basis as an Adjunct Professor at SFU’s School of Criminology and as an Honorary Visitor with the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies at UBC’s Allard School of Law. She is also Chair of the national Canadian Bar Association’s sub-committee on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a part of the Children and the Law Committee which Donna is co-founder and first chair of. She was appointed as a Judge of the BC Provincial Court in 1991, the BC Supreme Court in 1998 and as a Deputy Judge of the Yukon Supreme Court in 2005. Prior to that, Donna was a full-time member of the UBC Law Faculty for two years. She also practised law as Crown Counsel, criminal defence counsel and in the areas of family law in Calgary for 14 years. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in Alberta in 1986 and obtained her LL.M from Cambridge University, England, in 1987.

DEBRA PARKES, Vice President

Debra is Professor and Chair in Feminist Legal Studies at UBC’s  Peter A. Allard School of Law. From 2001 to 2016 she was a member of the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba where she served a term as Associate Dean from 2013-2016. Debra has focused much of her scholarly work on addressing societal injustices, gender (in)equality, the incarceration of women, the limits of prison reform, and the framing and adjudicating of prisoners’ rights claims. For more than two decades she has worked with feminist organizations, including West Coast LEAF and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. From 2009-2013 she was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law.

FAY BLANEY, Director
KASARI GOVENDER, President

Kasari is the chair of the Rise board and Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. Before joining West Coast LEAF, Kasari practiced constitutional, equality and aboriginal law. She has sat on the board of Pivot Legal Society, the Coalition for Public Legal Services, and Society for Children and Youth, and was an Adjunct Professor of Law at UBC. She earned her law degree from the University of Victoria, and her Masters Degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford.

RISA LEVINE, Director

After having served as a justice of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia from 2001-2014, and the Supreme Court of British Columbia from 1995-2001, Risa is now retired. Before her appointment as a judge, she practised law in Vancouver with the firm of Thorsteinssons, taught tax law at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law, and participated in various legal and community organizations.

CLEA PARFITT, Director

Clea works primarily in the areas of human rights and employment law after being called to the bar in 1992. She was active for over a decade with the West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association, a non-profit organization which provides legal advice and advocacy for domestic workers in BC, and was a Board member of P.A.C.E. (Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education Society). Clea is currently active with West Coast LEAF, serving as a Board member, pro bono counsel, and chairing the litigation committee.

ZARA SULEMAN, Director

Zara currently works as a sole practitioner in her firm Suleman Family Law, practicing family law exclusively with a focus in fertility law. She  is a certified family law mediator and collaborative law practitioner. Zara has also been actively involved in presenting, training, writing and editing materials on family law issues. Prior to law school Zara was a front-line community advocate for over a decade, working extensively on issues involving violence against women and children, anti-racism, immigrant and refugee issues, legal aid reform, custody and access advocacy, anti-poverty initiatives and specific coalition work with South Asian women. Zara has been involved with West Coast (LEAF) for many years ranging from a summer student to Board member to being the Director of the Family Law Project.

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