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.

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 Crown Agencies and Board Resourcing Office (CABRO) 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 document is in PDF.

Compensation disclosure statements

As required by the Financial Administration Act, under a Treasury Board Directive, Legal Aid BC discloses board remuneration annually: 2022/23 Board Remuneration Disclosure Statement.

Our board members

Meet the board:

Allan P. Seckel, KC

Chair, Board of Directors
Chair, Executive Committee
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While a lawyer by profession, Allan Seckel, KC, has had a career that has spanned private practice, public service and the not-for-profit sector. 

After serving as Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of British Columbia from 1983 to 1984, Allan practised as a litigation lawyer with a major Vancouver firm. He then became the Deputy Attorney General for British Columbia from 2003 to 2009; and was the Cabinet Secretary, Head of Public Service and Deputy Minister to the Premier of British Columbia from 2009 to 2011. More recently, Mr. Seckel was the CEO of Doctors of BC until December of 2021

Mr. Seckel is active in his community, currently serving as the chair of the Board of Directors of Covenant House Vancouver and the chair of the BC Housing Management Commission. Previously, he was a member of the Telus Vancouver Community Board and the board of LIFT Philanthropy Partners. 

Mr. Seckel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with joint honours in economics and commerce from Simon Fraser University; a law degree from the University of Victoria; and a Master of Law degree from Gonville & Caius College at Cambridge University, where he attended as a Commonwealth Scholar. Mr. Seckel is the co-author of two legal texts. He was designated a King’s Counsel in 2003 and as an ICD.D in 2013.

Donna M. Turko, KC

Member, Stakeholder Engagement Committee
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Donna M. Turko, KC, 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 King’s Counsel. She is also honoured to have received the Harry Rankin, KC, 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.

Tracy Porteous, OBC, LLD (h.c.)

Member, Finance Committee
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Tracy Porteous’s commitment to survivors of gender-based violence and those who support them began when she started at the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre at the age of 19. Her experience there was so meaningful that she decided to dedicate her life to the cause. 

Now, 40 years later, Tracy is credited for numerous innovative programs and initiatives; among them, growing the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre from a staff of 2 to 22; founding and leading the 300-program strong Ending Violence Association of BC; co-creating and leading a cross-sectoral program ensuring BC’s legal, health, child protection and anti-violence response systems are working collaboratively; creating the award-winning Be More Than a Bystander: Break the Silence on Gender-Based Violence, a prevention initiative that engages youth in schools across the province and men in male-dominated workplaces with the goal of having people speak up to violence, disrespect and abuse; co-founding the Ending Violence Association of Canada, a national body working to advance policy; and co-creating the gender-based violence policy for the Canadian Football League. 

Tracy is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and holds an Honorary Doctor of Laws and the Order of British Columbia.

Brenda Knights headshot

Brenda Knights

Member, Stakeholder Engagement Committee
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Brenda Knights is a capacity builder, with board experience, who serves Indigenous people in Canada. She has experience in various leadership positions advocating for social housing for Indigenous people and is currently the CEO of the Vancouver Native Housing Society. 

Previously, Brenda worked for the Kwantlen First Nation’s economic development arm, and Coast Mountain Bus Company, a subsidiary of TransLink, where she held a variety of management roles. She is also on the board of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, Metro Vancouver Zero Emissions Innovation Center, the New Relationship Trust, Elizabeth Fry Society, and Tourism Langley.

Brenda lives by her nation Kwantlen’s seven traditional laws which have been around since time immemorial: health, happiness, humbleness, generations, generosity, forgiveness, and understanding. Brenda descends from Grand Chief Wattlekanium, who met the Simon Fraser expedition in present-day New Westminster. Indigenous teachings tell us it takes seven generations for change and Brenda’s daughter represents the seventh generation since Grand Chief Wattlekanium. 

Sarf Ahmed

Sarf Ahmed

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Sarf brings diverse board, senior executive and consulting experience in the BC public sector. He is currently also a member of the Board of Directors of Land Title and Survey Authority of BC (LTSA) and Knowledge Network Corporation. He also chairs the Finance and Audit Committee at LTSA. 

Additionally, he provides management consulting services to public sector organizations in strategic planning, financial and corporate management, procurement, real estate, facilities management and executive recruitment. He also volunteers for the BC Government Retired Employees Association.

Sarf is a Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal recipient with a distinguished career in the BC Public Service spanning 26 years, including five years as an Associate Deputy Minister and member of the Deputy Ministers Council of BC. A position from which he retired in 2018 with a meritorious service award from the Premier of BC. During this period, he led the real property function for the Province for eight years and co-sponsored/led the development of the current Information Management Act for the Province.

He has provided leadership in financial and corporate management for large BC Government ministries, BC Housing and briefly assisted Legal Aid BC as Interim CFO in 2022

Prior to joining the BC Public Service, Sarf worked in the accounting profession and private industry for 15 years. He is a chartered accountant by profession and is married with one adult son. He lives in Victoria.

Eloise Spitzer

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Eloise Spitzer, BA, LLB, a retired lawyer with a diverse career in private practice, consulting, public service, and the not-for-profit sector, has significant experience in criminal law, Indigenous and First Nations rights, and women’s equality. A co-founder of LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund), she successfully litigated Canada’s first Charter challenge based on equality provisions.

Her work included significant contributions to women’s quality, environmental law, and Indigenous law, working for the David Suzuki Foundation, and for the Pauktuutit and the Inuit Taparisat of Canada during the Constitutional conferences. As CEO of the Yukon Energy and Development Corporations, she advocated for sustainable energy, focusing on diversifying energy sources and sustainable development.

In BC, she became the first woman Cabinet Secretary, before concluding her career at the University of Victoria, coordinating their Law Faculty’s Cooperative Education program. Eloise has been deeply involved in legal aid, serving as the first student representative on the BC Legal Aid Society Board in 1974 and drafting the Legal Aid Act in Yukon in 1985.

Tom Arbogast

Thomas Arbogast, KC

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Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer engaged in complex criminal matters including homicide, serious crime, cybercrime, extradition, fraud/​securities, and administrative and professional proceedings. He appears before the BC Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Canada, and many administrative tribunals, and has been lead counsel on some of the most well-known and complex criminal proceedings in British Columbia over the past decade. 

He also represents First Nations and many First Nation persons, and has been active in addressing issues concerning Indigenous interaction with the criminal justice system. He was involved in the original Gladue case that has helped to shift attitudes in respect of reconciling Indigenous concerns in relation to sentencing.

Tom has been engaged with BC’s legal aid system since working in the Legal Aid Appeals Department while at UBC Law School in the early 1990s. He is passionate about ensuring quality access to justice amongst criminal justice participants and works actively in a mentoring capacity for the criminal bar. He teaches often at UBC Allard School of Law and for various CLE-related classes, speaks at conferences for judges and lawyers, and is a founding member of the BC Criminal Defence Advocacy Society.