Poverty Reduction Advisory Committee

The Poverty Reduction Advisory Committee was appointed on March 18, 2019. The independent committee will advise government on policy developments related to poverty reduction and prevention, as legislated in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act.

Membership

The committee includes advocates, stakeholders and people with lived experience with poverty.

Zahra Esmail (chair)

Zahra is the chief executive officer (CEO) for Vantage Point. She has worked in the not-for-profit sector for over 15 years with experience in international development, housing and homelessness, community development, youth entrepreneurship, fundraising, and microfinance. Prior to joining Vantage Point, Zahra was the executive director of South Vancouver Neighbourhood House for five and a half years, and was the first executive director of the Marpole Neighbourhood House, which opened under her leadership in 2019. Zahra has a master's in globalization and international development from the University of Ottawa, a bachelor's in history from UBC, and an associate certificate in fundraising management from BCIT. Zahra is a member on the board of Lookout Foundation as well as a member of the Honorary Governor’s Council of Vancouver Foundation. She is also a mentor with Dress for Success’s Professional Women’s Group and sits on a number of City of Vancouver advisory panels and working groups. Zahra was recognized as one of Business in Vancouver’s Forty Under 40 in 2019 and was nominated for a Women of Distinction Award in the Non-Profit category in 2022. 

Mebrat Beyene

Mebrat is the executive director of WISH and co-chair of Living in Community. Mebrat supports women and initiatives related to the health and safety of women and gender-diverse people engaged in street-based sex work. She has worked in social justice, and non-profit management and community development for over twenty years. Previously, she worked closely with women and women-serving organizations as a programs officer with Status of Women Canada and served as executive director of PeerNetBC. She is also a recipient of the 2020 YWCA Metro Vancouver Women of Distinction Award in the non-profit category. Mebrat also sits on the board of the Equality Fund, serves on the City of Vancouver’s Black History Month Planning Committee and volunteers with the Vancouver Youth Choir.

Cheryl Casimer

Cheryl is a citizen of the Ktunaxa Nation. She is a long-standing advocate for First Nations issues and perspectives and is committed to building better bridges of understanding between neighouring cultures. She is a former chief and councillor of the ?aq̓am First Nation and was previously the director of treaty, lands and resources for the Ktunaxa Treaty Council. Cheryl is active in her community, serving on numerous boards including the First Nations Summit (co-chair), the BC Assembly of First Nations, and Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society. She is on the First Nations Summit Task Group, mandated to carry out specific tasks related to Aboriginal Title and Rights negotiations with B.C. and Canada. Cheryl also served on the Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction.

Murry Russel Krause

Murry has been involved in various non-profit sector management positions focused on issues such as social justice, health care, poverty, homelessness, racism culture and heritage. Murry served as executive director with the Central Interior Native Health Society, an interdisciplinary primary health care clinic in downtown Prince George, before retiring after 22 years.  He is currently a councillor with the City of Prince George, and he also sits as a director of the Regional District Fraser Fort George. Murry is past president of the Union of BC Municipalities and chair of the Regional Hospital District Board. He also served on the Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction.

Rosanna May McGregor

Rosanna is the executive director for the Cariboo Friendship Society in Williams Lake. She has numerous years of experience with contract management and economic development through the programs run by the Friendship Centre. Rosanna participates on many community boards including the Social Planning Council of Williams Lake, Williams Lake Social Housing Society (chair), Aboriginal Housing Management Association (committee chair), and BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. Rosanna served on the Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction and she is also involved in the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Advisory Committee as well as the Human Service Worker Advisory Council for Thompson Rivers University. She holds a business administration diploma from the Fraser Valley College and a micro computer accounting certificate from Thompson Rivers University. Knucwente kuc es yegweyegwt.s-kuc Help us be Strong.

Bradley (Brad) Donald Mills

Brad is the chief executive officer of Mills Printing and Stationery. He is actively involved in his community as chair of Basics Office Products and as chair for H.A.V.E Café. H.A.V.E is a social enterprise operating as a culinary training society and restaurant in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that provides occupational and life skills training to residents of the community who are excluded from work due to poverty, homelessness, addiction or mental and physical disabilities. Brad was previously a board member for Dress for Success, an organization that supports women to make lasting change in their lives and the lives of their children.

Adrienne Marie Montani

Adrienne is the executive director for First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society. She was the chairperson of the Vancouver School Board during her tenure as an elected school trustee. Adrienne has worked with many organisations on the issues of cross-cultural awareness and racism, women’s rights and the impacts of social exclusion on the health and well-being of children and youth in low-income families. Adrienne is on the board of the Community Legal Assistance Society and is an honourary lifetime member of the Federation of Community Social Services of BC. She previously held positions as the executive director of the Surrey Delta Immigrant Services Society and of the Big Sisters of BC, Lower Mainland division. Adrienne holds a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies (honours) from York University and a master’s degree in adult education from Simon Fraser University.

Krishna Murthy Pendakur

Krishna is a professor at Simon Fraser University. He studies the statistical and econometric issues related to the measurement of economic discrimination, inequality and poverty, including work with visible minorities and Indigenous peoples. Krishna is a member of the Simon Fraser University Faculty Association (vice president and treasurer). Krisha holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of British Columbia, and a PhD from the University of California Berkeley.

Richard Schabler

Richard was originally adopted into foster care at the age of two from his First Nations family. He moved throughout the foster care system living with three families until the age of 19. After a period of time living alone and struggling with addiction issues he found a path that led him to work in computer inventory, warehouse shipper/receiver among others. Richard focuses on helping others whether through his work or volunteer experiences such as working with the Hospitality Project of the United Church. Today he works with the Community Action Network focusing on engagement activities in New Westminster including Ethics of Engagement Mayoral Advisory Committee and the Homelessness Action Working Group. A life-long learner, Richard is currently in leadership training through the Community Action Network. He also holds a certificate in aboriginal tourism operations from Native Education College, network administration from CDI College and a heavy equipment operator certificate from Williams Machinery Ltd.

Kirsten Sikora

Kirsten was a practicing textile artist and the program coordinator for Mom2Mom Child Poverty Initiative Society when she became ill and was unable to work. At this point she struggled to be able to provide for her family. Kirsten brings a number of strong skills in communication, campaign organizing, and program coordination from her previous work experiences such as owner/operator of the Little Birds Family Child Care, an organizer, coordinator and fundraiser for the BC New Democratic party in Burnaby. She holds a fine arts diploma from MacEwan University.

Lissa Dawn Smith

Lissa is the elected vice-president for the Métis Nation of BC where she is minister responsible for Métis rights, justice and Métis veterans. Her previous portfolios include child and families and health. She previously worked as a social worker for many First Nations bands and understands the complex socio-economic dynamics of intergenerational trauma that affect Aboriginal people today. Active in her community, Lissa is on the board of the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness. She holds a human service diploma from Vancouver Island University and a bachelor of social work degree from the University of Victoria. Lissa also served on the Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction.

Stephanie Rosina Smith

Stephanie is the first female elected as president of the BC Government and Service Employees' Union. She was previously an early childhood educator and is an advocate for worker rights, young workers and equity groups. She has been active in her community as a member of the United Way Success by Six and Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC. Stephanie holds an early childhood education degree from Palmerston North Teachers' College and she also served on the Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction.

Caitlin Ashley Lind Wright

Caitlin currently works at Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) as office coordinator and a legal advocate. She was first drawn to working in the anti-poverty sector through her work as a volunteer disability advocate and at TAPS. Caitlin is honoured to bring both her lived and professional experiences to the volunteer work she undertakes including the important work of substantially reducing social and economic inequality and inequity in our province. Caitlin was born with a physical disability and uses a wheelchair for mobility; in addition, she has lived experiences with mental health disorders. Caitlin is pursuing a bachelor's of social work degree at the University of Victoria.