RAVEN - Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs

Staff & Volunteers

Susan Smitten, Executive Director

Susan Smitten is the executive director of RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs) a non-profit charitable organization based in Victoria, BC that provides financial resources to assist Aboriginal Nations within Canada in lawfully forcing industrial development to be reconciled with their traditional ways of life, and in a manner that addresses global warming or other ecological sustainability challenges.  Since 2009, Susan created and has managed the only non-for-profit corporate charity in Canada with a mission to raise legal defence funds to assist First Nations who enforce their rights and title to protect their traditional territories and the environment.  She is committed to being a living example for her daughter, and is grateful for the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for the values that RAVEN represents.


Susan is also an award-winning filmmaker and writer whose past projects communicate the connection between environmental issues and First Nations’ stewardship of the land.  For RAVEN, Susan directed the acclaimed Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot’in Fight for Teztan Biny, giving voice to the Tsilhqot’in peoples unanimous rejection of Taseko Mines Limited’s ‘Prosperity’ open pit gold-copper mining project.  She co-directed Wild Horses, Unconquered People, about the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation’s monumental rights and title legal challenge to save their culture and land.  A Carleton University journalism graduate, Susan spent 15 years as a broadcast journalist before embarking on a freelance career as a documentary and series director/writer and producer. Her film FASD: Finding Hope for Knowledge Network has been distributed to several countries including Japan and Australia.   Susan is also the author of seven books of ghost lore for Lone Pine Publishing.

Laurie MacKenzie, Development Director

Laurie has proudly served as Development Director for RAVEN for three years. Development work has a special appeal to Laurie; she loves making a difference in the non-profit industry for causes that are close to her heart. She has found the profession of fundraising a truly inspiring one. Having the ability to connect generous philanthropists with organizations that are doing amazing work in the community is a constant source of motivation for Laurie.

Working with RAVEN combines two areas which Laurie feels passionately about defending; environmental justice and First Nation reconciliation. Living on the west coast affords Laurie the opportunity to live surrounded by the natural beauty of what she works to defend. Laurie believes we have an obligation to learn from the original occupants of the land, questioning our modern day dependency on resource extraction. Laurie believes we have a responsibility to leave the land in its natural state for future generations.

Laurie keeps busy outside of RAVEN with volunteer projects and her vegetable garden.. She is also the co-owner of Eat it! Catering and Event Planning, a business and passion she shares with her husband. Life is at its best for Laurie when she is with her family, exploring this great, big, wonderful world.

Ana Simeon, Fundraising Campaigns Director

Ana was delighted to join the RAVEN team in September 2016. Ana is passionate about protecting the land and achieving justice for the Indigenous Peoples who are the land’s ancestral guardians. Before joining RAVEN, Ana campaigned with Sierra Club BC to stop the Site C dam project, one of Canada’s most shameful violations of Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

Ana has a background in journalism and communications. During the 1991-1995 war in her birth country, Croatia, she worked as a journalist with a wire news service and was involved in civil rights advocacy. Experiencing the war and its aftermath motivated her to seek for processes that promote understanding and reconciliation.

Ana has worked for a number of years for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal as legal translator and reviser, and most recently for Sierra Club of BC as Peace Valley campaigner. Ana is also a mediator in private practice and a member of Mediate BC Civil Roster. As a passionate birder Ana is thrilled to be one of the RAVENs!

Leah Ritch, Operations Manager

Leah came to RAVEN in 2014 after a year of travel following her studies at the University of Victoria.

Through her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Anthropology, Leah worked as a constituency assistant to the agricultural critic, Lana Popham. Here she was responsible for community casework, event organizing, fundraising, accounting, writing the ‘Inside Saanich South’ blog, newsletters and research. Her time working for such a deeply respected community leader and outspoken critic of the province’s agricultural and food practices was a deeply rewarding and challenging opportunity.

She is of Scottish (Orcadian), and mixed Irish, Swedish and French ancestry, a history and people she feels a deep responsibility in learning.

Leah is honoured to work alongside such a supportive generous team of people, staff, board and donors, organizing to protect RAVEN’s bioregion. She believes strongly we have a powerful opportunity to collectively mobilize and support the Indigenous Peoples and knowledge keepers of this land and their precedent setting legal challenges – peoples whose rights remain some of the most powerful environmental protections against ongoing colonial assaults and destructive development we have left.

In her spare time she finds much fulfillment cooking, gardening, camping, swimming in the ocean, and participating in a wide range of decolonization efforts.

Andrea Palframan, Director of Engagement and Communication

Andrea Palframan is RAVEN’s Director of Engagement and Communication. She is dedicated to make media that brings the strength of data together with the power of storytelling.

She holds a Masters in Intercultural & International Communication. Her research focus— how indigenous communities are responding to, resisting, and adapting to climate change—forms the underpinning of her understanding of environmental justice and human rights issues.

In her spare time she is a graphic designer and communications consultant on Salt Spring Island, and is a contributor to Rabble, West Coast Native News, the Watershed Sentinel and the Vancouver Observer.

Michelle Pedersen, Data Processing

Michelle’s roots are Métis and Danish. She grew up on Tsilhqot’in territory and has been living, playing and working on unceded Lekwungen and Coast Salish traditional territories for many years now. Michelle has a long history in data administration in larger organizations with heavy volumes and a focus on solving customer issues. In the summer of 2018 Michelle will be finishing her UVIC Diploma in Indigenous Community Development and Governance. She is happy to be with RAVEN as it aligns with her spiritual beliefs of honouring her ancestors and the Creator. Michelle’s life’s passion lies with advancing Indigenous people economically, politically and socially in every way possible.

Josie Bannerman, Grant Writer

Josie loves writing grants and feels privileged to be part of the RAVEN team, doing her part to help raise legal defence funds for Indigenous Nations who fight through the courts for their land and culture.

She likes working to deadlines, feels more at home writing than talking, and draws on her past experience as librarian and market researcher to get those grant applications out the door.

In her spare time, she particularly enjoys walking along the seashore and working in the garden, where pruning grapevines and trimming hedges are her favorite chores. You can get a lot of thinking done while trimming a hedge, she often tells passersby who comment on the enormity of the job. From time to time she also writes for the James Bay Beacon Community newspaper, and for a number of years sat on their board.

Christopher Roy, Digital Marketing and Site Management

Christopher manages digital strategy, planning, RAVEN’s website and the various digital services that support our campaigns, online fundraising and community engagement. He is a social venture entrepreneur who focuses his work on using digital strategy, marketing and advertising for businesses and non-profits to grow value and impact. Christopher is the Founder and Director of Marketing at Marketworks and is a board member of the Carving on the Edge Festival which hosts an annual gathering of West coast and Indigenous wood carvers in Tofino, BC each year.

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