Named after B.C.'s provincial flower, Dogwood is a people-powered organization driven by a shared love of place. We bring together voters from all over the political spectrum to work on the urgent challenges facing our home.
Our staff work out of Victoria, Courtenay and Burnaby, anchoring volunteer organizing teams in dozens of key ridings. The goal is to build a grassroots base of engaged citizens ready to take action outside of the existing party system.
We look for tipping points: places where enough citizen pressure can rewrite a law, reverse a bad decision or convince a politician to take a stronger position. We work steadily to identify thousands of like-minded voters in key constituencies. We build organizing teams made up of local people committed to each other and the place they live. Then we mobilize.
When the moment is right, Dogwood channels large-scale citizen action both online and offline. This might be an election, a leadership race, court case or regulatory review. The rest of the year we train organizers, build capacity among our allies and serve as a watchdog on our campaign issues.
We only take on issues in our home province. We pick battles that fit into our broader strategy to transform politics in B.C. And once we commit to a campaign, we maintain focus for as many years are necessary until we win.
Dogwood is probably best known for the No Tankers campaign. Since 2007, we've helped prevent a massive expansion of carbon pollution and oil tanker traffic on the West Coast. Our supporters are definitely concerned about climate change and oil spills. But we don’t just work to protect the environment.
What’s at stake in all our campaigns is self-determination: the right of local people to have a say over what happens in their home. Our core belief is that decisions should be made by the people who have to live with them. Often that means taking on powerful CEOs, far-off bureaucrats and unaccountable politicians.
The good news is if there’s any place where organized people can win back control over their shared future, it’s British Columbia. First Nations across most of the province never signed away control of the land, giving Indigenous legal systems real weight. And B.C. citizens share a unique love of place and spirit of civic engagement.
In combination, these two forces are starting to change how power is won and wielded in British Columbia – and could even shape the future of the global climate. We see the potential in our conversations every day. That’s what gives us hope.
Helping David beat Goliath, since 1999!
Passionate about building effective people power with data-driven strategy and technologies. Activities include digital systems design and implementation, experiments and analytics, data strategy and tools, and choreographer on a range of tech projects.
Aiden has a decade of consulting experience for governments, impact orgs and businesses on strategic communications, tech-human systems and science-policy interfaces in environment, innovation and governance. Aiden spends much of his time outdoors running and cycling, and is a voracious reader.
Frank heads The Pinch Group, a Victoria-based investment advisory practice that focuses on socially and environmentally responsible investment solutions for both individuals and institutions. A graduate of the University of Victoria's School of Environmental Studies, Frank also studied mathematics prior to entering the investment profession. In addition to serving on the board of Dogwood Initiative, Frank currently serves on the board of Living Carbon Investments and the Land Trust Alliance of BC, on the fundraising and communications committee of Habitat Acquisition Trust, as an external advisor to the Sierra Club of BC Foundation, and on the external advisory board of UVic's School of Environmental Studies. Frank's passions in life are protecting biodiversity and promoting green philanthropy. When he's not enjoying his time with his two children, you may find Frank on the ski slopes (if so, make sure you ski behind him).
*note: for some reason we can't find our photo of Frank, so for the time being please enjoy this photo of Jimmy calling voters.
Laura joined Dogwood's staff in 2013 to start the Beyond Coal campaign. She moved over to become Director of Organizing in January 2016, managing Dogwood's engagement organizing program and team of amazing provincial organizers.
First trained in community and labour organizing in the early 2000s in San Diego, Laura brings more than 15 years of experience working on political, environmental and social justice campaigns from California to B.C.
Laura lives the charmed life of a dual citizen on beautiful Burnaby mountain with her husband Jeremy, sons Henry and Leo, and a tuxedo cat.
After a long career as a senior director and auditor in the BC public service Ian has recently come out of retirement to work for the environment and social justice movement. Outside of the office Ian is an avid road cyclist and an active member of the BC Masters Cycling Association.
Born and raised in the wilds of northern British Columbia, the beauty of this province has always ignited Alisha’s heart. Thus, she was excited to move back to B.C. in 2012 after spending 13 years in Alberta where she completed a BA and MSc in Psychology, and managed a small non-profit for five years.
Alisha started with Dogwood in 2014 in the role of Supporter Services Coordinator, bringing a wealth of knowledge from working in the non-profit sector for 7 years where she was responsible for a variety of roles including administration, strategic planning, program development and implementation, finances, development, and communications. After two years with Dogwood, Alisha is now our Director of Human Resources.
In her off-time, you can find Alisha baking up a storm of delicious creations, watching quirky foreign films with her husband Eric, lurking behind the lens of her beloved camera, winning nerdy board games, and hiking through Vancouver Island's incredibly beautiful and diverse terrain.
Cheryl first became environmentally involved with the Kalum Land Resource Management Plan in 1993 and has been immersed in these issues ever since. Cheryl is one of the key organizers of Douglas Channel Watch, and a Director of the Lakelse Watershed Stewards Society. She was a vocal intervenor in the Enbridge Judicial Review Process and has been a leader in the grassroots community organizing on many of the proposed hydrocarbon projects in the Kitimat valley. When she’s not standing up for her local lands and waters Cheryl likes to get out and cross country ski, sail the waters of the North Coast, take canoe trips throughout the Interior, and of course be involved with preschool and school age grandchildren that live close by. Cheryl lives on the shores of Lakelse Lake near Terrace B.C.
Cheryl spent the first 15 years of her life in rural Alberta, when the “Athabasca Oil Sands” were a myth of the future. Her family were Ukrainian immigrants who changed their surname to escape discrimination. She grew up running wild near her childhood home on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, spending weekends hiking and ski racing in the Rocky Mountains.
A love of the ocean brought her family to Vancouver, and her brother’s marriage to a fisherman’s daughter landed Cheryl with a job on a salmon seiner for 5 seasons to finance her education - a diploma from BCIT and a B.Sc. from UBC in Ag. Economics.
It was the demise of the commercial salmon fishing industry due to mismanagement on many fronts that inspired Cheryl to take action. Living in the U.S. for 12 years during which Bush was elected - twice - was icing on the cake. Back in B.C. and when time allowed, she started to volunteer with Dogwood, building teams in 4 provincial ridings along Vancouver’s North Shore.
As a part-time staffer, Cheryl is full-time committed. Helping citizens to amplify their voices in this time of climate crisis is her passion, and Dogwood organizing provides her with a powerful connection to a community of like-minded people.
When she’s not canvassing or leading team meetings, Cheryl is stand-up paddling near her home, doing yoga, or hiking with friends. Her mantra: Compassion for Future Generations
Education: MA, University of London; BFA, Concordia University
Experience: Chief Curator, National Gallery of Jamaica; Arts Coordinator, Art Reach Project, Greenwich.
Passion: Art, Environment & Social Justice
Charles is both one of the newest and oldest members of Dogwood Initiative’s communications team. He was integral to the early development of the organization, helping to launch the campaign against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project and leading initiatives such as the NoTanker Loonie campaign and work with Robert Bateman.
He left Dogwood in 2010 to spend five years pursuing his artistic passions. During that time he served at the Chief Curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica and worked as an independent artist, exhibiting his painting, performance and installation work internationally.
Charles returned to Dogwood Initiative in June 2015 to focus his creativity on addressing climate change and empowering people in the political system. “I’m particularly excited by how Dogwood’s new organizing model has encouraged people across the province to build a community of politically engaged people. This is transformative”
Charles lives a full life in Victoria with his two children, one dog and two cats.
Jess is a professor at the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia where she teaches classes in environmental politics and researches attempts to make biodiversity conservation investable and profitable. As co-founder of the international network the CBD Alliance, Jess has participated in over a decade of major negotiations of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and worked with many NGOs and social movements (from the North and South) to develop analysis and positions on global biodiversity issues. Jess and her partner Ryan live with their three kids in Vancouver.
Maggie joined the Dogwood team in October 2009 after moving to Victoria from northeastern BC. She is committed to furthering Dogwood’s capacity by maximizing the potential of digital tools and data resources. Maggie earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at UNBC before moving further north to live in Chetwynd where she was the Editor of the local newspaper. Living in the north, in the centre of extensive resource extraction, gave her a defined commitment to helping citizens gain control of their resources and their land. When not wrangling data Maggie is busy wrangling her son George and two dogs Eta and Ira.
Growing up at the foot of Mount Seymour, Emily spent a lot of her youth camping along the coast and hanging out on her grandparents' hobby farm in the Shuswap. Emily realized how much love she has for her home province while pursuing a bilingual honours degree in International Studies and Modern Languages at the University of Ottawa.
Studying politics in Ottawa showed her the importance of being both political and involved in political process, which led to working with not-for-profits. Emily was previously a program coordinator with a national friendship organization for individuals with disabilities. Introduced to organizing as a Dogwood volunteer, Emily is passionate about getting citizens involved in the decisions that affect them.
Emily is now very committed to her East Van community, local food initiatives, and getting time in the great outdoors. When not organizing in the Lower Mainland, Emily is likely dancing, gardening, or exploring her Yiddish roots.
Don Gordon comes to Dogwood following 20 years of leading the development of community land trusts in Ontario. Don holds the Certified Fund Raising Executive designation and the National Certificate in Non-Profit Management. “Fund raising is not the most glamorous part of our work, but if we are to be successful in supporting community interests over those of corporations, it is essential that we have the resources to make our voices heard.” Scuba diving in BC’s oceans fuels his passion for change.
Sophie grew up in Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish territory. She first started knocking on doors with Dogwood at age 17 and is passionate empowering young people to hold our elected officials accountable on climate change. Sophie studied economics at Stanford University, where she helped organize the student campaign that successfully got the university to divest from the coal industry.
When she’s not out-organizing the fossil fuel lobby, you can find Sophie singing show tunes while riding her bike down Vancouver’s 10th Avenue, marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or geeking out on UN climate change negotiation proceedings.
Education: Juris Doctor, Magna Cum Laude, University of California; BA, Cum Laude, Dartmouth College
Experience: Executive Director, Dogwood Initiative; Coordinating Lawyer, Forestry Projects, EcoJustice (then called Sierra Legal Defence Fund); Articling Student, Fraser & Beatty; Legal Assistant, Morrison & Foerster
Awards: Strikeman, Elliot/Carswell National Tax Award from University of BC; University of California Honors Society; Order of the Coif; Thurston Honour Society; Legal Educational Opportunity Scholarship; American Jurisprudence Award for Constitutional Law; American Jurisprudence Award for Civil Procedure
Passion: Sports, bad jokes, reading and writing, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble and helping local people solve local problems.
After serving 16 years as the organization's Executive Director, Will recently became Dogwood's Director of Strategy, where he oversees strategy and mobilization on all of Dogwood's campaigns. Will received his law degree Summa Cum Laude from the University of California, after completing a B.A from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he majored in Anthropology and Third World studies. Prior to being called to the B.C. Bar in 1995, Will worked extensively as a community and labour organizer around the world. He also serves on the boards of numerous international, national and provincial non-profits. His passion is helping local people solve local problems. He lives in Victoria, with his daughter, appreciating all that Canada's magnificent west coast offers.
As a provincial organizer based in Vancouver, Mary has the wonderful job of creating and developing teams across the Lower Mainland, so that as community members we have more and more say in the decisions that affect our province’s land, air, and water.
Mary was born in Vancouver, but grew up in Saudi Arabia, and spent many years traveling around the world before realizing just how wonderful and unique British Columbia is. Now she gets emotional every time she looks north to the mountains.
Her background is primarily in language education, which has introduced her to hundreds of newcomers to Canada and regularly renewed her faith in the goodness of people. While completing a Master of Education at U.B.C., Mary created a free language exchange program that continues to run, introducing 850 students every term to teach each other more than 20 languages.
Outside of work, you might find Mary swimming at Hillcrest, hiking around Squamish, or geeking out over Turkish and Arabic cognates.
Jennie has been actively involved in the environmental movement in BC for over ten years. While attending the University of British Columbia in the late 90s, she was president of the Student Environment Centre. While attending the University of Victoria, she was on the executive of the Environmental Law Centre throughout her three-year law degree. She also conducted research on a volunteer basis for The Land Conservancy. Jennie has worked for the Environmental Youth Alliance and Sierra Legal Defence Fund, first in donor relations and then as a legal researcher. She is currently a practicing lawyer in Vancouver.
Dave landed in Canada at Wallace Island in 1973. An early immersion in those orca and salmon-rich waters imprinted deeply. A University of Victoria graduate, Dave has worked in the resource management and public services sector from Nelson to Fort St John, Vancouver and Calgary. He shares the vision of countless British Columbians who want a society that is sustainable, accountable to its citizens, and recognizes the value of the great creatures that have informed our culture.
A fourth-generation British Columbian, Kai lives in the Lower Mainland but his heart is in the Skeena. His last name translates roughly to “everlasting rice paddy,” which was probably a lot to hope for in feudal Japan. In his spare time he enjoys any combination of bows, bikes, brews, bros, etc.
Early in his career Kai worked as a journalist for CBC, CTV, the Tyee and other outlets. Moving home to B.C. in 2011, he soon found himself providing digital content and communications strategy to friends and clients in politics, advocacy, education, First Nations government and the private sector.
After volunteering with Dogwood, Kai joined the staff in 2014 as a campaigner. He took over as Communications Director in 2016. As he likes to say around the office, "this ain't your grandpappy's sarsaparilla". If you have a question, media request or constructive feedback, the quickest way to get in touch is probably on Twitter: @kainagata.
Arie grew up in Tsawwassen, B.C. with her family and a series of loveable keeshond pups. She attained a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy at UBC and also studied the subject for a stint at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. A course in environmental ethics prompted her transition from contemplating more abstract studies in philosophy towards a commitment to defend democracy in B.C.
Arie has been working with Dogwood Initiative on and off since the summer of 2012. She started off as a canvasser for the No Tankers campaign and then volunteered in various capacities until the Beyond Coal campaign took shape.
When she’s not organizing outreach opportunities for Dogwood Initiative, you can find her listening to her favourite music on her record player or live at venues throughout Vancouver. She’ll otherwise be found wandering in the mountains or at local coffee shops, probably reading about whales.
Lisa Sammartino is a Campaigns and Communications Coordinator at Dogwood. But she is so much more than that. She is also a sister, wife, horseback rider, coffee addict, costume party hostess, and Netflix binge watcher.
Lisa was raised on a horse farm just outside of Vernon, B.C. She studied Social Work at UBC-Okanagan, travelling to Finland to perform her practicum in refugee settlement with the Red Cross. In 2012 Lisa completed her graduate dissertation on the Canadian Residential School System from a gender perspective, earning her a Master’s degree in Human Rights from the London School of Economics.
She comes to Dogwood after spending three years working for a NDP Member of Parliament in Surrey.
Lisa lives in Langley with her husband, Anthony, and her horse, Dora.
Christina is Communications Coordinator in Dogwood's Victoria office. She has been successfully communicating since she first learned to speak at two-years-old, and has since used communications skills for good (giving compliments, telling people in danger to “Watch out!”) as well as evil (karaoke, talking her way out of speeding tickets). After spending the first part of her life communicating with ease, Christina decided to turn it into a certified skill by earning a communications degree from Western Washington University (with a political science minor for good measure).
After finishing university, Christina explored several career paths including owning and managing a family business, fundraising and marketing, and a regrettable stint in banking. After beginning work at the not-for-profit Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in early 2012, she discovered a passion for environmental protection and citizen engagement, which led to an interest in, and eventual hiring at, Dogwood. Stars aligned, dreams came true… stuff like that.
Christina was born in Victoria but as a child/teen lived in many exotic places… like Campbell River. And Utah. In 2006, Christina decided to move back to the place she always considered home (Vancouver Island) and now lives in North Saanich with her husband Eric, son Griffin, two very destructive cats named Beyonce and Becky (you read that right) and a dog who's so over it, Murph.
Natalie has provided strategic communications to environmental groups across Canada for the past 14 years. She has helped craft and popularize messaging, while driving communications campaigns that influence decision makers, investors and voters. She has worked on a variety of issues, from protecting British Columbia’s coastal temperate rainforest and wild salmon to protecting the boreal forest of Ontario. For the past eight years, since the early days of Alberta’s ‘dirty oil,’ Natalie has worked primarily on the campaign to stop tar sands expansion. Prior to her communications career, she worked in various capacities as a journalist - as a documentary film producer, freelance writer and as a full-time reporter at the Globe and Mail. She holds a graduate degree in journalism from Ryerson University and is pursuing a Masters of Fine Art at the University of British Columbia. Natalie lives in Montreal with her husband, Rene, and two boys.
Matt is Dogwood Initiative's Operations Director and has been with the organization since late 2006. Matt manages the overall operations of the organization including, Development, Digital Systems, Administration, and Finance. Before joining Dogwood he served for four years as the Director of Organizing (and occasional stints as Acting Executive Director) for the Green Party of Canada. Matt was one of the key players in the Green Party’s initial breakthrough on Canada’s federal political scene. When not in Dogwood’s office Matt likes to get out and explore Vancouver Island’s wilderness areas. Matt lives in Victoria with his wife Kelly and Ernie the cat.
Keira made the move to the West Coast in 2010 and she’s fallen in love with the ocean, the mountains, the mossy old growth forests, and the people who call this beautiful place home. In the process of completing a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, Keira is a passionate advocate for democracy and community engagement.
She has worked with Dogwood Initiative since 2014, and when she’s not in the office you can find her reading and writing up a storm in local coffee shops, getting her hands in the dirt, or sharing meals with good friends.