IRSI takes guidance from an Indigenous Advisory Committee comprised of members from Indigenous communities as well as faculty, staff and students from both UBC campuses. The committee's purpose is to provide culturally-relevant advice, leadership and support to inform IRSI's strategic direction and members are chosen to bring to the table expertise in a variety of relevant disciplines. 

IRSI's day-to-day operations are led by Associate Director Lerato Chondoma and carried out by a diverse and dedicated team of individuals.

Lerato Chondoma, Associate Director

Lerato hails from the Batuang Clan of ba ha Moletsane from Lesotho in Southern Africa and lives as an uninvited guest on the unceded and occupied territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people where she lives with her two sons.

As the inaugural Associate Director for the Indigenous Research Support Initiative, Lerato plays a strategic role in providing support to Indigenous communities, researchers and other partners working on Indigenous research collaborations. Lerato works to understand how policy, systems and procedures can enable reciprocal and ethical relationships in community-university research collaborations and how these support Indigenous engagement and address systemic racism on individual and system-wide levels.

Lerato has more than 18 years’ combined experience in anti-racism, community-based research, economic and social development with Indigenous communities, policy development and employment equity law. She has worked across a range of specializations including law, business and economic development, natural resources, community wellbeing, and government relations.

Outside of UBC, Lerato serves as a member of the Board Executive for the Canadian Black Policy Network and previously served as Vice-Chair for the Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Advisory Committee (2021-2022) that advises Vancouver City Council on enhancing access and inclusion for Vancouver’s diverse cultural communities.

Prior to moving to Vancouver, Lerato practiced as a candidate attorney and legal consultant in South Africa, specializing in Labour Law and Employment Equity. She has a B. Com and an LL.B from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa and an MBA from the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Her broad praxis focuses on decoloniality, intersectional equity, anti-Indigenous racism and anti-Black racism. Lerato is also very interested in exploring new approaches to recognize and centre different knowledge systems, how these are evaluated in our public institutions and how they are reflected in policy considerations.  

Sam Filipenko, Research Program Manager

Sam Filipenko, MPH (he/him) is a non-Indigenous person of White-settler ancestry. He was born and raised on unceded and occupied Musqueam territory, but he spent the last decade living and working in Tkaronto (Toronto) – the traditional territories of many nations, including the Anishnaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Huron-Wendat. Sam obtained a Bachelors of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of British Columbia and a Masters of Public Health degree in Social and Behavioural Health Sciences from the University of Toronto. He has significant experience working in applied Indigenous research contexts – previously working on Indigenous-led projects to evaluate and improve the cultural safety of urban hospitals.

Sam is committed to transforming research practices and policies to encompass the priorities, experiences, and protocols of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and he's been taught that decolonizing research practices requires us all to hold a piece of the puzzle.

Jessica Groat, Graduate Practicum Student

Jessica Groat, a mixed settler of Red River Métis, Cree, and European heritage, is paternally affiliated with the Mountain Métis of Jasper House in Treaty 6/8 territory, Alberta. Currently residing as an uninvited guest on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories in colonially named Vancouver, she navigates this space as a second-year Master of Public Health student. In the realm of public health, Jessica's passions lie in the intersectionalities of health equity, food sovereignty, land protection, climate justice, and community well-being within Indigenous communities. Driven by her acknowledgment of the intersection between IRSI's mission and Indigenous wellbeing, she joined IRSI this academic year as a practicum student with the goal of actively contributing to the ongoing narrative of reconciliation, research excellence, and community partnerships within Indigenous contexts. 

Drawing from her personal journey of self-decolonization, Jessica actively participates in decolonization initiatives within her discipline, envisioning broader cultural shifts in academic institutions. With humility, she emphasizes the importance of walking gently on others' land, weaving respect for the Host Nations into every facet of her academic and community engagement journey.

Luiza Salek, Worklearn Communications Coordinator

Luiza is a Latinx student with Climate Justice-focused studies at the University of British Columbia, located on Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Səl̓ilwətaɁɬ, and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh traditional ancestral unceded territory. Working in various community settings throughout Latin America, especially with Indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon, Luiza has learned the value of deep listening and humility for re-building quality relationships, uncovering underlying truths, and co-developing meaningful next steps for systems change. She recognizes that these skills require constant polishing and adaptability, and as such cares deeply about IRSI’s mission to support respectful relationship-building between community and researchers. In specializing in Critical Education, she continues to explore how Indigenous pedagogies and methodologies can invite us to show up with the energy and perspective needed to work collectively towards community-led interests and mutual accountability.

Community Members

Caleb Behn, Natural Resources

Eh-Cho Dene and Dunne-Za

Caleb Behn is Eh-Cho Dene and Dunne Za/Cree from the Treaty 8 Territory of northeastern British Columbia. Behn was born into in a very political family, with several close relatives including his mother serving as Chiefs. He grew up in northern British Columbia, a land increasingly changed as the oil and gas industry grows.

He is a graduate of the University of Victoria Law Program and was called to the BC Bar in 2014.  Caleb’s work has focused on the intersection of water, energy and Indigenous law.  A former ‘lands manager’ for the West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations and a Senior Researcher at the Centre for International Governance Innovation Caleb was also a founding member of the Decolonizing Water Research Collective and the subject of the documentary film ‘Fractured Land’.  Caleb now resides in Ottawa and is the Special Advisor on Water to the Housing, Infrastructure and Emergency Services Sector of the Assembly of First Nations. In his spare time he works with the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University on linking Indigenous communities and legal systems globally.

Leslie Bonshor, Health

Tzeachten First Nation, Stolo

Leslie Bonshor is a member of Tzeachten First Nation. As the Aboriginal Health Executive Advisor at Vancouver Coastal Health, she provides strategic direction and guidance to the CEO and Senior Executive Team at Vancouver Coastal Health on challenges, priorities, and issues related to improving the health of the Indigenous population. Previously, she was Aboriginal Health Director at Fraser Health for eight years. In this role, she provided leadership within Fraser Health by planning, supporting and guiding the implementation of initiatives designed to improve the health of Indigenous people.

Prior to working in health care, Leslie provided business support and consulting services to First Nations communities and organizations in the Fraser Valley, including project management, communications strategies, and policy development. Leslie has extensive expertise in Indigenous health strategic leadership, policy, primary health care and community-based health delivery.

Chief Michelle Edwards, Business & Economic Development

Sekw’el’was Cayoose Creek Indian Band

Chief Michelle Edwards is the elected Chief of Cayoose Creek Indian Band (Sekw'el'was) and has been elected to the Business/Economic Development community seat. Previous to her two terms as Chief, Michelle served as Councillor for two years, and brings to the IAC extensive experience balancing community wellness and traditional values, with increasing modernization of infrastructure and economy. Chief Edwards also brings a wealth of experience in climate leadership, natural resources management, and founding and developing an award-winning environmental business. 

Robbie Knott, Community Planning

Red River Métis

Robbie Knott is a cis-male Red River Métis and recent graduate of the UBC’s Masters of Community and Regional Planning Program with a specialization in Indigenous Community Planning. The centerpiece of the practicum-based degree involves co-developing and implementing a phase of the Comprehensive Community Planning process, which Robbie successfully completed in 2019 in partnership with Sq’éwlets First Nation. Currently, Robbie works as a Junior Researcher at the Firelight Group, and for the First Nations Health Authority as a contract facilitator and writer. Robbie believes in an ethos of emotionally engaged planning and brings advanced and informed communication skills, decolonizing research and engagement methodologies, along with diverse experience in community planning, advocacy, and mentorship (at the Urban Native Youth Association, the Xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Indigenous Health Research & Education Garden at the UBC Farm, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, Parks Canada, and more).

Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, Housing & Infrastructure

Kwakiutl and Quatsino

Fran has more than 20 years of experience in senior management and direct engagement working with Indigenous peoples. Her areas of expertise include Indigenous adult and post-secondary education and training. Fran is currently the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Coalition to end Homelessness and was the inaugural Director of the Office of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Victoria. Fran is also an entrepreneur and owns a consulting business, Hunt-Jinnouchi Enterprises. She has a Bachelor of Social Work, a Master of Adult Education and has completed the course work for a Doctorate in Philosophy in Educational Psychology and Leadership. Fran is passionate about social justice and has dedicated her life's work to Indigenous community capacity development.

Leona Sparrow, Musqueam First Nation


Leona Sparrow is the director of Treaty, Lands and Resources for the Musqueam Indian Band, on whose traditional territories UBC’s Vancouver campus is located. Leona has held leadership roles within the band for many years and is an active participant in First Nations affairs in Canada.

Leona is also active in several roles at UBC. In addition to her place on the IRSI Advisory Council, Ms. Sparrow acts as designated liaison between the Musqueam and UBC, has served on the President’s Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs for the past several years. From 1993 to 2003, Leona was an appointed member of UBC Senate. She has also served on advisory boards for the Peter A. Allard School of Law and the Museum of Anthropology (MOA). In all instances, her guidance has facilitated a new and far more effective approach to working with First Nation communities, based on respect and productive collaboration.

Leona holds Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Doctor of Laws degrees from UBC.

Edna Terbasket, Language, Education & Culture

Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society

Edna Terbasket is the Executive Director at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society and a member of the UBC Okanagan Aboriginal Advisory Council, which helps create and strengthen Aboriginal programming and resources at the university.

In 2012, Edna was awarded the Association of BC Deans of Education (ABCDE) Education Advocate of the Year Award. Edna was honoured for her years of advocacy in support of an excellent education system as a primary resource for the development of children and communities, her commitment to lifelong learning and her dedication to promoting the free and open exchange of ideas, analyses and views of educational issues. She is a strong advocate for making bridges between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal education communities to enhance awareness and understanding on how to support Aboriginal student success.

UBC Members

Helen Brown, Health

Associate Professor, School of Nursing, UBC

Dr. Helen Brown is a professor in the School of Nursing at UBC. Her research program brings a critical perspective to rural Indigenous health and employs community-based participatory approaches for academic-community partnership with BC First Nations to advance health equity within local contexts. Using participatory and decolonizing methodologies and ethnographic methods to best answer community-defined research questions, her current projects include a focus on women's community safety and social inclusion, youth mental health, restorative justice, Indigenous cultural continuity, social determinants of health, the ongoing community effects of colonialism, regalia making and language revitalization as community health promotion, and incarcerated Indigenous men's mental health and rehabilitation.

Laurel Evans, Research Ethics

Director, Research Ethics

As Director, Research Ethics at the University of BC’s Office of Research Ethics, Laurel Evans is responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring the Program for Human Research Participant Protections at the University. The position is responsible for ensuring that ethics processes and polices at the University meet local, provincial, national and international requirements.

Laurel holds a Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B.) from Western University.

Sheryl Lightfoot, Governance

Anishnaabe, Senior Advisor to the President on Indigenous Affairs

Sheryl Lightfoot (PhD Minnesota) is Canada Research Chair of Global Indigenous Rights and Politics, and Associate Professor in both First Nations and Indigenous Studies and Political Science at the University of British Columbia. In 2018, she was appointed to the role of Senior Advisor to the President on Indigenous Affairs, a position within the First Nations House of Learning.

Sheryl’s research interests include global Indigenous peoples’ rights and politics, Indigenous diplomacy, social movements, and critical international relations. She publishes articles in both Indigenous studies and international relations venues. Her book, “Indigenous Global Politics” was published in 2016, and is an extension of her PhD dissertation which won the 2010 Best Dissertation Award in Race and Ethnic Politics from the American Political Science Association. She is Anishinaabe from the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe.

For additional information please view Sheryl’s profile with the First Nations and Indigenous Studies here.

CORRINA SPARROW, Graduate Student

Musqueam, Pentlatch, Dutch

Corrina Sparrow is a current PhD candidate with the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality & Social Justice at UBC, whose research investigates contemporary Coast Salish Two Spirit identities, resiliency, and the use of traditional nation-specific, land-based values and knowledge in strengthening Two Spirit/Indigenous queer health and wellness. Corrina's ancestors come from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nation, the Qualicum Nation of the Pentlatch People, and the Netherlands. A recent MA graduate (University of Victoria 2018), Corrina also brings to the IAC extensive community-based experience -- from their current role as Social Development manager at Musqueam, to many years of strong advocacy and helping work in Indigenous child and family safety, cultural programming, community development, and social planning.