FTCCIS Directors

Chris Dragseth

I am a relative new comer to Cortes Island, moving to Cortes in the fall of 2009 with my wife Debbie. I retired after 33 years with the Federal Government, serving 27 years with DFO and 6 years with Service Canada. Service to the community has been an important aspect of my career, having been a member of Scouts Canada, BC Ambulance Service, Lions Club and the United Way.

The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island is another opportunity to serve my community. Part of my career involved habitat protection with DFO, so the value of the Children’s Forest from a salmonid perspective is clear. However, equally important is the value this watershed is to the well being of our children. My grandchildren Kiera and Aidan have played a role in the public awareness of this valuable asset and have brought home to me the need for public advocacy in support of protecting this valuable resource.

Christine Robinson

I have lived on Cortes Island for 23 years, moving here from the city with my husband, daughter, and son, to a place where forest and beach could be woven through our daily lives. I am a certified BC teacher and outdoor educator, having taught for over 20 years on Cortes, with a particular interest in bringing children, nature and an outdoor curriculum together. I love to explore the natural world with children, and foster relationships between people and nature. I have also been involved in local salmon enhancement with schools for many years, and am a part-time kayak guide.

Having been involved in the vision of the Children’s Forest from the spark of its inception, I feel one of the most vitally important tasks we are facing today is the protection of natural places for future generations of children, and for the well-being of all!

Andrew Smyth

I was raised in England, studied foreign languages at university and subsequently qualified as a lawyer and worked for several years for a commercial law firm in the City of London.

In 1998 my spouse and I immigrated to Canada and settled in Vancouver.  I was, and continue to be awestruck by the physical beauty of British Columbia. Proximity and easy access to wild and unspoiled places has been one of the qualities that has made living in BC so fulfilling to me.

After 10 happy years living and working in Vancouver, first in law, and subsequently for our own software integration consultancy, we finally moved to Cortes Island in 2008. We were seeking a place where we could live at a slower pace and raise our daughter in a small community with unrestricted access to nature.

The system of parks and protected wilderness in Canada is a testimony to those who had the foresight to advocate for protection, starting more than 125 years ago. And as many special places in British Columbia continue to be threatened by population growth and resource extraction projects, there are times when communities need to mobilize to protect such places for future generations. The Cortes Children’s Forest represents an opportunity to preserve a remarkable, pristine watershed for the benefit of all, and in particular, current and future generations of children, and I feel privileged to be able to help in this effort.

Hayley Newell

I moved to Cortes Island in 2017, after visiting for a number of years and falling in love with this beautiful island. I believe that Nature is our primary teacher and I know first hand that having a connection with the natural world from a young age, fosters a life-long relationship that weaves through all aspects of life.

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Geography, a certification in Somatic Therapy and am currently a student of Play Therapy. I take clients outside – as the natural world is also a source of deep healing for us all.
I also have a background in teaching and have worked for various “Forest Schools” – I bring this knowledge and more to the board of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society.

Connie Brill

My formative years began in British Columbia’s west coast rain forest. As a young adult, life took me on the road to new adventures, leaving the forests behind for a time. When I returned and settled back on the coast, I met my husband, Colin, a North Vancouver native. In 1988, with a young family starting, we chose to raise our children in Banff, a town offering wilderness, arts and strong community with an international sensibility. The beauty of the mountain landscape caught our imaginations. Along with growing a family and work, we started Precipice Theatre and wrote, produced and toured environmental plays on issues concerning Banff and Alberta.

Twenty-seven years later, the children had grown into young adults and were off in the world. Colin and I determined it was time to reconnect with our west coast roots and found Cortes Island. The draw of Cortes is again the wilderness, arts and a strong community – only this time in the lush west coast rain forest. It was coming home.

Having spent the past 30 years involved in highlighting environmental awareness and protection through theatre, I dove in when asked to help with a theatre project for the Children’s Forest. The enthusiasm and energy the youth give while trying to preserve this forest drew me further into involvement at the board level. Children and wilderness are a natural fit.

Isabel Steigemann

I grew up on one of Cortes Island’s old farmsteads, right by the ocean. I spent much of my youth outdoors tramping around on the farm, the beach, the forests, the gardens and playing with the animals on the farm.  I found my curiosity in the wild animals that roamed about: birds, deer, wolves, sea creatures, insects, raccoons, grouse and so on. I still live on the farm and spend much of my free time outside, gardening and enjoying the beauty. Coming from an artistic and musical family I developed a love for Violin at quite a young age. Eagerly curious about this infinite form of expression and sound, I play and learn more everyday for my own enjoyment.

This nature-based lifestyle, that my parents and community have instilled within me, has been invaluable to me thus far. I appreciate the importance of helping children form connections and generate heartfelt feelings toward the natural world around them, whereby enriching my own experience of it as well.
I’m excited to have an opportunity to give back to my community and the environment. Having spent so much of my own youth in Carrington, on annual family camping trips and hikes, it holds a special place in my heart. I wish to support many other children in forming similar bonds to this special place. As a FTCCIS director, I am working to see the Children’s Forest entrusted to them.

Jodi Peters

I first visited Cortes as a Linnaea Farm Garden Student in 2009, and fell in love with the forests, hiking to Carrington Bay on numerous occasions, and standing in awe of the ancient forest in the pockets where it could still be found. I moved to Cortes with my husband and young daughter in 2014. She is now nearly six, and has a little sister, and my children motivate me daily to work to preserve what is precious about our environment and to change our human-created systems for the better. While I know the world is changing faster and faster, I cannot imagine a future without forests. All my life, trees and the forest have drawn me in, taught me, comforted me. I view them as the purest of beings, offering shade, oxygen and shelter/home for so many creatures. I am especially passionate about preserving old growth forests, and I believe a sustainable forestry sector should leave old growth forests untouched as a priceless and irreplaceable treasure. Unfortunately, we still do not have adequate protection in British Columbia for all old growth forests, and we need to work to change this. And what better place to do this than on this incredible island I call home?

I am excited to work as a director for the FTCCIS. I have a lot of experience working in the non-profit world. While living in Vancouver, I worked for the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (now HUB), and the Environmental Youth Alliance, where I got many opportunities to observe and facilitate youth connecting to nature in the middle of the city. Since coming to Cortes, I’ve continued to facilitate youth programs through the CCHA, and also have taught permaculture design courses at Linnaea Farm. Most recently, I completed a Non-Profit Management Certificate through Simon Fraser University, and am honoured to have such a worthy cause to which to apply my experiences and education.

Honorary Directors

Ann Mortifee

I was born in South Africa on a sugar cane farm in Zululand. My Grandfather helped to create the Umflozi Game Reserve to save the white rhino. It was those early years that instilled in me my passion for Nature. Later, I became a singer/songwriter, a creator of film and ballet scores, CDs, musicals, one-woman shows, workshops and keynote addresses. I have travelled the world, worked with the dying abroad and in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. I’ve spent time with the head Sangoma of the Zulu Nation, lived in war torn Beirut and co-founded The Somerset Foundation and The Trust for Sustainable Forestry. My life has been blessed with adventure.

Moving to Cortes in 1997 with my son, who was 10 at the time, is one of the wisest and most fulfilling things I have done. I knew that the values he would receive here in Nature would be for him, as they were for me, the best education he could receive. And now, being an Honorary Director of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society, I feel the joy of being part of something important and life giving. Every child deserves to be nurtured by the spirit of the land and to know that he or she is a living part of a magical and mysterious world.

Donna Bracewell

I am deeply honoured to have been asked to be serve on the board of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society. Cortes Island was my home for 22 years, during which time I raised our 6 children and was founder-principal of Linnaea School; a nature based alternative school for island children. Many of the children and youth who are working now to preserve the Children’s Forest, attended Linnaea School. They are living proof that children raised to love and care for the natural world, who regularly spend their time with their hands in the dirt, playing in the forest, daydreaming on the shores of a lake and marveling at the morning dew on a spider web, truly understand the preciousness of the gift that is slipping from our grasp.

Although I now live and work on the other side of the world, in Hanoi Vietnam, my heart has stayed connected to Cortes Island. As my husband, David, recently wrote, “Planting a tree here in Hanoi will have an impact on people around the world. My granddaughter in Canada probably will never breathe a single molecule of the oxygen released by these trees, but nonetheless her air will be sweeter for their existence”. So will the entire world be sweeter due to the continued existence of the Children’s Forest.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
— John Muir

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