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Embark’s People

John Helin – Director

John HelinJohn Helin is the Mayor of the Lax Kw’alaams Band and is the director of Embark Engineering.


Linda Simon – Chief Executive Officer

Linda Simon is the Band Administrator for the Lax Kw’alaams Band.  Linda has extensive experience with band administration and with the Government of Canada.  Linda is very effective leader and is very good at securing project funding, ensure financial report requirements are met and ensuring projects get completed.


Brian Hjlesvold, PAED – Director

Brian HjlesvoldBrian a career Banker with over 30 years with Royal Bank of Canada as a Senior Account Manager in their Commercial Markets, his last 14 years as Manager Aboriginal Markets for Alberta, NWT & Yukon. He retired in December 2013 and has since continued with his passion to see Aboriginal People succeed and participate in this country’s economy, to share in its resources in a responsible and respectful way, to live in safe and healthy communities.

He sits as a Director on Goodfish Lake Business Corp., owned by Whitefish Lake Band #128 in Goodfish Lake, Ab. He is Chair of the Board for the Loon River Group of Companies owned by Loon River Cree First Nation, Red Earth, Ab. He is a Director of AFOA Alberta a provincial Chapter of AFOA Canada which was founded in 1999 as a not-for-profit organization whose premise is that one of the keys to successful determination, creating a better life for Canada’s Aboriginal people and a better future for the next generation lies in improving the management skills of those responsible for the stewardship of Aboriginal resources. He is Chair of the Metis Entrepreneurial Fund – a Metis Capital Corp. He also sits on the Board of Governors for Norquest College in Edmonton, Ab.

Past Co-Chair of Child & Family Services Region 6 – Edmonton & Area for the Ministry of Human Services, Alberta. Past Chair of Apeetogosan (Metis) Development Inc. and past member of the Industry Advisory Council to the Minister of Aboriginal Relations the Honorable Pearl Calahasen. . Brian received his Professional Economic Developer Designation from the Council for the Advancement of Native Development officers in 2010, and is a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors. Brian is Aboriginal and in 2012 moved with his wife to Bon Accord, Ab. He and his wife Gail have four children, and 6 grandchildren. Brian is an avid reader and Golfer.


Ron Monk, M.Eng., P.Eng. – Director & General Manager

Ron MonkRon Monk has over 25 years of experience in consulting engineering and with BC Hydro. His expertise includes energy planning that considers a full range of renewable, fossil fuel and transmission options. He has conducted feasibility studies for renewable energy projects, district energy systems, hydroelectric projects, and power lines. Ron has significant experience with design and construction of hydro projects ranging from 80 kW to 2,500 MW.

He was a key contributor to BC Hydro’s 1995 Integrated Electricity Plan (IEP) and was the Project Manager for the 2004 IEP. This work included First Nations and Stakeholder Engagement complementing Ron’s extensive experience working with First Nations on energy, water infrastructure and salmon enhancement projects.

Ron held various senior roles at BC Hydro including energy planning, rates and metering strategy, distribution operations, sustainability (including climate change strategy), research and development and strategic planning. He played a key role in transforming BC Hydro’s strategy to focus on energy efficiency and clean power. He also led the development of KWL’s Rapid Hydro Assessment Model (RHAM) and its use in evaluating hydro potential for Canada (British Columbia, Yukon and Northwest Territories), Mexico and Brunei.


Irfan Gehlen, P.Eng. – Director & Operations Manager

Irfan GehlenIrfan Gehlen has over 20 years of experience in water supply and treatment for drinking water applications. He has hands-on experience in both preliminary and detailed design of many water treatment plants, in addition to water reservoirs and pump stations. He also has experience with pilot studies and feasibility investigations for several communities that has led to the construction of full-scale water treatment plants.

Irfan was the site engineer for the Metlakatla water treatment plant, which was awarded the Schreyer Award, Canada’s highest honour for consulting engineering excellence. He has completed many water system assessments and managed the assessment of water and wastewater infrastructure for 100 First Nation communities in BC. He managed the overall assessment work program and was the technical reviewer for all of the 100 reports completed as part of the INAC assessment project.

Because of his drinking water expertise, Irfan was appointed Water Treatment Technical Practice Reviewer for the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC). Practice review is used to confirm adequate public health protection, worker safety, and environmental protection. In a similar role, Irfan is on retainer with Health Canada for the BC region to provide public health engineering review services for the 200 First Nation communities in BC. He has been in this role for several years.


David Sanders, AScT, PMP – Project Manager

David SandersDave Sanders is a Senior Project Manager and has concentrated his work on First Nations and small community civil engineering projects, including the management of capital projects ranging from feasibility through to design and construction phases. Dave is a registered Applied Science Technologist and a Project Management Professional. His main responsibilities involve client liaison, budget monitoring, scheduling, and quality control.


Elizabeth Lau, P.Eng. – Project Manager

Elizabeth LauElizabeth Lau is a Senior Civil Engineer with over 25 years of experience in the design and delivery of municipal infrastructure projects.  She joined KWL in 2014.  Her past work experience included engineering consulting, construction contracting in Central America and Yukon, as well as project engineer with City of Whitehorse and BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways.  Elizabeth has overseen and designed many municipal infrastructure projects.  She is adept at administering municipal construction contracts and has experience in being part of a multi-disciplinary construction management team.

For the past 15 years, Elizabeth has worked closely with First Nations on Vancouver Island and Northern BC providing engineering services and planning support.  She has been involved in First Nations community improvement projects from feasibility stage to implementation.  She has led Land Use and Comprehensive Community planning projects and provided mentorship to First Nation staff to strengthen their capacity.  She was recently involved in facilitating community consultations and preparation of the SPune’luxutth’ Comprehensive Community Plan.  She has also been involved in the design and management of AANDC Remote First Nations Solid Waste Management projects.  Elizabeth’s strengths lie in her broad knowledge of municipal engineering and her vision.  She is an excellent consensus builder and facilitator.


Peter Tapp – Project Manager

Peter TappPeter Tapp joined KWL in 1991 after obtaining his Diploma of Technology in Civil and Structural Engineering from BCIT. In his early years at KWL, he travelled extensively throughout British Columbia, completing the survey and inspection for a wide range of projects, including municipal infrastructure, river and coastal engineering works, hydroelectric power (IPP), stormwater management, and water and wastewater treatment facilities.

As KWL grew, Peter assumed the role of Survey and Mapping Manager and continues in that role today.  In this capacity, he assembles, coordinates and verifies the available survey information, and compiles the information for its intended purpose. This includes sourcing and acquiring aerial mapping, bathymetric data, Lidar, and data from GIS including orthographic photos, lot boundary (cadastral), infrastructure, etc. He is also responsible for the capital purchase and maintenance of over $250,000 of survey equipment, including conventional and Robotic Total Stations and RTK GPS receivers.

Peter is also a Project Manager and has delivered on a wide range of multidisciplinary projects. Most recently, he provided the civil engineering design and construction services to three prominent, award-winning developments located in the Lower Mainland: Mountain Equipment Co-op’s (MEC’s) retail store in North Vancouver (2012); MEC’s Head Office in Vancouver (2014); and UBC’s District Energy Centre (2016). All of the buildings were completed to a minimum LEED Gold standard.


Don Nash, P.Eng. – Senior Water Resources Engineer

Don NashDon began his career in water treatment working on a number of First Nations projects. The first project was with the Yunesit’in Government (formally Stone Indian Band) near Williams Lake  BC.  Don lived in the community as the resident engineer during the construction of the water treatment plant and was proud to share his Mi’kmaq heritage from the east coast of Canada.   Our First Nation culture is something that connects all of us across the country and we should all celebrate and work to preserve and protect that part of our heritage.

These initial experiences in the water treatment industry with First Nation communities have enabled Don to continue in the industry and develop a reputation for helping to create innovative opportunities and leading projects to award-winning success.  With a combined engineering education and work experience of over 24 years, Don has become a leader in project delivery including design-bid-build, design-build, and construction management at risk.  His experiences as a consultant, general contractor, and local government give him a full spectrum view of project delivery that others do not have.  This unique set of experiences helps frame opportunities for innovation at project inception through completion.

Recent project experiences include award winning reclaimed water projects that are the first of their kind in North America.  In the City of Dawson Creek Don led the team that helped the City create a partnership with Shell Canada to fund the design and construction of a reclaimed water facility that now supplies highly treated wastewater for oil and gas uses.  On the Sunshine Coast Don led the design team that supported the District of Sechelt to create a reclaimed water facility that produces Indirect Potable Reclaimed Water.  The Sechelt Water Resource Centre also worked with Salish Soils, a First Nation composting company, to compost the biosolids from the treatment process.


David Ward – Project Engineer

David WardDavid Ward has degrees in Civil Engineering and in Environmental Chemistry from the University of British Columbia and Thompson Rivers University respectively. David is a junior project engineer who is gaining experience in water treatment plant design, as well as flood mitigation works and also small run-of-river power projects. He is involved with the Embark career development program for First Nations, being of Lil’Wat First Nation ancestry himself. David’s work encompasses projects in the water quality and supply as well as the water resources.


Anne Simonen

Anne SimonenAnne has recently re-joined Embark after a brief hiatus, during which she completed the majority of a Bachelor of Technology in Construction Management from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (expected completion June 2016).  During her past employment, she gained experience preparing design and record drawings, performing various pipe design work, preparing cost opinions, and site surveying.  She is familiar with MMCD and CCDC documents, and has assisted in the production of specifications, the review of shop drawings, and project scheduling. She is proud to represent her Ojibway heritage through her work with Embark.


Kimberley Brown

Kimberley BrownKimberley Brown is currently pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of British Columbia. She is interested in working on water treatment and wastewater treatment projects.  Kimberley is a member of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation and wishes to continue to learn about her aboriginal heritage as she continues her engineering studies. In her spare time, she enjoys playing and coaching sports such as lacrosse, basketball and rugby.