The leadership team of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society team consists of 100% unpaid volunteers. They have each invested thousands of hours and some tens of thousands of dollars personally into the Society. As legislative modernization will not be retroactive, none of the team members will benefit from the legislation being passed. They are each selflessly and philosophically committed to ensuring a safer and more dignified province for future generations.
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President – Michael-James Pennie
Michael was brought to the cause of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society after his Father Jim, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, was severely neglected at an extended care facility. After a wound that turned gangrenous lead to a foot amputation, followed, by a 5-month hospitalized recovery with numerous near-death complications, Jim sadly was never able to walk again.
Michael navigated the process of the Patient Care Quality Office, Patient Care Quality Review Boards, and BC Office of the Ombudsperson, and overall was extremely dissatisfied with both the government’s investigative process, as well as their inability to hold the wrongful parties accountable. As a self-represented litigant, he sued the facility in Provincial Court and later escalated the matter to Supreme Court. While litigation was ongoing, Jim passed away. Only on Jim’s deathbed, did Michael come to learn that under BC’s antiquated wrongful death laws, his Father had no value under the law, leaving him with a burning sense of injustice.
Michael joined the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society in 2015, first as a member, later as Vice President, and since 2018 he has served in the Society’s leadership role as President.
On behalf of the Society Michael has given over 30 media interviews as a subject matter expert, met with over 40 Members of the Legislative Assembly, presented to the NDP & Liberal Caucuses, and has been introduced by the Attorney General in Question Period at the Legislature. He is tirelessly dedicated to pursuing provincial wrongful death legislative reform. Michael strives to see a province that respects the liberty and dignity of all individuals fairly under the law, ensuring access to justice, and a safer province for both current and future generations.
Aside from his dedication to the Society, Michael has operated a Technology & Marketing Development Consultancy business since 2004, and has been involved in Filmmaking since 2013. In 2008, he travelled with the BC Premier and Cabinet to open the BC Pavilion in Tiananmen Square prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and presented at the Beijing International Business & Technology Summits. He was a member of the 2009 Ascent for Alzheimer’s Team that raised over a quarter million for the Alzheimer Society of BC, which culminated in the summiting of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest free standing mountain in the world. In 2010 he advised on the Premier’s Technology Council. Michael has also been both interviewed and featured on television and in numerous publications some of which include Global, CTV, CBC, CKNW, CKPG, Sun News UK, BC Tech Magazine, Business in Vancouver, Make it Business Magazine, Techvibes, Vancouver Sun, Georgia Straight, City TV, Business TV, North Shore News, Peace Arch News, The Squamish Chief, Tuff City Radio.
In Michael’s free time he enjoys practicing martial arts, weightlifting, ice hockey, and studying Austrian Economics. You can connect with him personally on Linkedin.
Vice President & Founding Member – Catherine S. Adamson
On September 13, 1997, a young drunk driver smashed his way through a crowd of over 100 teenagers in an area of South Surrey known as Stokes Pit. Seventeen people were injured and two deaths occur as a result of this accident. One girl, aged 17, died instantly at the scene from massive head trauma; and Catherine’s daughter, Heidi Klompas, age 17, died three and a half weeks later in Royal Columbian Hospital.
Heidi’s death triggered investigations from the Coroner’s Office and the BC Children’s Commission. They both found that Heidi did not die as a direct result of her initial injuries from being struck by the car (two broken shinbones), but instead died as a result of a series of medical errors. Both reports suggest her death was unnecessary and tragically preventable.
Catherine S. Adamson, was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and was raised, along with her five siblings, on acreages and farms in the community of Langley, in the Fraser Valley. At the age of twenty-one, Catherine married K. Klompas, an airline pilot, and produced three children in succession: William Albert in December, 1978; Heidi Dawn in May, 1980; and Laura Jayne in September, 1981, raising them in Langley, BC.
She taught Sunday School, coached softball, served as Brown Owl and then District Commissioner for Girl Guides of Canada, and was an active fundraiser for the children’s school. Catherine obtained her Real Estate License in 1990 and worked for eight years as a Realtor in Langley. In 1996, Catherine ran in the municipal election and won a seat on the Langley School Board as a Trustee, where she served for three years.
The death of seventeen-year-old Heidi in 1997 had a profound effect on Catherine and her entire family. Her marriage collapsed within the first year. She hung up her Realtor’s license at the same time and was faced with starting her life over.
Catherine decided to go back to university; and in the next four years she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Visual Arts from UCFV, graduating on the Dean’s List, with an award in Art History, in June, 2003. During her time at university, Catherine slowly accumulated the documentation she would need to tell Heidi’s story. The writing started in earnest in 2003. After completing Heidi’s book in the spring of 2005, Catherine moved back to her birthplace of Vancouver, where she continues to write and paint.
Heidi’s book “Missed Opportunities” has been disseminated to numerous surgical staff rooms across the province, as well as several dozen Members of the Legislative Assembly. In 2015, Catherine was a founding member of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society and has served in the roles of President and Vice President. You can connect with Catherine personally on her website.
Founding Member – RIta McDonnell
What brought Rita McDonnell to the cause was the suffering her father, Gary Davis, went through while at Langley Memorial Hospital and later at Cedar Hill Care Home in 2009. She learned that because of this outdated law that protects the abuser and not the people of BC, her father wanted justice before he died.
What Rita wants is real accountability and damages for unbearable loss of life that was stolen. This should lead to real incentives for improvement in the medical systems through accountability.
Rita grew up mostly in East Vancouver and graduated from Templeton Secondary. Her parents divorced when she was a toddler, and her father had to fight to see her and her sister. In the early 1980s she was in Army Cadets where she met her husband and they have been together since.
Since 2004, Rita has been a Special Education Assistant (EA); her father was so proud of her getting a career and knowing that he was a grandfather of two. He was happy to see her and her children grow up, but he missed out on so much.
In 2010, she became a member of the Wrongful Death Law Reform Working Group (now known as The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society). Her father went through so much suffering, which encouraged her to join this group. Her eyes were opened to antiquated provincial regulations and laws still in use from 1846. Once she learned of these laws, she knew something had to change and it was time to take a stand and to bring awareness to others.
In 2013, Rita was in a documentary about wrongful death called “Hope is not a Plan,” and her daughter released a video called ”For Grandparents”. In 2011, she organized a walk for awareness of wrongful death in Stanley Park; participants included other family members who have suffered the wrongful death of a loved one. Rita feels that life now is hard watching the news about seniors and what is happening to them during COVID-19.
Secretary & Founding Member – Faith Hayman
Faith Hayman was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1985 and practiced both defence and plaintiff personal injury law before becoming firmly committed to litigating solely on behalf of the injured and people with disabilities.
She was called to the BC Bar in 1993 and has since developed a successful and respected practice in the areas of personal injury, disability and other insurance law – first with a boutique law firm, and now with her own firm.
Faith has given presentations to the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, Canadian Insight, Canadian Institute, Continuing Legal Education, American Board of Vocational Consultants, the Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada – BC, the BC Cancer Agency, and the Canadian Association of Psychiatry and the Law. She is known for her compassion, incisive mind, and absolute commitment to justice.
Faith is a founding member of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society, as after encountering numerous families who’ve lost a loved one to wrongful death, she recognized the urgent need to reform BC’s antiquated wrongful death laws.
She lives in North Vancouver with her husband and an aging golden doodle. When she’s not working, you can often find her hiking the north shore trails. You can connect personally with Faith on her website.
Treasurer & Founding Member – Don Renaud
Don obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of Alberta in 1981 and a law degree from the University of Victoria in 1984. He was called to the Bar of British Columbia in 1985 and now has represented clients in the courts of BC for over thirty years. He has successfully obtained several multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts for seriously injured people throughout Western Canada.
Don’s sense of accomplishment is derived from verdicts and settlements which improve the lives of his clients. To this end, every year Don attends or presents at advanced trial advocacy and medical malpractice conferences throughout Canada and the United States. His extensive trial experience, network and training relieves pressure to settle if a more appropriate amount is obtainable through either jury trial or trial by judge alone.
He is keenly interested in social justice, public safety and quality of life issues for people with disabilities. He has developed a special interest and commitment to the families of children who have suffered brain injury and cerebral palsy due to birth trauma and medical negligence.
Don is a founding member of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society, as after encountering numerous families who’ve lost a loved one to wrongful death, he recognized the urgent need to reform BC’s antiquated wrongful death laws.
In Don’s free time he enjoys playing ice hockey and spending quality time with his family. You can connect with Don personally on his website.
BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society Team Alumni
Founding Member – Robert White (deceased and in memory of)
Robert “Bob” Edward White passed away on July 8th, 2018 at the age of 72. Predeceased by daughter Laura White, brothers Bill and John. He is survived by his loving wife Rosita, daughter Christine, sister Doreen, brother Ron & sister-in-law Dale, his cousins, nieces and nephews.
Robert cycled in the Ride to Conquer Cancer and was a mentor for youth with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver. He was a history buff of the World Wars, a tenor, and loved designing N scale model trains which he shared on the internet. “Bob” played and refereed football and shared the love of the sport with his brothers.
He worked in security at Canadian Airlines, Air Canada & Concord Pacific, and is remembered to be kind and hardworking. Robert was a devoted man to his family; a familiar face at music recitals held for his daughter’s students; a protector.
Robert was a founding member of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society in 2015. He was brought to the cause by the tragic and preventable passing of his daughter Laura White.
Past Campaign Coordinator – Mattis Bieg
Mattis Bieg is from Munich Germany and served as the Society’s Campaign Coordinator in 2019. He is presently attending Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich studying Constitutional, Medical, and VAT Law. He joined the Society here in British Columbia, Canada as an unpaid volunteer intern at his own expense and passionately dedicated himself to campaigning for reforming BC’s wrongful death laws. As a German citizen, Mattis first learned about the impact of antiquated wrongful death legislation after the 2015 Germanwings Flight 9525 tragedy which pushed German lawmakers to finally reform the country’s wrongful death laws in 2017. In Mattis’ work with the Society, he wrote and had an article published by The Lawyer’s Daily titled “Seeking compensation for wrongful deaths in BC.”
Following Mattis’ internship he has shared a brief recap of his experience and some parting thoughts:
“Even though I only worked with the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society for a limited time, I enjoyed every moment to its fullest. The lessons I have learned from Michael-James Pennie and Don Renaud, will have an ever-lasting impact on my understanding of true justice and how we should treat each other with the necessary respect and dignity. While I’ve always strived to do my best to right a wrong, my experience with the Society helped me to develop a deep understanding for the surviving families of victims of wrongful death and what it takes to give them a fair compensation for an irreplaceable loss.
Over the course of my internship I had the opportunity to take part in campaigning to make British Columbia a more righteous and dignified place for all of its citizens.
Hearing the stories of victims of wrongful death and how they are being treated under BC legislation, first-hand, was heartbreaking. Thus, it is beyond my understanding how, on the part of the government that this unjust legislative defect has not been corrected by now. This is especially taking into consideration the amazing and tireless work of each volunteer from the Society in pushing the government for reform.
Through the work I’ve done with the Society and all the affected families that I was deeply touched by, it reaffirmed to me that having access to justice, should not be considered merely a privilege, but a right that every British Columbian should have and that lawmakers need to secure. It was a privilege to work with each and every member of the Society and I hope they accept this token of my esteem for the amazing work they are doing day by day.”