Partners

Associates

rachel ariss portrait

Rachel Ariss

B.A., LL.B., LL.M. (Queen’s), S.J.D. (U. of T.)
she/her/hers

Rachel articled with the United Steelworkers of America and was called to the Ontario bar in 1993. She obtained her Masters of Law from Queen’s University, and obtained her Doctorate of Law from the University of Toronto in 2001. Rachel has been an associate professor at the Sociology Department at Lakehead University, and is currently associate professor in Legal Studies in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Rachel conducts research, drafting, and policy analysis with the firm.

Rachel has published articles dealing with the ethics of reproductive technology, and assisted in the development of Fiduciary Duties in Canada. Her most recent publications can be found in the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development and Law (link), the Canadian Review of Sociology, the Indigenous Law Journal (link), and the Canadian Journal of Midwifery Research and Practice. She is also researching legal registration of genetic parenthood, the role of law in conflicts between mining companies and First Nations and teaching for reconciliation.

Rachel supports Lisa’s quest for pie, and encourages her husband at every opportunity to bake his delicious pies.

Ruben Tillman

BA (UBC), JD (UVic)
he/him/his

Ruben believes in the law as an instrument of positive social change. His practice reflects this belief. He maintains a busy administrative, environmental, and Aboriginal law practice.

Ruben has worked with Indigenous clients to prepare evidence for regulatory proceedings, human rights tribunals, and court. He has extensive experience drafting submissions to tribunals and courts. He regularly advises both First Nations clients and professional regulators on issues ranging from employment matters and contracts to bylaw enforcement. He has appeared at all levels of BC court, and recently acted for Heiltsuk First Nation at the Ontario Court of Appeal, intervening on the issue of aboriginal title to submerged lands.

Outside of work, Ruben is a member of the CBA – Environmental Law Section, and sits on the board of the non-profit Action Committee of People With Disabilities. When he is not working or volunteering, Ruben likes to eat popcorn while watching esoteric movies, preferably with his cat near or on him.

Sabrina Zhu

B.Arts Sc Honours (McMaster), JD (UVic)
she/her/hers

Sabrina immigrated to Canada at age five and enjoyed a true East-meets-West upbringing in Southern Ontario. She credits an early curiosity about rules and systems to being a product of two distinct but coexisting world views. Today, she remains motivated by the practice of law as a means for building a more respectful and inclusive society.

Sabrina moved to BC in 2016, chasing the promise of mild winters and mountain views. She obtained her law degree from the University of Victoria and articled at a boutique general practice firm where she regularly appeared before the BC Provincial and Supreme Courts. Since joining Ng Ariss Fong in 2021, she has focused on Indigenous law, assisting First Nations clients with governance disputes and litigation regarding recognition of aboriginal rights and title as well as environmental issues. She has also been involved in human rights matters before the BC and Canadian Human Rights Tribunals. Sabrina understands that she is fortunate to work in partnership with First Nations and strives to ensure that her advocacy brings recognition and respect to their inherent rights.

Outside the office, Sabrina is often found at home documenting the antics of her two cats. She also loves food in all its forms, though dessert will always be the most important meal in her day. When her social battery is charged, Sabrina likes to host board game nights as a convenient forum for eating while talking about rules.

Rachel Noble

BCL (UCD)
she/her/hers

Rachel is a tofu-loving Irish lawyer. She graduated with a law degree from the University College Dublin, in Ireland. Rachel completed her FE-1 examinations with the Law Society of Ireland, and on moving to Vancouver, worked in-house with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. There, she met Lisa and Michael from Ng Ariss Fong and soon after joined the firm. Rachel’s practice focus is on professional regulation, and provides advice in all areas, including inquiry, registration, quality assurance, discipline, governance, and court reviews. Rachel also has a special interest in privacy law.

When not working, Rachel enjoys eating tofu, travelling home to Ireland, and spending time outdoors skiing, hiking and running. Her apartment has a very cool, suspended and transparent pool, in which she loves swimming.

Amanda Nurse

BSc with distinction (Western); JD (Queen’s, 2024 candidate)
she/her

Amanda is our new super law student at Ng Ariss and Fong! Originally from Ontario, she has lived in both Whistler and Vancouver. Her undergrad was in biology at Western University, and she loves spending time outdoors: as such she has a natural passion for supporting environmental protection. After graduation, she worked for an environmental research organization developing reports on both wildlife and contaminant health indicators for freshwater systems. Her work experience exposed her to a multitude of environmental injustices across both communities and individuals, which propelled her towards the legal field. She is currently in her third year of law school at Queen’s University. In addition to doing Pro Bono work supporting improved Indigenous youth access to welfare resources, she has also focused on Environmental, Aboriginal and Indigenous law. In her free time she enjoys skiing and hiking.

Gavin Smith

B.A. (UBC), LL.B. (u.Ottawa)

Gavin believes in the power of the land to transform and sustain us, and he believes in the integral role of Indigenous laws and governance in that process.

Gavin’s practice focuses on environmental, Indigenous and constitutional Aboriginal law. He joined Ng Ariss Fong as part-time counsel in 2023, after working in collaboration with the firm on litigation matters for a number of years. At Ng Ariss Fong, Gavin works to assist Indigenous Nations in upholding their own governance and jurisdiction, through litigation and strategic advice.

Gavin also acts as part-time counsel at West Coast Environmental Law, where he has worked since 2013, focusing on supporting Indigenous nations revitalizing and applying their own Indigenous laws to care for land, air and water, as well as on environmental law reform at the provincial and federal level.

Called to the bar in 2012, Gavin’s work has included:

  • prior practice at an Aboriginal law firm providing diverse forms of in-Court representation, legal services and advice;
  • representing a coalition of Indigenous Nations that prohibited the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline in their territories as a matter of their own laws, including acting as counsel in a successful Federal Court of Appeal challenge to Canada’s approval of the project;
  • deep involvement and advocacy in the enactment and implementation of BC’s new Environmental Assessment Act and related regulations, as well as providing ongoing advice to various environmental organizations and Indigenous Nations regarding provincial environmental assessment matters;
  • deep involvement and advocacy in the enactment of the federal Oil Tanker Moratorium Act;
  • providing legal support to various Indigenous Nations revitalizing and enforcing their own Indigenous law regarding land, air, and water, including in the creation of Indigenous-led environmental assessment regimes and the implementation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas;
  • advocacy for reform of the provincial Mineral Tenure Act, including acting as counsel in Gitxaała v. British Columbia (Chief Gold Commissioner).

Gavin’s family immigrated to Canada from Britain and the United States shortly before he was born on Coast Salish territories in Vancouver, BC. Gavin now lives with his partner on Cas Yikh (Grizzly Bear House) territory of the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, in Smithers, BC. His many (maybe too many) hobbies include playing music in local bands, gardening and preserving foods, hiking, cycle touring, sourdough baking, homebrewing, cross-country skiing, writing, volunteering at his community radio station, and keeping his dog and chickens out of trouble.

Victor Chan

BA (UBC), MM (UBC), JD (UVIC)

Victor attended law school at the University of Victoria with two other members of Ng Ariss Fong — he participated in the Law Centre clinical program with Ruben Tillman where he discovered just how “esoteric” Ruben’s favourite films are, and with Sabrina, thoroughly explored Victoria’s burgeoning food scene and discovered a love of indoor rock-climbing in spite of his crippling acrophobia.

Prior to joining Ng Ariss Fong, Victor articled and worked as an associate lawyer at a boutique litigation firm in Downtown Vancouver where he practiced in a wide variety of law ranging from personal injury and commercial disputes, to human rights and refugee law (and everything in between). He regularly appeared before chambers at the BC Supreme Court and conducted a full trial and summary trial as sole counsel. He has also appeared before various administrative tribunals such as the Refugee Protection Division and the Residential Tenancy Branch. Since joining Ng Ariss Fong, Victor’s practice focus has been on Indigenous law and professional regulatory enforcement.

Outside of work, Victor serves on the executive team of the CBABC’s General, Solo and Small Firm section. Like many members of Ng Ariss Fong, Victor also loves food and irritates his colleagues by the fact that he does not seem to gain weight after consuming food. Victor’s other love is pottery and he longs for the day when he can create food-shaped pottery, but for now, he settles for cups, plates, and bowls.