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Saying Goodbye to Merv Child after 11 Years of Leadership

Merv Child, pictured here in Metlakatla territory in 2012, has served on the Coast Funds board of directors since its inception. Photo by Katherine Palmer-Gordon.

After eleven years of dedicated service, including eight as board chair, Merv Child is retiring from Coast Funds’ board of directors after having served the maximum terms allowable under the governing documents.

Merv Child speaks with ‘Namgis Chief Bill Cramer in 2013. Photo by Katherine Palmer-Gordon.

Child has served as a director with Coast Funds since its inception. In 2007, he was asked to represent Na̲nwak̲olas Council on the board, and—drawn to the challenge and excitement of joining a globally unique organization—he agreed.

“Coast Funds [is] an organization that works as a partner with the First Nations we serve, and supports the realization of their goals and dreams for conservation and sustainable economic development,” said Child. “The funds were invested exclusively for the use of the First Nations; the first time anything has been created like this.”

Child, a member of the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation, has served as the executive director for Na̲nwak̲olas Council since 2009. A trained lawyer, he was called to the bar in 1995 after graduating from the UVic Faculty of Law.

Dallas Smith, president of Na̲nwak̲olas Council, says Child’s involvement in the discussions that led to the creation of Coast Funds made him the ideal person present the perspectives of First Nations of the southern Great Bear Rainforest.

Before his last board meeting in December 2018, Child was honoured by Coast Funds’ board, staff, and members who have worked with him over the last decade. Photo by Coast Funds.

“His understanding of both the business and cultural needs of communities is reflected throughout the organization,” says Smith. “Merv’s pragmatic, collaborative and thoughtful nature and leadership style has helped Coast Funds become an amazing organization that is helping make communities in the Great Bear Rainforest a better place to live.”

By 2010, Child had been appointed to serve as board chair. During that time, he worked continuously to improve the operation of Coast Funds. During his tenure as chair the board approved $40.1 million toward economic development and $29.7 million toward conservation initiatives led by First Nations.

“Merv has shown exemplary leadership in guiding Coast Funds out of its start-up phase to become a smart and responsive organization that is having immensely positive impacts in coastal First Nation communities,” says Coast Funds member and President/CEO of Tides Canada, Ross McMillan. “His calm, steady hand as board chair and his clear and unwavering vision for the potential of Coast Funds has benefited the organization and the communities it serves. We all owe Merv a debt of gratitude for his service and leadership.”

Under his direction, Coast Funds made significant improvements to its communications with First Nations. He oversaw the creation of Talking Stick, a publication that shares the stewardship and economic development successes of First Nations; guided the redesign and improvement of the Coast Funds website; and he ensured a transparent and regular flow of information to members and funders.

In February 2018, Child travelled to Colombia to share the lessons from the Great Bear Rainforest agreements. Photo by Viviana Londoño / WWF-Colombia

His leadership has made an impact on those who worked closely with him. “Since I began working in the Great Bear Rainforest, it has been a joy to work with Merv as he keenly and confidently directed Coast Funds to achieve its mandate,” says Jenny Brown, Director of Conservation Programs for Nature United, Coast Funds member. “I really value his ability to find solutions that carefully navigate a sea of perspectives.  He never took his role lightly, always striving to improve how the organization supports First Nations to achieve their conservation and sustainable development goals.”

In 2012, Child conducted an organization-wide review, and led a leadership succession process resulting in the selection of Coast Funds’ current executive director, Brodie Guy.

Guy, who has worked closely with Child since 2013, says Child played a major role in guiding the organization to achieve its mandate: “As board chair, Merv always pushed to ensure we were evolving as an organization. He led us to provide the highest possible standards of support for the Nations, and was an advocate of Coast Funds’ core values of accountability, integrity and consistency in decision-making, inclusiveness and a collaborative approach to working with the communities, and respect.”

Child, with fellow board members, during a visit to the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo by Coast Funds.

Child also guided the organization through a period of board renewal and between 2012 and 2014, he led recruitment and orientation for many

current directors including Wally Eamer, Darcy Dobell, Sage Berryman, Larry Greba, and Huux̱ (Percy Crosby).

“Over the past decade we have been honoured to have Merv serve as a director on Coast Funds’ board,” says Crosby, who succeeded Child as board chair. “I would like to wholeheartedly thank Merv for his immense contribution to the success of the organization and the First Nations we serve.”

Reflecting on his time with Coast Funds, Child paid homage to those he has worked with over the years. “Thank you to both current and past staff,  directors, and members. You have made my time as a director with Coast Funds a truly enjoyable and memorable experience. This organization wouldn’t exist without your collective work and I am honoured to have been a part of that.”