Nature Canada

Parliamentary Reception

Nature Canada’s Board and staff were pleased to celebrate women’s leadership at the 85th anniversary and Women for Nature reception held on February 7, 2024. Parliamentarians, Women for Nature founders, Women for Nature young leaders and other guests came together at the Senate of Canada. Together we celebrated Women for Nature’s efforts including empowering young leaders for nature through bursaries and mentorships.  In total, 85 young women have been mentored through their efforts.

Our new Honorary Chair of Women for Nature, the Hon. Rosa Galvez hosted the evening’s celebrations.  In her remarks, she complimented the work of Nature Canada:

The work that you do is so important, and it is essential to ensure a healthy and thriving environment, to fight climate change, and to bring nature back in our lives”.   

She also highlighted that “women often share values of care for our communities and future generations…thus care about our natural world and want to protect it too.”

“More than ever, we need to unite our forces and counter the powerful interests that are polluting our country”, she said. “This is an opportunity to connect with other leaders in nature, grow our networks and become a large movement.”

She commends the collaborative approach that the Women for Nature network brings to be a strong collective voice for nature. Earlier in the day, she shared congratulatory remarks on Nature Canada’s special milestone and the 10th anniversary of Women for Nature.

Emily McMillan, Executive Director of Nature Canada and the emcee for the evening thanked all our members, donors and partners that make our victories possible: protecting nearly 144 million acres of parks and wilderness and thousands of species have been protected.  As well, over 250,000 children and families have engaged with nature through our programs (Celeste, the Great Horned Owl visited three local schools and hundreds of children earlier in the day). She noted that, 

It is more urgent than ever for Canadians to unite together to defend and restore nature. Together, with courage, creativity and innovation we can find solutions in this pressing time to make room for nature.”  She also thanked the Women for Nature members and mentors in attendance congratulating them on their efforts to engage today’s youth to take action for nature’s future. Women for Nature empower young women to become leaders for nature through bursaries and mentorships.

Lauren Castelino, a young nature leader from Toronto, shared about the range of nature-based projects, like hers, which have been supported to date and celebrated that young women have been mentored “to become even better champions for nature in our communities and to inspire others to take action for the environment.”

One of the founding members of Women for Nature, MP Elizabeth May shared her memories of the Canadian Nature Federation, (now called Nature Canada) and its long history of being a voice for nature.  She also shared about two dynamic and inspiring female leaders, the Hon. Diane Griffin and Julie Gelfand.

Emily thanked all the founding members of the initiative for championing Nature Canada’s work to connect more Canadians to nature.  It is a legacy to the very work that Mabel Frances Whittemore started back in 1939, to engage children with nature. 

Emily spoke about an exceptional role model for women’s leadership, Julie Gelfand who was presented with the Douglas Pimlott award for conservation merit and the inaugural Whittemore award for women’s leadership. During her career, Julie engaged people across ages, sectors and regions to inspire them to protect nature.  In the words of her friend, Coro Strandberg: 

Julie’s had an amazing ability to work in and connect all the sectors that need to work together, whether Indigenous peoples, environmental groups, industry and government. Julie has challenged the status quo and set a new standard for social change… where adversaries become friends and friends become allies!

Former colleague, Thomas Mulcair shared in written remarks:

Your time as Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development was transformative. You concentrated on results and had the courage to call out failure to meet our international obligations… Inspiring leadership such as yours leaves a very positive legacy and is so deserving of the recognition you’re receiving tonight. 

Julie was delighted and humbled to receive the accolades. She commented on first discovering Nature Canada as a student and President of the Biology Society at Carleton University and deciding she would like to work at the Canadian Nature Federation and how that dream came true years later becoming the CEO at 31. Julie remarked:

“What ensued was a remarkable 16-year journey, securing protection for new national parks such as Torngats Mountains, Wager Bay, Similirlik, identifying Canada’s Important Bird Areas, launching the Green Budget Coalition, advocating for National Wildlife Areas and Marine Protected Areas, and of course the 9-year campaign to get the Species at Risk Act proclaimed.”

It was during that time that she also sat on the BirdLife Global Board of Directors when she became even more aware of the global responsibility we have to protect nature. She said, “We are one of three countries in the world still capable of doing so, given our intact natural areas. Protecting Canada’s nature is crucial to mitigating climate change and meeting the needs of biodiversity.”

She thanked all her friends, family and past colleagues in attendance for their support and inspiration over the years.

We encourage other professional women to get involved with Women for Nature to champion biodiversity conservation, help connect youth to nature and mentor future leaders for nature. Contact us ( to learn more.

Thanks to our generous sponsors:

Royal Bank of Canada logo


Pelee Island Winery Logo  

& Youth Education Sponsors




Some photos from the evening’s celebrations:

Want to Help?

Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.