A Tribute to Julie Gelfand, Nature Canada’s Newest Pimlott Award Winner
Nature lover, sustainability expert, tap dancer—all these phrases describe our newest Pimlott Award Winner, Julie Gelfand. For 35 years, Julie has been a champion of the environment in both the public and private sectors, and has had great success in bringing people together across the sectors. She has served as the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Vice President of Sustainability with the Mining Association of Canada, and Vice President of Environment and Social Responsibility for the Rio Tinto Iron Ore Company of Canada. She is currently Vice-Chair of the Board at World Wildlife Fund Canada and sits on the board of Clear Seas for Responsible Marine Shipping. And let’s not forget her sixteen years as Executive Director of Nature Canada (1992–2008).
“I decided I wanted to work at the Canadian Nature Federation (now known as Nature Canada) when I was eighteen years old and a third-year biology student at Carleton University,” says Julie. “I was in the biology club room and pulled out a copy of the Nature Canada magazine. Right then and there, I decided that I wanted to work at Nature Canada… and I got the Executive Director role at thirty-one!
In a 2022 interview with Nature Canada, Julie elaborated on her very fruitful time with the organization: “I believe Canadians have an international obligation to protect as much nature as we can. When I was Executive Director at Nature Canada, I was very proud to support the team that achieved a number of amazing milestones together.”
Those milestones included protecting millions of acres of nature in new national parks, pushing for the first-ever federal law to protect Canada’s endangered species, founding the Green Budget Coalition and identifying all of Canada’s Important Bird Areas. Julie continues to support Nature Canada as a Guardian of Nature Monthly Donor, a Women for Nature founding member, and a Whittemore Legacy Circle Donor.
“When I am in nature,” says Julie, “I feel connected to it, and to the people that were here before me and the people who will be here after me.”
One of those people she might well feel connected to is Douglas H. Pimlott (1920 – 1978), renowned wildlife biologist and environmentalist. The Pimlott Award was created over thirty years ago in his name and is awarded to an individual whose outstanding contributions to Canadian conservation inspire us all.
And after thirty-five years, our newest Pimlott Award winner is still inspiring a wide audience. A certified coach with the International Coaching Federation, Julie advises nongovernmental organizations on leadership, strategic planning and advocacy. She is Chair of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Departmental Audit Committee and a member of the Statistics Canada Departmental Audit Committee. Recently she was named Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. In her retirement years, she has taken up mountain biking, skiing and tap dancing.
As we celebrate Nature Canada’s 85th anniversary, it is with pleasure and gratitude that we recognize Julie’s achievements in all her chosen areas of endeavour!