Nature Canada

Women for Nature – Cara MacMillan

Featuring Women for Nature member Cara MacMillan. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Tracey Mosley.

T: What inspires you to your work and life?  Were there childhood experiences or interests which have stayed with you into adult life? 

C: As a proud Canadian, I am glad to be a citizen of a country which tries to be respectful.   I am in awe of the power of nature. I was quite young when I read “Roughing it in the Bush” by Suzanna Moodie for the first time.  Recalling that story of people coming to Canada with nothing allows me to reflect on the importance of community especially when we live in a country where nature is so expansive.

I was the kid who often brought home wounded animals.  I can still recall rescuing a turtle, a frog and several birds.  I never wanted to keep them.  I wanted to heal and release them.  As a child, I lived near an acreage of marshland.   Walking through it, I always found that there was something needing care. The marshland has long been developed into a shopping mall. I remember watching the front end loader demolish the creek and I wanted to do something. I promised myself that one day I would.

Women for Nature
member Cara MacMillan

Those early experiences inspired me to work with companies that are passionate about adapting to climate change in the belief that environmental stewardship and social justice has the potential to reverse the negative effects of that change.

T: If you were to be remembered for something, what would it be?

I am very proud that my husband and I can see a personal legacy in our children, who have grown up committed to follow their own unique mission.  We are pleased that they have developed their own intentions to give back to the world.

Professionally, I am proud that my company Halcyon Consulting Group became a Certified B Corporation in July of 2017. B Corps is an international community of leaders who seek to use their businesses for social and environmental good.   Those who accept B Corps certification do so knowing that they can be scrutinized to ensure they meet the standards of the certification, with observers able to vote on whether we meet those standards.  I am pleased to say that Halcyon has received high votes for “economic empowerment for the underserved” as well as “civic engagement and giving”.

T: You have an interest in the wellbeing of the Canadian environment as the home of First Nations who live on the land. Can you share how this interest has helped shape your personal or professional development?

In 2016, I drove almost 8 hours, by myself, to reach the Cree Nation of Waswanapi to deliver blankets, quilts, clothes, toys, craft supplies, household linens and art, donated by St Maurice Catholic Church in Ottawa.  I fell in love our northern landscape.

I observed a serenity and joy in the Waswanapi community elders that I had never before seen in any person.  One of the leaders of the community cooked a moose heart stew to celebrate Moose Week. I am a vegetarian but I have to say it was of the best meals that I have ever eaten. The Cree respect the moose in a way that we have lost.  I lost my way by referring to “natural resources” instead of “nature”.

I believe that we in the urban south have a moral responsibility to invite our First Nations women leaders to the table; to give them a voice and a network. Together we can build an interdependent Canada.

T: Given that the mission of Women for Nature is, “To protect and conserve wildlife and habitats in Canada by engaging people and advocating on behalf of nature”; what personal values do you draw upon in approaching that mission?

C: I try to live by three rules that I have taught my children:  respect yourself; respect each other; and respect what we have been blessed with. If you respect yourself, you will take care of yourself and that which nurtures you. If you respect each other, you will be able to hear a quiet voice coming from the distance. You will speak out when someone is poisoning your water source or hurting someone else. If you respect what we have been blessed with, you will take note of your place in nature.  We each need to speak up and be accountable for the earth we share.

T: Who were your mentors?  What education or experiential choices did you make as you developed career goals? 

C: When I was a young adult, I believed that career was fluid.  I began my career in the mailroom of IBM, where I quickly learned that I would have to gain more education if I wanted to progress.  I was able to transfer to a research and development lab, where I loved to listen to and speak with the scientists who worked there. It was so many years ago, but those scientists were already concerned with the environmental impact of electronics and the environmental impact of the end-life of computers.  That was 25 years ago! The scientists sparked my love of learning. My commitment to lifelong learning brought me to a MBA and now my DBA. My research and work is in strategy and innovation.

Ann Dale, our Women for Nature co-chair, is my mentor.   Ann is a Dean and Professor at Royal Roads University, researching and teaching in the area of environment and sustainability. 

T: Can you reflect on lessons learned or problems solved that you can see might be the basis of guidance for young women? Have you any specific suggestions for how young women can keep from feeling defeated?

C: We need to recognize that we benefit and learn as much from the mentoring process as do those whom we mentor.  I learned by observing Waswanapi elders who guided, but did not seek to control. If we want to be guides we need to respect the spark inside each other. We need to commit to never diminish each other’s spark as we guide and work together.

Everyone has dreams, regardless of status and background, and everyone is told “No.”  So you have the choice to respect yourself or fail.  You may have been given a dream because the world needs you to act on it.  If you walk away from your dream, we all lose.

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