12 Montréal Women Who are Changing the World
The reputation of a city is established by the collective characteristics of its citizens. Montréal is known for being innovative and non-conformist, business-minded yet relaxed.
Whether born in Montréal or relocated here, these twelve locals — through their admirable actions — have helped define the character of this city. And it just so happens that they are women.
Kim Thúy. Born in Saigon, writer Kim Thúy came to Canada in 1979 as a child of war. Using her literary prowess, Thúy tells stories of refugees, which is perhaps the most pressing global narrative of our epoch. Her debut novel, Ru, won 2010 Governor General’s Awards and has been translated into numerous languages.
Caroline Ouellette. Four-time Olympic Gold Medallist, Ouellette is essentially a legendary hockey player in her own time. She is the co-founder of athletichub.com, an innovative new online network that helps student-athletes navigate the recruitment process. She is also an ambassador for Right to Play.
Sœur Madeleine Juneau. A living encyclopedia of Montréal heritage, Sister Juneau received the Prix Gérard-Morisset, an award given by the Québec government in recognition of a remarkable career in the scientific and cultural fields. She played a vital role in preserving Maison Saint-Gabriel, an architectural and historical jewel.
Julie Payette. In June of 1992, Payette — a Montréal native — was chosen by the Canadian Space Agency out of a field of 5,330 applicants for an advanced robotics mission to the International Space Station. This selection rocketed her not only into outer space but also into the female astronauts club (currently 59 women in history), and subsequently made her an idol of every space-gazing girl across the world.
Régine Chassagne. A founding member of the internationally-acclaimed rock band Arcade Fire, Chassagne has paired much of her art with socially-minded initiatives. She was born in Montréal to Haitian parents, and continues advocate for Haitian people by supporting such NGOs as Partners in Health + Kanpe.
Phyllis Lambert. Born and raised in Montréal, Lambert is a philanthropist and world-renown architect who has literally helped build her hometown. In 1979, she founded the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and now holds honorary degrees from some 26 universities in North America and in Europe.
Phoebe Greenberg. A seasoned actor and Oscar-nominated feature film producer, Greenberg is the founder of DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art in Old Montréal and the force behind the PHI Centre. She represents a new generation of artists who moonlight as cultural-shifting philanthropists.
Sophie Brochu. President and CEO of Gaz Métro (the largest natural gas distribution company in Québec), Brochu still has her roots in local communities. Support of charities, such as Ruelle de l’Avenir, attest to her social mindedness. But her belief that the world needs more “slow companies” – businesses that deliberately sacrifice maximum profit to build wider societal support for their activities — is why we truly love her.
Marcela Escribano. This Chilean-born, social justice warrior could have a feature film about her life. Escribano fled the dictatorship of Pinochet, and retaliated (peacefully) by co-founding an NGO called Alternatives, which advocates for international solidarity, environmental rights, democratic rights and human dignity. She has recently opened a new café/photo gallery.
Zayne Akyol. A filmmaker and media studies graduate, Akyol puts her life on the line to capture the stories she tells. Her 2016 documentary film, Gulistan: Land of Roses, exposes a hidden face of war: female soldiers. To make the film, she lived with a group of women Kurdish guerrillas fighting against the Islamic State. Heroic work.
Mutsumi Takahashi. After emigrating to Montréal in 1963 from Japan, Takahashi’s interest in broadcasting began at Concordia University where she worked with the student radio and newspaper. These days she leads one of the most widely-watched local news programs, frequently earning the accolade of “Best Local Newscaster” from the annual “Best of Montréal” polls.
Celine Dion. The most recognizable name to come from the province of Québec. These days she’s more Vegas than Montreal, but she deserves to be on this list because of her active contributions to several charitable causes, such as the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, LGBT organizations and disaster-relief funds (earthquakes or tsunamis). Talk about love!
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