Gender equality trailblazers

This year we are highlighting Canadian gender equality change-makers who are making the world a better place by challenging cultural and societal norms, amplifying the voices of women and girls, and breaking barriers in their respective fields.

Join us in shining a light on the trailblazers! Follow our social media networks and the conversation online using the hashtag #BecauseOfYou.

Christine Sinclair

Decorated Canadian athlete in women’s soccer and record holder of all-time international goals scored

Sinclair first came to national prominence during the 2002 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Edmonton where she won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s leading scorer and the Golden Ball as tournament MVP. In 2011 she led Canada to gold at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara. Sinclair has competed at three Olympic Games, winning back-to-back bronzes at London 2012 and Rio 2016. At London 2012, she was the tournament’s leading scorer. For her efforts, she was named Canada’s Closing Ceremony flag bearer and became the first soccer player to win the Lou Marsh Award as Canadian Athlete of the Year. Sinclair was named Canada Soccer’s Women’s Player of the Year 11 straight times from 2004 to 2014 and again in 2016 and 2018. She is a multiple time nominee for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. As of June 20, 2019, she has accumulated 182 career international goals, ranking her second all-time but first among active players. She was appointed as an Officer to the Order of Canada in 2018.

LGen Chris Whitecross

Highest ranking female as Lieutenant General in the Canadian Forces and first woman Commandant of the NATO Defence College in Rome, Italy

Lieutenant General Chris Whitecross enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1982, joining the Canadian Military Engineers. Successive postings have taken her from Germany to almost every province in Canada. A Commander of the Order of Military Merit (CMM), she was awarded the United States Defense Meritorious Service Medal for her service at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters (ISAF HQ), and the Canadian Meritorious Service Medal for her service as the International Military Sports Council (CISM) Secretary General. Lieutenant General Whitecross was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women of 2011, and then again in 2016.

Lieutenant General Whitecross was promoted to her current rank on 26 May 2015. In February of that year, she was appointed Commander of the Canadian Forces Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct. In June 2015, she was appointed Commander, Military Personnel Command. Lieutenant General Whitecross assumed her current duties, as Commandant of the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy, in November 2016.

Kathryn Foss

Retired military officer and advocate for diversity and the LGBTQ2 Community

Major (Ret'd) Kathryn Foss CD BSc MEng (pronouns she/her), was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces from 1987 to 2019, having retired December 2019. She was employed with Director General Military Careers responding to Ministerial Inquiries. Foss is a transgender woman who began her transition in fall of 2016.

A kind and compassionate soul, her life journey over the past few years has given her front-line experience in the areas of diversity, inclusion and gender identity, and she speaks in these areas. She took part in the Government of Canada Positive Space Initiative “Train the trainer” course in October 2016, and she has used her training to provide advice and assistance to the production of diversity and transgender policy within the Canadian Armed Forces, notably as the founder of the Defence Team Pride Network.

Ann Divine

Nova Scotia businesswoman and advocate for Black and immigrant women in business

Born in 1957 in Guyana, Divine grew up in England, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a post-graduate diploma in Social Work, and a Master’s in Human Resource Management, and worked as a social worker and probation officer before moving to Canada in 2004. Divine served with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission from 2007 to 2014. A tireless and outspoken advocate for women, Divine is constantly innovating and adapting her services to meet the needs of her clients. She received unprecedented support for her work when Atlantic Business Magazine put her on the January 2017 cover of their first-ever issue devoted to women. Divine has received many prestigious awards and honours, including being one of My Halifax Experience’s Top Five Immigrant Women Influencers in 2018.

Dr. Alaa Murabit

Physician, UN Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth and UN Sustainable Development Goal Advocate

Dr. Alaa Murabit is a physician, international advocate for inclusive peace processes, UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth, and one of 17 UN-appointed Global Sustainable Development Goal Advocates. At 15, after finishing high school in Canada, Dr. Murabit moved to Zawia, Libya, enrolling in medical school. At 21, she founded The Voice of Libyan Women to promote women’s leadership and challenge cultural and societal norms. Dr. Murabit has earned numerous degrees and distinctions, including a “Forbes 30 under 30” recognition, a Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award and both Ashoka and MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellowships. She is recognized worldwide for her leadership on a wide range of issues, including women’s rights, global health policy, education, international security and sustainable development.

Dr. Donna Strickland

Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, and 2018 Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics

Dr. Donna Strickland is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo and is one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 for developing chirped pulse amplification with Gérard Mourou, her PhD supervisor at the time. They published this Nobel-winning research in 1985 when Strickland was a PhD student at the University of Rochester in New York. Together they paved the way toward the most intense laser pulses ever created.

She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She served as the president of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2013 and is a fellow of OSA, the Royal Society of Canada, and SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). Dr. Strickland is an honorary fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering as well as the Institute of Physics. She received the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement and holds numerous honorary doctorates. Dr. Strickland was appointed to the Order of Canada in December 2019.

Raven Lacerte

Carrier from Lake Babine First Nation, and Co-Founder and Youth Ambassador of the Moose Hide Campaign

Raven Lacerte is co-founder, with her father, Paul Lacerte, and youth ambassador for the Moose Hide Campaign, a national grassroots organization of men and women working together to end violence against women and children. A Carrier from the Lake Babine Nation in central British Columbia, Lacerte graduated from the Indigenous Studies Program at Camosun College and is now studying Political Science at the University of Victoria. Lacerte also serves as youth representative for the British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation’s Advisory Council for Indigenous Women. She is also a member of the steering committee for the 4Rs National Youth Movement, a collaborative, youth-led initiative that seeks to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people in a spirit of respect, reciprocity, reconciliation and relevance.

Dr. Mona Nemer

Chief Science Advisor of Canada, and advocate for women and girl’s education in science

Dr. Mona Nemer is Canada's Chief Science Advisor. She is also the former Vice-President, Research, at the University of Ottawa and Director of its Molecular Genetics and Cardiac Regeneration Laboratory. Born in Lebanon, Dr. Nemer grew up in Beirut. As a young student, she advocated to expand her school’s curriculum so girls could study science at higher levels, and went on to complete a PhD in chemistry at McGill University in 1982. The author of over 200 scientific journal articles, Dr. Nemer has contributed to the development of diagnostic tests for heart failure and the genetics of cardiac birth defects through her research. Dr. Nemer is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including Member of the Order of Canada and Fellow of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada.

Senator Chantal Petitclerc

Member of the Senate of Canada for Quebec, and decorated Paralympic Champion

Chantal Petitclerc is a wheelchair racer, advocate for persons with disabilities and Canadian Senator. A native of rural Quebec, she was the first Canadian athlete to win gold medals at the Olympics, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games. After an accident left her a paraplegic in her teens, Senator Petitclerc discovered her competitive streak while swimming for fitness. As a wheelchair racer, she won 21 medals at five Paralympic Games from 1992 to 2008, including 14 gold medals, and broke 26 world records. She is considered the most decorated female track athlete in history. Senator Petitclerc has received many honours, including a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame and inclusion in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. A Companion of the Order of Canada, she was named to the Senate of Canada in 2016.

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