Meet Megan Leslie, the new head of World Wildlife Fund Canada
Megan Leslie is the new president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada, taking over after David Miller announced his departure for a different role in environmental advocacy. As she assumes the leadership, Megan answered a few questions about herself and her aims.
You’ve been described as a life-long environmentalist. Can you recall an early time you knew that the Earth was being damaged, and that something needed to be done?
When I was 15 there was a proposal to store toxic waste in the abandoned mines of Kirkland Lake, Ont., my hometown. And even though we weren’t scientists or engineers, my girlfriends and I knew this was not good for our community. We made signs that said “No, no! We won’t glow!” and marched in front of the town hall as councillors decided not to go ahead with the plan. I know it wasn’t just because some girls with clever signs were outside, but for the first time I really felt I could make change in my community. And that same feeling has driven me as I went on to be a community legal worker, an elected official, head of ocean conservation at WWF-Canada and now president and CEO.
You are well known after two terms as Member of Parliament for Halifax and deputy leader of the official Opposition. How did you take your concern for the environment to Parliament Hill?
In addition to being an MP and deputy party leader, I was also the environment critic and vice-chair of the committee on environment and sustainable development, where I was part of government decisions. I’m proud that I was a part of committee work that created Sable Island National Park Reserve, and that I was able to use my position to speak out against changes that weakened our environmental assessment processes. One of my greatest accomplishments was working with environmental organizations, engaged Canadians and across party lines to ban the production of microbeads in Canada, a motion that passed in the House of Commons unanimously.
What do you see as the top priority for WWF-Canada?
It has to be the shocking scale and scope of wildlife loss in Canada, revealed in WWF’s new Living Planet Report Canada. This is a wake-up call. And I want all Canadians to join me in answering it. I’m counting on all of us — communities, Indigenous organizations, governments, industry, scientists, cultural organizations and beyond — to address the reasons that half of the wildlife species we studied are in decline, with an average 83 per cent loss since 1970.
Now some rapid fire questions: Wildlife species with which you identify?
The wolf. I spent a lot of time in the woods growing up in Northern Ontario, and as a kid I’d spend hours and hours acting out imaginary scenes based on stories like Never Cry Wolf and Secret Go the Wolves.
Canoe or kayak?
I recently took up white water canoeing — and I’m in love.
Your favourite place in nature?
That’s a tough one. There are so many great places, but I’d have to say Martinique Beach on Nova Scotia’s eastern shore stands out. I go there to surf and walk the beach, to clear my mind, celebrate accomplishments and recover from hectic weeks. I even got married there.
Final question: News and developments about wildlife and nature are rarely positive. What do you feel positive about as you take on this job?
I feel positive because I know the World Wildlife Fund is up to the challenge of reversing the decline of wildlife. We have a new understanding of the scale of wildlife loss in Canada, and the reasons why. New scientific developments such as eDNA wildlife monitoring give us innovative conservation tools. We have a sophisticated and dedicated staff of conservationists. And we have passionate and generous supporters who donate their time and money to make conservation successes happen.