Aurum Awards 2019: Megan Leslie (LLB’04)
When Megan Leslie (LLB’04) was 15, she and her friends staged a protest to convince politicians in Kirkland Lake, ON, to vote against a proposal that would create jobs by filling her community’s empty mine shafts with toxic waste.
“The town council decided not to go ahead with it,” Leslie says. “I don’t think we actually influenced their decision, but it was my first experience where I felt I could help shape my community, and I wanted to do more of that.”
More than 30 years later, Leslie has stayed true to that decision in ways that have not only shaped her life but also our society and the world. As a Dalhousie law student, she embraced the Weldon Tradition through her work on behalf of low-income families through the university’s Legal Aid Service. As a New Democrat Party member representing Halifax in Parliament, she introduced a bill to ban microbeads and seconded a bill to expand Canada’s Human Rights Act to protect the transgender community. And now as president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada), she is focused on restoring vital habitat and reversing the decline of wildlife species nationwide.
These are just a few of the many undertakings and achievements that have earned Leslie a 2019 Aurum Award, which celebrates the incredible impact that Dalhousie alumni are making both in their community and around the world.
“My goal has always been to work on issues of justice,” Leslie says. “For me, that means environmental, social, and economic justice. I want to see more equity. I want to see rights being upheld. I want to see a clean environment. I’m very mission driven.”
Leslie’s current mission is the development of a strategic plan for WWF-Canada to address the main drivers of wildlife loss, including climate change and industrial activity such as mining. It follows on a significant victory for the organization – the federal government’s announcement it will ban oil drilling and mining in marine protected areas. Leslie says she is happy to have played a role in making this momentous decision possible. Reflecting on what it takes to attain those wins, Leslie brings it back to her successful motion in Parliament to ban plastic microbeads.
“When I look at any achievement like that, I have a keen awareness that it is not about me. I was just the right voice at the right time to help bring an idea forward, or I held a unique position that enabled me to make something happen. But I could not have done any of the things I have done without legions of other people being involved in these efforts.”
For that reason, Leslie is dedicated to creating opportunities for more people to be engaged and make a difference wherever possible. She is looking to include more indigenous perspectives and knowledge in the WWF’s efforts to preserve our wildlife and making time to encourage more women to seek political office.
“I hope, through my work, I’m helping to create a movement of future leaders,” Leslie says. “In thirty years, when I am retired and sitting on my porch, I want to look out there and see thousands of Canadians mobilizing and inspiring each other to seek justice in many different ways.”