Catherine Grenier (Photo by Geneviève Lesieur)
Ask Catherine Grenier to describe her favourite place or memory of a time in nature, and you’ll find she’s hard pressed to answer. Not because her list is short, but rather because each day brings with it time in nature that is precious to her. A native of Quebec City, Grenier makes it a point to seek out nature wherever she is, and to integrate it into her daily life; from short, five-minute walks, to longer runs through the city’s urban parks and wooded trails, where the leaves are now turning from brilliant greens to deep reds and oranges.
“No matter where I go, I always ask, ‘Where can I find some green space?’ Nature plays a very important role in my personal and family life, because it is essential to our well-being,” she explains. “I strongly believe it’s important to cherish it, and to build a sustainable legacy so that our children and even those seven generations from now can have the same opportunities that we have had.”
It’s that belief in the importance of connecting with nature, first nurtured as a very young child during family fishing trips and at summer camp, that has driven Grenier to dedicate her career to its long-term protection.
An award-winning leader, over the last decade Grenier has held executive positions with some of Canada’s foremost nature conservation organizations, where she has worked to create opportunities for Canadians to connect with nature and build a lasting legacy. As vice-president for national parks operations with Sépaq, she was responsible for the management and development of 27 Quebec parks and resorts. Prior to joining Sépaq, Grenier held senior roles with Parks Canada, where, among her achievements, she led the process to create Canada’s first national urban park, in Toronto’s Rouge Valley.
This fall, Grenier’s career takes a new turn as she joins the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) as its president and CEO. Thinking about her role, she says she is most looking forward to meeting NCC’s current partners and building new relationships.
“I have a huge level of trust and respect for NCC and its unique collaborative and creative approaches to conservation,” says Grenier, who partnered with NCC in various ways in her previous roles. “I’m inspired by its rich history of success and by the passion of the people relentlessly working to protect our country’s natural areas for the long term. How do we build on that to take us to new heights?”
With the increased pressures of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, Grenier believes the need for conservation has never been greater. For conservation to increase its pace, Canadians’ love for nature needs to be strengthened.
“Canada is probably one of the wealthiest countries on Earth when it comes to our natural areas,” reflects Grenier. “Our love for nature is part of our culture, but needs to be cultivated.”
As she begins her term with NCC, Grenier takes over the position from John Lounds, who has led the organization through 24 years of exceptional growth and success. Consistent with a previously announced transition plan, Lounds will serve as a senior advisor to NCC until his planned retirement in the spring of 2021.
“I am honoured to have been selected to lead a team that is shaping the future of conservation in Canada,” says Grenier. “This is such a unique opportunity to accelerate the scope and scale of conservation in our country, to connect with Canadians and to build lasting support for nature. I can’t wait to get started.”