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Our Board & Honourees

Executive 

Anne McConnell

Anne McConnell

Chair

More about Anne

Anne is a professional engineer and President of McConnell Hirning Consulting Ltd., where she works on a variety of environmental, regulatory, and sustainability topics. Previously, Anne was a leader in R&D, regulatory affairs and environmental sustainability at Procter & Gamble. Her experience includes working with Canadian and U.S. industry, non-governmental organizations, and all levels of government. For many years, Anne has been a champion for progressive chemicals management and waste diversion programs. Since 1997, she has been a dedicated participant in Birdathons for Birds Canada, and helped to raise over $20,000 working together with family, friends, and neighbours. Anne’s educational training includes degrees from UBC in chemistry and biology, and in agricultural engineering. She hails from British Columbia and now resides in Toronto, Ontario. Anne’s recreational pursuits include birdwatching and native plant gardening, and she is also an avid walker, cyclist, and community volunteer.

Brian Finnigan

Brian Finnigan

Vice Chair

More about Brian

Brian Finnigan is a partner with Waterous, Holden, Amey Hitchon, LLP. Brian has extensive experience with non-profit and charitable organizations, both as a solicitor and as a board member. He has a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Western University, and a Master of Laws from York University. As a lawyer, Brian has advised environmental organizations on a variety of matters. He has a held board positions on Participation House, Brantford; Brant Community Place Homes; Brant County Community Legal Clinic; the Alzheimer Society of Brantford; and Nova Vita Women’s Services. Brian skis, cycles, sails, hikes, and tries to get out as often as possible to appreciate nature, and birds in particular, with his wife, Theresa (an environmental lawyer) and their four children.

Trevor Swerdfager

Trevor Swerdfager

Treasurer

More about Trevor

Trevor Swerdfager is Practitioner In Residence in the School of Environment and Resources Studies, Faculty of Environment at University of Waterloo. He joined the Faculty in 2020 after a 30-year career in the federal Public Service where he served in roles including Director General of the Canadian Wildlife Service in Environment Canada before moving to Fisheries and Oceans. Here he served as Director General of Aquaculture and then Law Enforcement followed by roles as Assistant Deputy Minister Program Policy, Assistant Deputy Minister Fisheries and Ecosystem Management and Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Oceans Protection Plan before moving to Parks Canada as Senior Vice-President Operations. He teaches in the areas of fish, forests and wildlife conservation and oceans sustainability.

Gwen Chapman

Gwen Chapman

Secretary

More about Gwen

Gwen is the founder and Principal of DonorFocus 360 which helps nonprofit organizations improve their touchpoints with constituents so they can increase their impact in the field by engaging supporters and increasing revenue. Gwen has more than 30 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector in South Africa, England, the United States, and Canada. Her experience includes eight years with World Wildlife Fund – as Marketing Manager in the UK and as Membership Director in Canada. She has also worked with Endangered Wildlife Trust (RSA), Save the Bay (USA), the Student Conservation Association (USA), and many other nonprofits. Gwen currently serves as Membership Chair of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners (CAGP) Vancouver Island Chapter.

Paul Uys

Paul Uys

Past Chair

More about Paul

Paul is a retired executive with over 40 years’ global retail experience specializing in brand creation, food product development and sourcing. During his 25 years at Loblaw Companies, Canada’s largest food retailer, he headed product development department & innovation, and in his latter days he spearheaded its sustainable procurement initiative. Since retiring from Loblaw, he has become Director, External; OAC at the University of Guelph. He is a Board member of Ontario’s Livestock Research Innovation Corporation, and internationally is a Trustee on the Board of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). He also sits on the “International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Foods” (iPES-Foods). In 2014 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Laws by the University of Guelph in recognition of “Innovation brought to the Canadian Food Supply System” and “leadership in Sustainability”. He is the founder of a consulting company, FMG Consulting Inc., which supports responsible food product development and sourcing.

Directors

Kathleen Blanchard

Kathleen Blanchard

Director

More about Kathleen

Kathleen Blanchard is founder and head of Intervale, a nonprofit organization which conducts programs in biodiversity conservation, principally in Newfoundland and Labrador. For 25 years she worked for Québec-Labrador Foundation, serving as President of QLF Canada for six of those years, and now consults for QLF. She has completed work for many government departments and conservation NGOs, including Canadian Wildlife Service, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, World Wildlife Fund, and Ducks Unlimited. Her passion for seabirds began in her late teens working for National Audubon Society, when she helped restore a breeding colony of Atlantic puffins. She later organized an award-winning multi-stakeholder initiative, lasting for two decades, along the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Since then, most of her work has focused on recovery of species at risk and demonstrating the efficacy of stewardship. Kathleen has served on the Board of Birds Canada, Stewardship Association of Municipalities (NL), North American Association for Environmental Education, and the Commission on Education and Communication for the World Conservation Union.

Michael J. Bonnick

Michael J. Bonnick

Director

More about Michael

Michael J. Bonnick is a career finance professional, currently serving as Director, Loyalty & Partnerships at Scotiabank, following 12 years at Loblaw Companies Limited. He has a Bachelor’s degree in business from Lakehead University and an MBA from Queen’s. In addition, he has earned several post-degree accreditations, such as in finance (CPA), project management (PMP), and the field of social impact. He has been central to a number of Loblaw initiatives, including the creation of the PC Optimum loyalty program and the establishment of a digital program called Loblaw Media.

Michael notes that his favourite bird is the Bald Eagle, which he saw frequently when he lived in Thunder Bay! As a volunteer, Michael has helped establish, finance, and govern the Nia Centre for the Arts, which is the only Black-owned and Black-operated theatre company in Toronto. He looks forward to helping Birds Canada wherever his skill can be best used, including in the financial aspects of governance.

Betty Chanyi

Betty Chanyi

Director

More about Betty

Betty is a lifelong resident of Norfolk County, Ontario and a long-time Friends of LPBO volunteer, serving weekly in spring and fall migrations at Birds Canada’s Old Cut Research Station. She is a former Norfolk County Councillor, school principal, and education administrator. Betty enjoys and supports many local organizations, including being a past member of the Norfolk County Woodlot Owner’s Association and present member of the Delhi Community Health Centre Board. Betty offers a wealth of regional experience, expertise in volunteerism, municipal government affairs, education, and professional experience. She is an enthusiastic Birdathon participant and will provide an important link to Birds Canada’s founding community at Long Point/Port Rowan.

Thor Diakow

Thor Diakow

Director

More about Thor

Thor is is a Video Reporter and Producer with Glacier Media’s V.I.A. (Vancouver is Awesome). He is a bird-lover and watcher, who has covered Vancouver’s Bird Week and joined Birds Canada’s British Columbia Program Director, Dr. David Bradley, on a Great Canadian Birdathon. Thor’s passion for birding began before he could read words but could already correctly identify bird species in a North American field guide! His love for the avian world continued with a speech about the hoatzin in Grade Seven that helped him win a tri-school speech competition. Thor has birded all over the globe in places such as: Point Pelee National Park, Big Bend National Park, New Zealand, Thailand, Palenque, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Trinidad’s Asa Wright Nature Centre. Thor brings skills and experience in media, marketing, and communications, as well as an enthusiasm to help people discover, enjoy, and protect nature through birds and birding.

David Love

David Love

Director

More about David

David has been raising money, mostly for the environment, for 50 years. His current obsession is helping environmental and social justice organizations reap the benefit of the coming legacy tsunami. After running WWF-Canada’s fundraising program for 20 years from 1979 – 1999, he returned, part-time, to WWF from 2015 – 2018 to run their legacy program – a program he started in 1982. In between, he worked as a consultant, did some leadership training for WWF International and ran The Living City Foundation for TRCA (now called The Toronto and Region Conservation Foundation). Now, he works one day a week with his daughter’s direct response company, Agents of Good, where he is affectionately known as “The Godfather of Good.” David has extensive board experience. He was chairman for Long Point Bird Observatory, Birds Canada, and the Sustainability Network. He has also served on the Board of Sierra Legal Defence, now Ecojustice. He’s currently on the Board of Small Change Fund and The Natural Burial Association.

Cher Mereweather

Cher Mereweather

Director

More about Cher

Cher Mereweather is President & CEO of Provision Coalition Inc., a for-profit social enterprise born out of its success as a non-profit. Cher helps food and beverage companies increase revenue, reduce costs and elevate their brand – purposefully. Cher is an advocate for change and a passionate spokesperson that is dedicated to advancing sustainability within the Canadian food system. Cher is currently a Board Director for the National Zero Waste Council and was the Chair of the Board for two years at the Campus Child Care Cooperative of Guelph. Cher’s career has included time with NSF International where she established and directed the Sustainability Consulting Business Unit, and executive positions in environmental economics and policy with the Canadian agri-food think tank, the George Morris Centre. Cher holds a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Environmental Economics and Policy and is certified in both project and change management. Cher enjoys spending time in nature, and finds herself in bird identification debates with family around the dining room table. Cher is pleased to apply her experience in sustainability, business, and the food system’s impact on the environment and conservation needs of birds.

 Justin Peter

Justin Peter

Director

More about Justin

Justin Peter has been a devoted birder since he was a young child. He has a B.Sc. degree from the University of Guelph, and has served as Park Naturalist in Gatineau Park, Québec and Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. At Algonquin, Justin was responsible for the education program for many years. Justin is co-owner of Worldwide Quest and director of its Quest Nature Tours branch, where he features birds and other wildlife and continues an outreach role for conservation. He sees himself as a “roving naturalist entrepreneur” and is deeply committed to capacity building and governance.

Justin is a long-term member of Birds Canada and an enthusiastic Birdathoner. He has served as volunteer President of the Toronto Ornithological Club (TOC), where he has gained experience in working with fellow volunteer Board members. A champion for bird outreach and urban birding, Justin has represented the TOC in virtual events held during the Birds Canada-coordinated Toronto Bird Celebration. He is an enthusiastic ambassador for birds and nature wherever they are found. If elected to the Board, Justin will work tirelessly to support Birds Canada’s ongoing mission of bringing birds to a broader audience.

Sébastien Rioux

Sébastien Rioux

Director

More about Sébastien

Sébastien is currently Director of Wildlife Initiatives with the Fondation de la faune du Québec, based in Québec City. The foundation’s work supports partnerships with communities, industry, nonprofit organizations, and other partners to promote conservation of wildlife across Québec. One such project has been the recently published Second Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Southern Québec, for which the foundation is a Gold Level sponsor. Sébastien has been scientific advisor for the Regroupement QuébecOiseaux to the exciting and popular film series on the birds of Canada, “Fou des oiseaux” or “Crazy about Birds”. Sébastien has been an outdoor and wildlife enthusiast all of his life, and offers Birds Canada his experience from across Québec and a desire to support conservation of birds across Canada.

John Taranu

John Taranu

Director

More about John

John is a birder and long-term supporter of Birds Canada. With a Masters of Environmental Studies in GIS from the University of Waterloo, John works at Google in Toronto, helping clients with their journey to the cloud. Recently, John led a Google charity fundraising drive for Birds Canada, boosting awareness for Birds Canada and raising a significant amount from his peers, including company matching contributions. He also convened company employees to assist with several volunteer events, such as plantings at Birds Canada’s landscaping project at the Humber Arboretum. Other community service interests have included board roles with Cycle Toronto and the Deer Park Residents Group, and volunteer roles with Birds Canada’s SwiftWatch program and various winter and summer counts. John offers experience to the Board and senior staff with business, data management, IT, mapping and GIS, volunteer engagement, employee engagement, and fundraising.

Mike Wong

Mike Wong

Director

More about Mike

Mike Wong serves as the Regional Chair for North America for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) World Commission on Protected Areas. His current interest is on promoting a nature positive recovery following the pandemic. Retired from the federal government, Mike is a biologist with Bachelor’s (St. Francis Xavier University) and Master’s (University of Ottawa) degrees, with the latter examining the impact of chemicals on fish and wildlife. He was with the ecosystem health group of Environment Canada for 15 years, directing the development of national environmental quality guidelines and the ecological monitoring and assessment network. Mike also worked 15 years with Parks Canada as the Executive Director of Ecological Integrity, developing monitoring and ecological restoration programs for Canada’s national parks, which are continuing today.

While captivated by the world of birds, Mike self-declares that he does not have a life list, but is very interested in advancing conservation overall in Canada and globally! He has governance experience with the National Committee of the IUCN, the Conservation Committee of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and with Ocean Bridge, a program empowering Canadian youth from coast to coast to coast to make a difference towards ocean conservation. Mike brings a wealth of familiarity in environmental matters and public engagement for conservation.

Honourees

George Finney

George Finney

President Emeritus

More about George

George Finney took the reins as President of Birds Canada, then Bird Studies Canada (BSC), after the departure of Michael Bradstreet in 2004. Previously a senior manager with Environment Canada, George helped increase BSC’s influence by continuing to strengthen its science focus and capability. Better integration of BSC’s programs with governmental conservation priorities led to important multi-year financial agreements with Environment Canada. George retired after a 10-year tenure as President and was succeeded by Steven Price.

Steven Price

Steven Price

President Emeritus

More about Steven

Steven Price served as President of Birds Canada from 2014 to 2021. He worked for nature throughout a 40-year career in the non-government conservation sector in Canada and internationally. Steven continues to “work for birds” by volunteering in Birds Canada Citizen Science programs and providing advice to the Birds Canada President on policies and practices.

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