by Deirdre Kelly
photography by meghan tansey whitton
This summer, while many of us are jumping in Canadian lakes to cool off from the scorching heat, Megan Leslie (BA ’03) will instead be scouring the shorelines to haul away garbage polluting the country’s waterways and related ecosystems.
Appointed president and CEO of the WWF-Canada (formerly World Wildlife Fund) last December, Leslie is the organization’s former vice-president of ocean conservation and a former parliamentarian who served as environment critic for the New Democratic Party of Canada. She is responsible for introducing the recent motion to add microbeads to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act’s list of toxic substances.
Single-use plastics, like disposable plastic straws, are among her biggest concerns right now, and by helping to steer the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, an initiative jointly run by WWF-Canada and Ocean Wise, a not-for-profit with thousands of locations across Canada, she hopes to highlight how even a small non-recyclable can wreak enormous damage on the increasingly fragile world of nature.
“Microplastics, those invisible remnants of things such as plastic bags, synthetic clothing and bottles, are now being found in our waters at an alarming rate,” says the Kirkland Lake, Ont., native who studied history and social and political thought at York University, before earning a law degree at Dalhousie University in 2004.
“Wildlife like fish, birds and turtles often mistake microplastics for food and can become entangled in larger plastics. Every piece of garbage we remove from our shorelines is one less piece that can harm wildlife.”
If you want to join or host a Shoreline Cleanup this summer, or just want more information, visit shorelinecleanup.ca.