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BMO Announces New Program Honouring Canadian Women

BMO Celebrating Women recognizes exceptional women in Vancouver, Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo and Halifax

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 13, 2015) - BMO Financial Group today announced it is honouring women through a new program, BMO Celebrating Women, which recognizes outstanding women in three categories: Innovation and Global Growth; Community and Charitable Giving; and Expansion and Growth in Small Business.

Three women in each market were recognized for their remarkable contribution to business and/or the community and received an all-expenses paid trip to attend the EXCELerate conference, September 30 – October 2, 2015, in Vancouver, B.C. The EXCELerate conference provides an opportunity for the honourees to network with a global community of women.

Innovation and Global Growth: Carolyn Cross
Community and Charitable Giving: Diane Dupuis
Expansion and Growth in Small Business: Diane Bernard
Innovation and Global Growth: Jennifer Corriero
Community and Charitable Giving: Louise Russo
Expansion and Growth in Small Business: Sonja Salmon
Innovation and Global Growth: Jamie Burton
Community and Charitable Giving: Debora Ritchie
Expansion and Growth in Small Business: Willie Martin
Innovation and Global Growth: Julia Rivard Dexter
Community and Charitable Giving: Jennifer Gillivan
Expansion and Growth in Small Business: Linda Brigley

"We recognize the power of women. Whether they are self-made – building wealth from their own businesses and careers – or have inherited wealth, women are an economic force," said Joanna Rotenberg, Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Strategy for BMO. "Supporting causes important to women, developing tools and resources to help them succeed, understanding their unique needs and adjusting how we work to help them realize their financial goals are critical."

"We're here to help support and celebrate the successes of women, highlighting their outstanding achievements and personal commitment to take a lead on innovation and giving back to their communities," continued Ms. Rotenberg. "BMO Celebrating Women provides women with a platform to celebrate, be honoured and share their stories."

In November 2014, BMO announced that it is making an additional $2 billion in credit available to women-owned businesses across Canada over the next three years. In October of that year, Catalyst Canada recognized BMO CEO Bill Downe for his leadership in advancing women in business.

Bios of the 2015 honourees follow this release.

About BMO and Women

BMO has a long history of championing the advancement of women in Canadian business. BMO is a partner with national organizations including Catalyst, WBE Canada and Women Presidents' Organization. BMO is also the founding and leading partner in development for GroYourBiz.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified financial services provider based in North America. With total assets of approximately $672 billion as of January 31, 2015, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers and conducts business through three operating groups: Personal and Commercial Banking, Wealth Management and BMO Capital Markets.



Carolyn Cross, Innovation and Global Growth honouree

Carolyn is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Ondine Biomedical Inc., a Vancouver based Medical Devices Company. As the global leader in anti-microbial photo-dynamic solutions, Ondine is dedicated to the development of new therapies for a broad spectrum of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Carolyn has over 20 years' direct experience with early stage companies and 30 years' working with public market securities. Her extensive knowledge is demonstrated by her own global growth which includes taking Ondine from distribution in Canada to the United States, Europe, Mexico, New Zealand and Korea. She is currently negotiating in China, India and the Middle East. Her company was recognized in 2013 in Geneva for winning the Global Innovation Award from the International Consortium on Prevention & Infection Control. Carolyn also currently sits on several corporate boards including Periowave Dental Technologies, Inc., Antares Project Services Ltd., OrGenX Biopharma Corporation. She is currently serving as a Board Member of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Advisory Board of McGill University Dental School and The Vimy Foundation, as well as GroYourBiz. Carolyn is a founding member of the International Photo-dynamics Association and the Ernst & Young Global Women in Business Advisory Council. She is also a member of the Women Presidents' Organization, TEC Canada and the International Women's Forum. She is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Diane Dupuis, Community and Charitable Giving honouree

Diane is President of Dupuis Langen Financial Management. Her love affair with her business and the insurance industry started more than 36 years ago and the passion is still there. The relationship has matured into a strong connection with her clients, her associates, her team and most importantly with her community. Diane can always be counted on for her continuous giving to the community – to her peers and to her staff. Her personal generosity is outstanding. Her community activities and charitable accomplishments are numerous. As a Past Chair and 17-year Board member of the Richmond Hospital Foundation, she was a key player raising millions of dollars for healthcare in that region. She is a Supporter of BC Cancer's Night of Hope, Richmond's Volunteers Are Stars event, the Richmond Food Bank, Union Gospel Mission, Covenant House and many more charities. But the most significant act of kindness is soon to be announced, as Diane has extended her commitment to education with The Act West Community Foundation, a non-profit Trust established by Diane in 2013. This organization will help women realize their dreams of post-secondary education. Diane is an extraordinary role model and admired community leader.

Diane Bernard, Expansion and Growth in Small Business honouree

Diane is known internationally as "The Seaweed Lady", and has family roots deeply anchored in both Canadian coasts. She is the third generation in her family, going back 100 years, to have used seaweeds in their daily lives. Diane is the founder and president of Seaflora Skincare Inc., in Sooke, B.C., the world's first certified organic seaweed company. She is internationally known for her coastal marine endeavours and expertise. As a passionate environmentalist, she is committed to creating luxury seaweed skincare that is nutritional, adventuresome, organic and authentic. Her hand-harvesting techniques are sustainable and her wild seaweeds are 100% certified organic. Diane's company honours the protection of coastal environments with eco-sustainable harvesting techniques and manufacturing practices. In addition to offering the highest quality seaweed skincare, she educates and trains her clients in the spa, health and wellness industries with tours and clinics. Today, Diane provides local employment, consults for top destination resorts, mentors women in business and speaks passionately about the health benefits of seaweed and the need for coastal protection. Diane has successfully expanded her company throughout Canada. She joined GroYourBiz in 2012 with the goal to grow her business into a multi-million dollar international business. Since then Seaflora has grown each year over 50 per cent with exports into the United States and Asia.


Jennifer Corriero, Innovation and Global Growth honouree

Jennifer has been recognized by Forbes as an innovative rising star in education, healthcare and the environment by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and by the UN Alliance of Civilizations with an Intercultural Innovation Award. She is a driver of social innovation and co-founder of TakingITGlobal – a charitable, non-governmental organization with more than 400,000 active members from over 200 countries, dedicated to creating awareness and engagement among global youth. She also works as a youth engagement consultant, helping companies connect more effectively and meaningfully with Generation Y – as customers, employees, and partners.

Louise Russo, Community and Charitable Giving honouree

A mother of three, our second honouree was the innocent victim of a violent crime, when a stray bullet shattered her spine and left her paralyzed. Determined to make sense of the violent act, she launched W.A.V.E. – Working Against Violence Everyday – a grassroots, not-for-profit organization focused on inspiring youth and members of the community to take action, make positive choices and initiate projects to make schools and communities a safer place to live, learn and play.

She has been recognized with a YMCA Peace Medallion Award, the Attorney General's Victim Services Award of Distinction for her courage, determination and commitment. She has also been honoured with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Sonja Salmon, Expansion and Growth in Small Business honouree

Sonja has built her business from humble beginnings, and is being recognized for the expansion and growth of her small business. She is a former lawyer and senior executive in the banking and finance industry. She realized early in her career the need for suitable luggage to accommodate her business travel. She wanted something refined, sophisticated and timeless so she left her Bay Street career in favour of one she could drive herself as an entrepreneur. She launched Ebby Rane, a high-end Canadian luggage line in 2013, with one perfectly-designed collection. What started out as a small business has grown into her global vision, with Ebby Rane teams located across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. She is the founder and CEO of Ebby Rane.


Jamie Burton, Innovation and Global Growth honouree

Jamie's desire is to use technology to create, innovate and implement solutions which benefit all. Her vision includes the establishment of a model where business, government, and community organizations work together to achieve the removal of the remaining barriers faced by persons with disabilities. Her strategy is to help organizations focus on a successful business model, while evoking social change. This has all come together through her company, Dolphin Digital Technologies, which she founded with her husband. Dolphin is committed to include people who have a disability in the workplace. Utilizing a Virtual Office model, Dolphin provides professional Information and Communication Technology consulting and support, while enabling barrier-free employment for people with disabilities. Dolphin has commenced a regional Disabilities Mentoring Day where businesses host a student or adult with a disability, to demonstrate skills, workplace process and to encourage the education of benefits to business for hiring people with disabilities. She is an entrepreneur who is a community builder and tireless volunteer. Her individual awards include the 2014 Lieutenant Governor's Community Volunteer Award in recognition of outstanding volunteer contributions to Ontario; the 2013 KW Oktoberfest Rogers Woman Entrepreneur of the Year; and the 2012 ODEN's Champions League, which recognizes business owners and operators who, through their own experiences, can demonstrate to their peers that it is not only possible but, in fact, beneficial to the bottom line, to include people who have a disability in the workforce.

Debora Ritchie, Community and Charitable Giving honouree

Debora has volunteered with many local organizations including the Greater K-W Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Rick Hansen Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and Outstanding Women of Laurier, to name a few. She is the founder of the Small Business Centre's Inspiring Women Conference (now the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce Event). She is perhaps best known as being the creator of Random Act of Kindness Day for The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation – an inspiring day that, since 2008, has encouraged people in Waterloo Region and now across the country to join hearts and hands and create more connected communities. She made a personal commitment to herself several years ago to raise $1 million for local charities. Over the last 14 years, she has gone on to raise more than $2 million for local non-profits and local families in need. In 2013, she was the recipient of the Stellar Volunteer Award by the Volunteer Action Centre of KW. The award is given to an individual selected out of the entire pool of nominations who shows extraordinary commitment, passion, achievement, and creating a lasting impression on the community. In March 2014, she was named the recipient of a Women of Waterloo Award in the Community Engagement and Volunteer category. She also received the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award in 2014.

Willie Martin, Expansion and Growth in Small Business honouree

Willie is a small business owner who has held various roles in her life, including homemaker, banker, teacher, sales, and sales management. This provides her with unique perspectives in how to run and grow her business – a Tier 2 automotive supplier business to Toyota, Ford, GM and Chrysler. She has worked hard to grow her automotive supply business, which she founded with her husband of 49 years, Rowly. She and Rowly not only have a thriving business to show for those 49 years of marriage, but two adult children and four grandchildren as well. She credits her Dutch heritage in giving her a strong work ethic. She is the President at JKW Thermal Ltd.


Julia Rivard Dexter, Innovation and Global Growth honouree

This technology entrepreneur started her career in marketing and design, and has led creative and communication efforts for several successful ventures. A graduate of both NSCAD and Dalhousie University, she mixes her experience in communication, business and design to build partnerships with existing and potential clients that lead to new and exciting opportunities – opportunities such as Queen Street Studios, a creative collective based out of Dartmouth, NS, followed by Norex, a media agency, and SheepDog Inc. Her latest venture, Eyeread, aims to change the future of literacy by helping children learn to read. This project is just the latest in a long line of innovations that are being led with Atlantic Canadian Universities. Working with University of Moncton, Eyeread is developing software that provides parents and teachers with vital information on how their children read on tablets and computers without a rigid testing environment. Aside from her pursuits of technology innovations to better society, she is also an Olympic athlete, having competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia as a member of the Canadian CanoeKayak team. She continues to stay involved in sport at a high level and worked with the Canadian Olympic Committee as Team Services Officer in both Beijing (2008) and Vancouver (2010). She is also is the Vice Chair of the Board at The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, member of the Canadian Olympic Committee and sits as a member of the Nova Scotia Premier's Advisory Council. And her work in business, volunteering, and sport has not gone unnoticed, as she has been recognized with a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013).

Jennifer Gillivan, Community and Charitable Giving honouree

This Haligonian was born and educated in Dublin, Ireland before she immigrated to Canada in 1982. Her 30-year career history includes an extensive background in philanthropy, partnerships, strategy, marketing and leadership. She worked with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for 14 years, most recently as Director of Partnerships, Communications, Marketing and Brand for the CBC across Canada. She is currently the President and CEO of the IWK Health Centre Foundation. The Foundation is the primary fundraising and outreach partner of the IWK Health Centre, which provides critical and specialized care to women, children, youth and families throughout the Maritime Provinces. She brings passion and enthusiasm for the IWK to lead this charitable organization at a critical time of growth and change. She is also an active community volunteer. She is a Board member for Churchill Academy, as well as a Board of Director for Greater Halifax Partnership, Advisory Board member Sobey School of Business, member of the Canadian Children's Pediatric Hospital Foundations Board, a past board member for NSCC Foundation Board, past board member of Symphony Nova Scotia, and past Chair of Atlantic Film Festival Board, to name a few. She has received two CBC English Television Awards for her pioneer work with the partnership practice, and has also received The Halifax Ambassador Award and a Progress Halifax Women of Excellence Award. She was listed as one of the TOP 50 CEO's for Atlantic Canada for 2014.

Linda Brigley, Expansion and Growth in Small Business

A role model for small business owners everywhere, Linda has been recognized in 2013 with the Progress Women of Excellence Award, and this year received Business of the Year –Silver – Halifax Chamber of Commerce. And that's because her business – the Spirit Spa – has not only been voted the Best Spa in Halifax but has been recognized as one of Atlantic Canada's Best Places to Work and featured as one of the top Spas in Canada. She undoubtedly has drawn upon her experience as a member of the IWK Foundation Advisory Committee and Board Member of the Armbrae Academy, and her previous career experience as Vice President, Corporate Communications Limited (CCL), and Executive Producer and COO, ArtWorks and Sight & Sound Productions.

For further information:
Media contact:
Karen Cleveland, Toronto

Twitter: @BMO