The David Suzuki Foundation has named environmental and cultural activist, speaker and author Severn Cullis-Suzuki its executive director, effective September 2021.
Cullis-Suzuki has been a voice for intergenerational justice since childhood. She is a climate justice advocate, sustainability and social justice educator, community organizer and scholar. She has worked in B.C., throughout Canada, in Japan and at various UN summits. Cullis-Suzuki lives on Haida Gwaii, where she works on revitalization of the Haida language, the heritage language of her husband Gudt’aawtis Judson Brown and their two children.
“Severn embodies what our Foundation is all about: the best science and environmental expertise communicated creatively and compellingly with passion, inspiring action toward a better world,” Foundation board chair Margot Young said. “Her commitment to social justice and her solidarity with Indigenous Peoples will help us all find a better path.”
Cullis-Suzuki has been a longtime Foundation supporter and volunteer, serving as board member for 14 years and volunteering on several campaigns. In 2019, she supported the launch of Canada’s first national youth-led climate lawsuit to protect the youth plaintiffs’ charter rights, La Rose v. Her Majesty the Queen, and helped welcome Greta Thunberg to Vancouver for the lawsuit announcement and #FridaysForFuture climate strike.
“We’re proud of Severn and excited for the leadership, courage and integrity she brings to this role,” Foundation COO Ian Bruce said. “From her activism and lifelong commitment to intergenerational justice to her academic background and commitment to Indigenous family and partners, her many interconnected strengths will help lead us through this critical time.”
Until Cullis-Suzuki joins the Foundation full-time, Bruce will serve as acting executive director.
“Severn has her work cut out for her,” founding Foundation board member and former Haida Nation president Miles Richardson said. “The science tells us we have just a decade to reduce emissions by half. The Foundation is set to launch a new and ambitious 10-year strategic plan. The 2020s must be a transformational decade. Severn is totally committed to that transformation.”
Cullis-Suzuki has an academic background in evolutionary biology and ethnoecology, and is currently completing a PhD in linguistic anthropology on the Haida language.
“In accepting this role, I am filled with humility and gratitude, as well as a sense of responsibility and urgency,” Cullis-Suzuki said. “COVID-19 has awakened societies to the reality that nature is the bottom line, that science and expertise are crucial to our survival, that we are all connected and that each of our actions matter. These are all tenets of the Foundation, and reasons why this organization will play a critical role in advancing our transformation to an economy characterized by clean energy, justice and strong ecosystems. This is a moment for all of us to step up and help shift humanity toward survival. I’m going to do all I can to contribute.”
Outgoing Foundation CEO Stephen Cornish announced his resignation in September, after being recruited to lead the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières international operations centre in Geneva, Switzerland, to help combat the spread of COVID-19.