The annual BMO Celebrating Women event in Montreal honoured four women for their remarkable contributions to business and the community.

The program honours female leaders in local communities as part of BMO’s commitment to drive the advancement of women and recognizes contributions in one of three categories: Trailblazers & Innovators; Community & Charitable Giving; and Expansion & Growth in Business.

The following honourees were recognized:

Trailblazers & Innovators: Caroline Arnouk. After working in the Ville de Montréal water service, Ms. Arnouk realized there was a need for a communication and coordination system to facilitate transportation for the city’s employees, engineers and building workers. In 2015, she founded OPA Technologies, the only geospatial platform designed to reduce transportation delays by facilitating the management of road mobility through the optimization of geospatial data. Today, OPA Technologies offers its software services to federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada, public utilities and private business, to help them manage construction sites and improve the coordination of traffic and transportation services.

Trailblazers & Innovators: Martine Bourgeois, agr. In 1993, Ms. Bourgeois acquired the family farm, Ferme St-Ours, with her husband and sister. That was innovative in itself, at the time, as it was hard to imagine working on a farm and pursuing a career at the same time. As dairy activities made way for egg production, Ferme St-Ours expanded significantly through acquisitions and development projects. Today, the farm owns several operations, all at the leading edge of technology and animal welfare. It also produces specialty eggs, using a variety of advanced technology models: organic, free-range hens, percheries, etc. St-Ours has become the largest organic egg farm in Canada. Sustainable development is a priority, and the farm’s buildings were built to reduce the impact on the environment. For over 35 years, Ms. Bourgeois has been working for Shur-Gain, now Trouw Nutrition, where she served as Director of Poultry Nutrition and Development. Recently, she became the Director of Technological Transfer for poultry production. She was one of the first to take part in the development of products for the market, such as eggs enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids and organic eggs. She is truly a pioneer in the Canadian agricultural industry and has won many prizes, including “Agricultrice de l’année” from both Montérégie-Est and the province.

Community & Charitable Giving: Manon Girard. For 30 years, Ms. Girard dedicated her professional and personal life advocating for social justice and equality in her community. Concerned by the news of local charities closing for the summer, Ms. Girard established Café Access, a unique gathering place for people of all social classes. Patrons unable to afford meals or coffee can dine for free, while more affluent patrons were encouraged to purchase menu items at a suggested price. With more than 30 partners, Café Access generated over 17,000 hours of volunteer work and received over 8,000 donated meals in 2018. In addition to serving as General Director of Café Access, Ms. Girard is a founding member of Alma in Transition and a member of the Executive Committee of the Collective for Quebec Without Poverty. Engaged in public service, Ms. Girard was a candidate for Quebec solidaire in the October 2018 elections.

Expansion & Growth in Business: Sophie Gravel. A serial entrepreneur in the board game industry, Ms. Gravel founded Filosofia Éditions and quickly added Z-Man Games and Plaid Hat to F2Z Entertainment. The multi-million dollar umbrella company soon evolved into the largest publisher of hobby board games in North America, owning Pandemic and Dead of Winter and the English and French rights to Carcassonne, among many others. After selling F2Z Entertainment, Ms. Gravel created Plan B Games Inc./Jeux Plan B Inc. and expanded the business within months by acquiring a German publisher. As President of Jeux Plan B Inc., Ms. Gravel nurtured the company into a global enterprise, with Jeux Plan B Inc. games sold in over 30 countries and translated into 31 languages. The company’s most successful game, Azul, received numerous international accolades including the Game of the Year Award at the Spiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spielepreis in Germany and the ACEs d’Or at Cannes in 2018.

“A large part of supporting the advancement of women is celebrating the contributions made by women leaders, entrepreneurs and mentors in local communities,” said Sylvie Marois, Senior Vice-President, Quebec, BMO Private Banking. “It is BMO’s honour to recognize the tremendous initiatives and contributions made by these local leaders for communities across Quebec and nationwide.”