Cape Breton content on new Canada-U.S. council
North Sydney native on Canada side, Judique-born woman on U.S. side
A former North Sydney woman will be part of a new Canada U.S. council to help advance women entrepreneurs.
Annette Verschuren will join 10 businesswomen, five from Canada and five from the United States, to form the Canada United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. Verschuren was in Washington on Monday for a roundtable discussion with female business leaders at the White House with U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where the new council was launched.
“I think it’s a very smart idea to announce this,” said Verschuren. “
“We need a common ground to talk, and we had a good combination of talking about the barriers women have, but also talking about our businesses.”
Verschuren said the meeting last about 35 minutes. The topics of the meeting included what the barriers are and how to overcome them to get more women into the workforce as well as getting more young girls interested in science and math and getting them into that area of business.
“It all related to growing the economy and business,” said Verschuren. “People ask me why I do this — the relationship we have between our two countries, if we don’t maintain that, the economy is going to be hurt bad in Canada.
“Although I may not agree with some of the personal perspectives and things that Mr. Trump does, I believe our country needs to really get serious about protecting this relationship and strengthen this relationship,” she said “We came out of these meetings very positive. I think it was a home run for the prime minister and the president.”
Verschuren began her business career as a development officer with the Cape Breton Development Corporation before moving to Toronto at age 30.
Over her career, she has partnered with Michael’s craft stores and was successful in working with them in opening 17 stores across the country, acting as the company’s co-owner and president from 1993 to 1996.
Verschuren also served as president of The Home Depot Canada for 15 years, before becoming the president of The Home Depot Asian branch in 2006.
Over a 10-year period with The Home Depot, Verschuren grew the company’s sales from $600 million a year to $6 billion a year in Canada.
She turned her attention to NRStor, an energy storage solutions company she founded in 2012.
Verschuren said the idea for the council came from Katie Telford, the chief of staff to Prime Minister Trudeau, and Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Trump.
“They were looking for an opportunity to bring an issue to the world,” she said.
“I think this is what the president and prime minister understood and that is the enhancement of women will only make our countries better, will only improve the economy, will only create jobs, and will only allow us to use our resources more effectively.”
Verschuren isn’t the only Cape Bretoner on the council. Deborah Gillis, originally of Judique, is the president and CEO of Catalyst, a non-profit organization in the United States that promotes inclusive workplaces for women.
She will be among the five U.S. women participating in the council.
Joining Verschuren on the council and representing Canada are TransAlta Corp. CEO Dawn Farrell, Linamar Corp. CEO Linda Hasenfratz, T&T Supermarket Inc.’s Tina Lee, and Monique Leroux, chair of the board of directors for Investissement Quebec.
Verschuren thinks the meeting made an impression on President Trump.
“The president asked smart questions and he was interested, and it’s obvious he has a great deal of respect for his daughter, you can see that,” said Verschuren.
“I was really happy leaving that meeting, I left with the feeling we can really do something for our countries together and have a common platform and this is the time we need this.”
Verschuren said she was proud to be part of Monday’s meeting.
“I really felt that I represented our country and I’m hoping that’s a bit of my legacy,” she said.
“I’m a person that loves to give back, and I think that if I can help get more women advanced in our country, more business leaders in senior position, this country is going to become better than it is.”
Annette Verschuren, third from the right, is pictured with fellow businesswomen as well as U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Verschuren, originally from North Sydney, was in Washington on Monday for a roundtable discussion and the launch of a new Canada-U.S. council to help advance women entrepreneurs.