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PROFILE: Local advocate sets sights on sustainable future

Stop Sprawl Orillia founder Madeleine Fournier's passion was sparked in high school; 'A lot of people are seeking change in the community'
Madeleine Fournier 4-30-22
Madeleine Fournier is the driving force behind Green Orillia and Stop Sprawl Orillia.

A young Orillia woman has been a driving force behind making Orillia’s future greener and more sustainable.

Orillia Secondary School graduate Madeleine Fournier is known around town for her involvement in initiatives such as Green Orillia. The 22-year-old was working at Refillery District when she was asked by Green Orillia founder Gillian Lowry to take the reins.

“It wasn’t really going anywhere, and she said I could take it anywhere I want,” Fournier explained. “I took it over in the fall of 2020 and it turned into a page on Facebook and Instagram for news, events, resources, and initiatives for sustainability in Orillia and area.”

Last fall, Fournier started a Green Orillia e-newsletter, which has nearly 650 subscribers. She has also hosted events such as garbage clean-ups, which are attended by about 50 people. Fournier can be found each weekend at the Orillia Farmers’ Market, where she hands out newsletters and resources.

“We know that a lot of people are seeking change in the community, and they are also seeking connections,” she said. “I’m just trying to provide the opportunity for meaningful community engagement around issues that matter to people and issues that affect our lives in a significant way.”

Green Orillia has also been focused on Indigenous issues and justice to amplify the voice of the Indigenous community.

Fournier is also the driving force behind Stop Sprawl Orillia, which she started in December after attending a city council town hall where more than 200 people spoke about Orillia’s potential boundary expansion.

“We don’t want a boundary extension because we are in a climate crisis and housing-affordability crisis,” she said. “After that, I noticed the two groups — Stop Sprawl Hamilton and Stop Sprawl Halton — who successfully got their councils to reject the urban boundary expansion.”

Fournier wanted to use that model in Orillia, so she teamed up with her former employer, Bass Lake Farms co-owner Jacob Kearey-Moreland, and other community members to launch Stop Sprawl Orillia. The group has partnered with others in the area, including the Couchiching Conservancy, the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and the Orillia Naturalists’ Club.

“It’s definitely a team effort,” Fournier said. “We have volunteers who give out lawn signs and help make social media posts. There are lots of hands on deck.”

Fournier doesn’t consider herself an activist, despite all of her initiatives. Instead, she feels more like an advocate for sustainability and affordability.

“I’m passionate about this all because we want a livable and fair future for all,” she said, “especially for young people who will face the worst effects of this climate crisis.”

Fournier feels there is a lack of leadership on many of the major climate-related issues, which is why she has stepped up. She became aware of the issues at a young age and has pursued change ever since. She took global studies, environmental sustainability, and community engagement at Wilfrid Laurier University, from which she graduated last spring.

“I started to become concerned about it in high school,” she said. “I was in a food and nutrition class, and we watched a documentary about environmental impacts of animal agriculture and the meat and dairy industry.”

Since then, she has been hooked on learning about environmental matters. She became a vegan and tried reducing her waste to zero. Going forward, Fournier’s focus is to continue her efforts to make the Orillia area a green community.

“We are trying to work on these issues locally, but it’s to make a larger impact,” she said. “It’s about creating replicable models that can spread all around the province and then, maybe, all around the country.”

Fournier thanks all community members who have supported her in the many initiatives with which she has been involved.

“I can’t do this on my own,” she said. “There are so many people behind the scenes. I just happen to be the driving force behind some of these things.”

She also has plenty of support from members of her family, who are involved in many of her initiatives.

“My mom (Leslie Fournier) is just really focused on making the community more vibrant and important,” she said. “I couldn’t have done this all without her support.”

Fournier’s brother, Jackson, is also an advocate for the environment, and her father, Dan, is a volunteer at the Lighthouse.

“The whole family is on board, for sure,” she said.

This feature appears each Monday. If you have an idea for someone who should be profiled in this space, send your suggestion to dave@orilliamatters.com.