“These are women from Northern Ontario and they're making a difference.”
This year's ceremony included three new award categories: Aboriginal leadership, tradeswoman of the year and influential community trailblazer.
Aboriginal leadership winner Christi Belcourt called on the audience to ask for justice for the more than 800 Indigenous women in Canada who have gone missing or have been murdered.
Belcourt, a visual artist from Espanola, spearheaded the Walking with our Sisters memorial and art exhibit, which features 1,725 pairs of unfinished moccasins meant to represent the unfinished lives of the missing and murdered women.
Sarah Hunter, a Vale electrician recognized as northeastern Ontario's tradeswoman of the year, said she was proud to follow in the footsteps of her father, and grandfather, who were both linesmen.
Debbi Nicholson, president and CEO of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, was recognized as Influential Women's first community trailblazer.
Nicholson was not able to attend the gala, but thanked the organizers for recognizing the important contributions women make in Northern Ontario in a letter.
The other three awards were for entrepreneur of the year, young entrepreneur of the year, and executive of the year.
Nicole Saulnier, co-owner of Georgian Bay Airways in Parry Sound, was recognized as entrepreneur of the year.
“I think it's a really amazing event,” Saulnier said about the gala. “It's great to see so much passion for women and women in business.”
In her acceptance speech, she thanked her husband Keith for his dedication and support.
“He is truly a supportive partner,” she said.
Crystal Kaufman, owner and manager of Bioped, a pedorthic clinic based in North Bay, received the award for young entrepreneur of the year.
“It's a tremendous honour,” she said of the recognition.
Kaufman said she felt empowered being around so many other successful women at the ceremony.
The final award recipient was Shana Calixte, executive director of the Northern Initiative for Social Action, who was recognized as executive of the year.
The Sudbury-based organization, run by and for consumers of mental health services, has increased its annual operating budget by 550 per cent – from $200,000 to $1.1 million – under Calixte's leadership.
She said she was honoured to be recognized among other successful women in their fields.
The Influential Women awards gala for northwestern Ontario will take place in Thunder Bay on Thursday, June 5.
For more information about the winners visit www.influentialwomen.ca.