Anne Pigott '08

A Young Woman’s Personal Journey Toward Understanding Canada
By Brian McCullough

When she speaks about Canada—of the geography and natural history of the land in all its incredible beauty, and of the wonderful diversity of the people who make up this nation of nations—Anne Pigott ’08 is talking about her deep and abiding passion for the place she calls home.

 “I don’t know what sparked this love affair for Canada, but my grandmother had it too,” Anne said of her grandmother Jean Pigott, Member of Parliament and Officer of the Order of Canada. “She instilled in us to be proud of where we’re from, and to share what we have with the world. I’m trying to understand the Canada I live in, but instead of reading it from a history book, I’m building a picture of it through my own experiences.”

The passion is real. This former Head of Fry House and captain of the Elmwood field hockey and Alpine ski teams had a personal goal to visit every Canadian province and territory by the time she was 25, and she made it—just barely. It took a quickly organized birthday trip to the Yukon with her father two years ago to tick the last box, but she completed something she said satisfied her need to learn more about the human and natural history of Canada beyond what lies along the 49th parallel.

Anne’s personal journey toward a deeper understanding of Canada took a huge shift following her graduation from McGill University in 2012. An interfaculty Bachelor of Arts and Science degree focusing on earth sciences and economics opened the door to an unexpected career launch as a consultant in Saskatoon, where she bridged client organizations with First Nations to contribute toward the environmental assessment process. Over the next few years she would partner with indigenous and northern communities to work on land use, community, and environmental planning projects. Throughout her journey, Anne said she was able to learn about the land from the people and through their stories.

 “I have learned so much from the communities I’ve worked with, and I continue to learn,” she said. “I owe a lot to the community members who took so much of their time to teach me about the intersection of the science of the land, and how to use resources sustainably. I will never stop learning.”

 In the fall of 2016 Anne left her consulting job to join BC Hydro as proponent liaison between the company’s project teams and the First Nations. It is a different role for her, and one that comes with new challenges but also new opportunities.

 “I work with multi-disciplinary teams,” she said, “and I’m able to take what the communities have taught me about listening, learning and being adaptable, and I apply that to my daily work.”

 As much as she delights in learning the living history of the people of the land we know as Canada, Anne revels in what the land itself can tell her. To her, the vastly varied geology, geography and natural history of Canada are more pieces of a complex puzzle she is determined to explore through the lens of personal experience. 

“I love being out in nature to see how different things are across the country,” she said. “You have to get out there and explore. Every place has a story.”

 It’s pretty confident talk from someone who says she barely survived her first day at Elmwood in 2004. Anne admits she was terrified at the thought of leaving her neighbourhood school friends, and going off to Elmwood for the start of Grade 9 as her older sister Jane had done three years earlier.

 “I remember my first day vividly—getting pizza in the cafeteria, and being so terrified that my sister’s friend took me out to her car where I cried my eyes out. But that afternoon I met the three girls who would become ‘my crew’ for the next four years, an inseparable four-pack. It was pretty great. They are still my best friends.”

 Anne said she went on to appreciate the advantages of Elmwood’s less stratified structure that allowed her to mix with girls in the upper grades, and found the safe, all-girls environment to be a good fit.

 “If we were interested in something, or wanted to take a risk, we had the support of the school and our teachers,” she said. “When I had to decide about taking the job in Saskatchewan I thought, okay, I can do this. I’ve been given a great opportunity, and I’m going to take this risk. What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

 Whether she is ripping down a pipeline right-of-way on an ATV, or listening quietly to the perspectives of a residential school survivor, Anne Pigott is forever putting together a more complete picture of Canada inside her head and her heart.

 “We live in a pretty incredible place, and I’m so proud to be Canadian,” she said. “But we need to not forget about our past because we can’t erase some of the things we’ve done. It’s about building a future together. It’s this togetherness and unity that we need as a country. We’re all one country.”