Gail Asper, O.C., O.M., LL.D., President and Trustee
Gail Asper was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and obtained her B.A. and LL.B. from the University of Manitoba in 1981 and 1984 respectively. After receiving her call to the Bar of Nova Scotia, Gail practiced corporate and commercial law with Goldberg & Thompson in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before joining CanWest Global Communications Corp. in 1989, as Corporate Secretary and Legal Counsel.
In 2002 she became the Managing Director of The Asper Foundation and in 2003, following the death of her father, Israel Asper, she became the Foundation’s President. In addition to supporting many Jewish and Israeli and community projects, the focus of The Asper Foundation was to spearhead the creation of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Gail spent from 2003 to 2014 working to achieve this goal.
Ms. Asper was a member of the Board of Directors of Canwest Global Communications Corp. from 1991 to 2010 and from 1998 to 2008 was a member of the Board of Great-West Lifeco Inc., and its subsidiaries. She serves and has served on the Boards of numerous not-for-profit groups and co-Chaired the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre Endowment Campaign, which followed a capital campaign also co-Chaired by Ms. Asper. She also served on the Board and as President of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. She is a past Campaign Chair for the Winnipeg United Way Campaign and is a Past President of the Board of Directors for the United Way of Winnipeg. In 2005, she joined the Board of the National Arts Centre Foundation and was its chair from 2013 to 2017. She also chaired the Combined Jewish Appeal Campaign of Winnipeg for two years and served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation for a number of years.
Ms. Asper serves on the Finance Committee of the National Arts Centre, the Executive of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Boards of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. She led the $150 million National Capital Campaign for the Museum’s private sector campaign, which began in 2003 and ended in 2015.
Ms. Asper has received numerous awards for her community service and is this year’s Jewish National Fund Negev Gala Honouree along with her husband, Michael. She has also received the YMCA/YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Community Voluntarism, the Governor-General’s Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts, Canadian Bar Association’s President’s Award and the Business for the Arts Bovey Award. She has received the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year Award, the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Canadian Network for Arts and Learning’s 2019 Visionary Leadership Award and in 2021 she received The Nellie McClung Foundation’s Manitoba 150 Women Trailblazer Award. She has received Honorary Doctorates from the University of Manitoba, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Carleton University and Mount Saint Vincent University. She was also awarded the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medal, has received the Order of Manitoba and has been inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
She is married to Dr. Michael Paterson and has two sons, Stephen and Jonathan.