27 October 2019

As part of Women’s History Month, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is presenting snapshots of women in our community and the significant impact they have in their communities and institutions.

Connecting neighborhoods

Inspired by the local community in Victoria, Lisa Helps has worked with others to create a non-profit organization that empowers small businesses and individuals. She is the mayor of Victoria, British Columbia, and co-president of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Alumni Network Executive Committee.

Born in London, Ontario, Lisa Helps dedicated much of her time as a community activist committed to place-based solutions to global and national challenges, and to increasing citizen engagement. After a year spent in Japan, she settled in Victoria, BC to pursue her graduate studies. In 2005, she began doctoral work at the University of Toronto and was awarded a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship. She co-founded Community Micro-Lending, an organization that works to provide loans for small business ventures for people who cannot obtain credit from banks and other traditional lenders.

In 2011, while she was Executive Director of Community Micro-Lending, she ran for City Council in Victoria. Her dedication to her community led to a bid for mayor in 2014. “I could do more as mayor than councillor to help Victoria unleash its potential,” she said in an interview with Focus Online. Since becoming mayor, Lisa Helps has focused on revitalizing and renewing the city and making City Hall more accessible by fostering a culture of openness. In 2018, she ran for a second term and was re-elected.

“I’m done with the left and right, it’s not a useful way of organizing politics; it's not a useful way of organizing the world”—Lisa Helps, to Focus Online in 2014.

Helps has taken innovative approaches, notably on climate change and reconciliation, pledging to plant more than 5000 trees by 2020. Aside from her busy life as mayor, Lisa Helps also sits on the Program Committee of Leadership Victoria, a local organization that runs a multi-sector community leadership program. She was Chair of the Board of Directors of Fernwood NRG, a neighbourhood organization, and served as chair of the Bread and Roses Collective.  

“I’m just the conduit, or the representative of this grander vision of the community that really wants me there.”

Lisa Helps

Lisa is the mayor of Victoria, in British Columbia.

2006 Scholars