Cape Breton Women Series: Ms. Joella Lynn Foulds, C.M.


March 15th, 2012

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, it is one thing to be born into a certain culture and a way of life; it is quite another thing to adopt the culture so entirely that to separate it from the person seems an impossibility. This is the case with the next woman I will discuss in my series on inspirational Cape Breton women.

Joella Foulds was not born in Cape Breton, not even in Nova Scotia. She has not only woven herself seamlessly into the fabric of Cape Breton's culture, she has become the greatest champion of it. Joella Foulds was born in British Columbia and was raised on a farm in Manitoba. Her mother was a teacher and her father a farmer. Her parents were highly involved in the community. From them she learned not to sit around and wait for things to happen but instead to do things herself to make change.

Ms. Foulds holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba and a Master of Social Work degree from Dalhousie University with a focus on community development, research and policy analysis.

Joella moved with her husband to Cape Breton in 1978. She worked for several years as a medical psychiatric social worker and as the executive director of the Planned Parenthood Association of Nova Scotia. She then worked for CBC for 15 years filling various roles, including broadcast journalist, morning radio host, writer, documentary producer and interviewer. Throughout her career, Joella has been a part-time musician, singer, songwriter and actor. It is her passion for the arts that led her to become involved in this area. She stands by the idea that if you have something that you are good at, you have a responsibility to use that and to make the most of it. In 1994, she served as event coordinator for the East Coast Music Awards. A year later, she became president and co-owner of Rave Entertainment Inc.

During this time, she developed the concept for what would make her a household name in Cape Breton and in the international Celtic music community. That is the Celtic Colours International Festival. This festival actively promotes Celtic music and culture. It attracts 18,000 visitors to the region and generates a great deal of revenue for the surrounding businesses. Ms. Foulds has served as artistic director of the festival since 1997. Due to her vision, the festival has become known the world over as an exceptional showcase for the cultural and musical talent in Cape Breton.

Her involvement and contribution to the communities in Cape Breton extend far beyond her work with the Celtic Colours Festival. She has organized, produced and performed in fundraisers for Transition House, churches and local food banks, to name just a few. She has held positions with the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Arts Award Foundation, the East Coast Music Awards and the Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her work with Celtic Colours and was awarded the ECMA Builder Award in the year 2000. She was inducted into the Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Cape Breton Tourism Hall of Fame in 2011. Last year, Joella received an honorary degree from Cape Breton University. Regarding this, she has said, "I think it speaks to the values that the university recognizes to the people who live here. I'm really honoured to be represented in those values.''

Honourable senators, it is clear from her work that Joella Foulds does not believe at all in coasting but instead continually strives for change and development. Her philosophy on life incorporates the idea that as soon as you do not feel like you are making a difference, you should move in a different direction. Joella Foulds has made a difference, and we as Cape Bretoners are very lucky and delighted that, at least for now, she is exactly where she needs to be.

Honourable senators, I look forward to sharing with you more stories of inspirational Cape Breton women.